Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Splinter Cell: Blacklist should debut this August with a new tale about Sam Fisher, the super-covert operative who operates on stealth. While the single-player story is the highlight, the new multiplayer mode should catch a lot of attention as well.

We recently played a few rounds of the Spies vs. Mercs (4-on-4 multiplayer). It is a lot of fun, judging from the yelps and coordination chatter in the rounds we played. In the mode, you play as either a spy or a mercenary, and then you switch sides at halftime. Each map has three areas where the Spies must hack a computer, protect it while downloading data, and do so without getting caught by the hunting Mercs. The map we had included rail cars with multiple levels. Only the Spies were nimble enough to climb on top of the rail cars.

The Spies use stealth, including disappearing for a few seconds, while the Mercs use overwhelming firepower. It’s as evenly balanced as you can get. We caught up with Geoff Ellenor, level design director at Ubisoft, in a video interview just after we our match.

The title also includes the classic Spies vs. Mercs mode from Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Pandora’s Tomorrow. This was 2-vs.-2 gameplay. The Spies can vanish using an invisibility cloak.

“You can use that, walk away, and come back from an angle you don’t expect them to be,” Ellenor said.

One of the most satisfying moves the Spies had was to climb on top of a rail car, spot a Merc, and then drop down on top of them (simply by hitting the X button) for a quick kill. Otherwise, the Spies have nonlethal weapons like a stun crossbow.

But the Mercs can also use cool technology. You can choose to use the Hunter preset abilities, which the Merc uses to launch a flying drone to climb up into a space where they can’t see or otherwise take out enemies. Mercs can also choose the Disruptor ability to disable the invisibility feature of the Spies. The Spies are so lightly armed against the heavily armored Mercs that a head-on firefight is no contest. The Peacemaker preset is a heavy gunner who can speed up by giving himself a temporary shot of adrenaline.

Each round is 10 minutes. The Spies win if they hack three terminals on the map. If a Merc kills the Spy who hacks the terminal, the other Spies have a short time to pick up the hack before the timer resets to zero and they have to start the download all over again.

Here’s our video interview with Ubisoft’s Ellenor. The title arrives on Aug. 20 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, and PC.

Ubisoft’s Geoff Ellenor on Splinter Cell Blacklist multiplayer from VentureBeat on Vimeo.