Game Review

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Silent but deadly

American espionage author Tom Clancy may have his name plastered all over the box, but he hasn’t written a single Splinter Cell book. The series is wholly a Ubisoft creation, allowing the publisher free reign over the franchise’s creative direction to best suit whatever purpose it would like.

Creative license is exactly what Ubisoft chooses to take in Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist: the sixth entry in its military stealth series cuts loose a lot of its fiction to create a smoother point of entry for newcomers, while taking a few liberties with the franchise’s gameplay and structure.

Blacklist is what you might consider to be a soft reboot of a complex franchise. While it doesn’t outright ignore events of previous entries, the game streamlines as much of its fiction as it possibly can for those who haven’t ever approached a Sam Fisher joint before. For instance, special forces unit Third Echelon is no more — Sam is now a member of the growing Fourth Echelon unit headquartered inside a stealth airplane called the Paladin. Characters like Sam’s daughter Sarah, who has played central roles in earlier games, here only appears in phone calls that you can choose to make or ignore aboard the Paladin, and additional series figures pop up with a really quick explanation as to who they are; onward the plot marches, regardless. History isn’t given much weight here, and it makes for a brisk pace through the story.

Fisher himself is quite different than in even his prior assignment, Splinter Cell Conviction: he comes across as a more balanced, level-headed character than before with a cleaned-up look. Nor is he voiced by Michael Ironside any more, which explains the more sober-sounding performance.

Not content with re-inventing just the fiction, Ubisoft pushes Blacklist in new directions for the series that sometimes feel appropriate and other times clash with what one might expect out of the franchise. The goal is to make the game more approachable than its hardcore stealth heritage allowed, which Blacklist accomplishes by leaning into the franchise’s inherent action. Stealth is still the predominantly encouraged method of approach, but with rare exception any given scenario can be solved with a shootout if Sam’s presence becomes known.

Blacklist rewards three distinct play-styles. Ghost bonuses are awarded by leaving as little trail as possible through non-lethal takedowns and otherwise leaving enemies undisturbed, Panther style involves killing quietly from the shadows, and Assault bonuses come from playing it loud. A tally at the end of each mission shows what style you favoured — do well enough in one style and you’ll achieve Mastery of that stage. Completionists will go nuts for trying to clear each mission with Mastery in each approach.

But Splinter Cell is not a great shooter, either from a first- or third-person perspective. When the going gets loud, the quick-reflex mechanics show themselves to be bolted on to the stealth structure, lacking the fluidity that comes with sneaking in the shadows. Taking the time to mark, follow, and silently execute enemies, hang from rafters for a well-timed takedown, or crawl through vents to circumvent confrontation altogether is a far more graceful and rewarding experience than attempting to gun your way through or out of a scene.

For the sake of unnecessary “variety,” Blacklist often strays from its stealth gameplay strengths and hoists Sam and co. into action-oriented military game scenarios that, at this point, just feel tired. Remember that one mission in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare where you controlled an AC-130, firing at enemy combatants seen through a detached, black-and-white monitor? Well, every military shooter since 2008 remembers that scene and has ground it into dust. This scene, and other “Call of Duty moments” like it, shamble forth in Blacklist, seemingly just to tick off a box on a list of features.

In another mission, the game jumps back and forth between Sam stealthing around in the customary third-person perspective and a jarring, janky first-person portion as Sam’s partner Briggs. Remaining hidden as Briggs proves far more difficult as many of the stealth tools that Sam employs are stripped away, with the giant gun on the screen nudging you towards shooting everyone in sight. This flirtation with what Ubisoft might interpret to be more popular with a wider audience is not only poorly implemented but does a disservice to the game’s identity: lumping in a game that has great character with a homogenous pool of me-too shootbangs only serves to dilute what makes Splinter Cell enjoyable to begin with.

Blacklist attempts a new, flatter progression structure than previous Splinter Cells — almost everything feeds into the same overall goal of stopping the terrorist group called the Engineers from executing their plan, ostensibly seeking to get the United States to pull all of its troops from foreign soil across the globe. At least, that’s where its desire lies; in actuality, the game is broken up into the main, swift campaign, assorted side missions and online competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes (offline co-op is posted missing). Aside from the fiction — which attempts to be mode-agnostic but has little real effect on how the story plays out — what ties the modes together is Sam’s equipment unlocks and upgrades.

Clearing a campaign mission, side strike or multiplayer session earns you cash which you can then use to purchase and customize loadouts or upgrade the Paladin for passive bonuses, which in turn can be used wherever you’d like with the exception of multiplayer mode Spies vs. Mercs. The game even has its own buddy app available for free on iOS, Spider-Bot, where players can earn money on their device and bring it over to the console game. You never have to not be playing Splinter Cell ever again. However, this progression becomes moot unless you intend to play through the game multiple times: there is enough money to go around to purchase and upgrade all of the equipment needed for your preferred play style halfway through the campaign.

The GamePad, for its part, is put to adequate use for quick equipment selection, although it extends the metaphor of Sam focusing his attention on operating gadgets by being the primary display for drones, cameras and other tools. The entire game can be played off-screen as well. For some this extra and quick accessibility to gizmos will be a big plus on Nintendo's system.


Ubisoft takes bold steps with tradition in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist in an attempt to please as many as possible, but by doing so dilutes the game's stealthy strength in favour of chasing new audiences. A greater focus on action reduces some of the rough, intimidating edge, and the game opens the door for new players to sneak in by softly rebooting its fiction. However much the changes clash with the series' roots, Blacklist is still a perfectly competent, enjoyable stealth romp whose only crime is inspiring very little awe.

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User Comments (90)



dyopri said:

gonna buy this in christmas this with Mario 3D world and DonkeyKong!



Snkfiend said:

BS a seven this is why I hate reviews and never listen to "biased" sorry reviewers I go for my own benefit.



MegaWatts said:

I find the lack of local co-op really disappointing. Having it split across two screens would have been really awesome on Wii U, but oh well...

Good review, Jon!



SCAR said:

Looking back at Conviction's trailer, that game looked alot more hilariously over the top compared to this one.
I've never played a Splinter Cell game, but this one looks fundamentally better from gameplay videos.



Quickman said:

I've never been tempted to buy a Splinter Cell game until now, so I guess that I'm part of the "new audience" that they're trying to pull in.

By the way, anyone in the UK looking to get this game, I picked it up on Amazon UK for £24.99... It arrived yesterday.



Mahemoth said:

Hmm weird. The focus on sneaking is what made these series really standout. Well this is just what I needed to know. Maybe I'll get when it's cheap.



Will-75 said:

I have the game not a huge fan of the series , but I gotta say this game is AWESOME, a 7 come on who you trying to make mad this game is a solid 9 this game is way better than a 7 - this is the only review I've seen where it received a score less than the 9 it deserves.



SCAR said:

I'm still pretty tempted to buy this game, but I'm trying to hold out until closer to Christmas.



Azooooz said:

The lack of offline co-op and long loading time really hurt the Wii U version of this game.



SetupDisk said:

This game actually has more of a return to stealth than the previous one.
Why is there no mention of perfect mode?
The only strong negatives with this game IMO are the load times on Wii U or the screen tearing on the other versions.

I go with a nine on this one.



6ch6ris6 said:

i guess this 7 is only understandable for people who played the old SC games. i for example just need to look a the animations to see that this is not a real stealth game anymore. climbing,crawling etc. is way to fast compared to the first SC



Aaronzord said:

Saw this for £27.99 in HMV yesterday...sounds like it's probably worth a go for that much! I'm not a huge SC fan, but I'm all for picking it up with a reduction.



Gnoll said:

No offline coop? So I suppose no online with a friend on the same couch? I'm afraid it's a deal-breaker for me



MAB said:

Silent, deadly, worth a solid 9/10, review is a bit too late and probably should have just stayed in the shadows



Kasplat said:

You never have to not be playing Splinter Cell ever again... Nigahiga reference?



Shambo said:

I saw this one more as a return to the roots. You could play every section as a ghost, even the first-person ones and the ones starting with gunfights; there's the perfectionist difficulty; you get to buy less armoured suits in favour of being less visible; many possible approaches...



deusy said:

It's received a 70 and a 78 on Metacritic so far, so I'd say this review is pretty close. Good review!



SphericalCrusher said:

Another reason I don't care about or trust review scores. Love this game on WiiU and although it does have flaws, it was a very worthwhile purchase to me and several others that I know.



Savino said:

You can play it in stealth mode only if you want to! Set the level to perfectionist and try to make it, well, perfect!



eza said:

7/10 is a good score for a game. or at least it is if you read NL or EDGE magazine.
If you rated anything other than a computer game as being "7/10" then you'd be saying that thing is a 'good' or 'decent' thing. Anything above 5/10 is 'above average'. 5/10 is 'alright'.
And nothing gets 10/10

This was a well-written review. So well-written, in fact, that I didn't need to look at the score at the end because the review told me everything I needed to know with words!

I still want to get the game but not at full price. It's probably one I'll pick up in the next Steam Summer Sale for €9.99, as the lack of offline co-op on the Wii U version means I can't play co-op with friends (none of my gaming friends have got or will get a Wii U, sadly, but they all have PCs)

It's a shame, because Ubisoft will probably point to weak sales on the Wii U as a reason to not support it fully in future, but as a consumer, I'm going to buy a cheaper and more complete game on PC if I have the option between that and a more expensive game that's not as complete on the Wii U.



SphericalCrusher said:

Lol. Sounds like it could be an 8 to me? Or a 9? I don't give game numbered scores. It 's one person's opinion vs the next.



erv said:

Sounds like a lower grade just because of expectation management. Which, incidentally, makes it sound like a lower grade that I can live with. I'll pick this up on the cheap when that happens - sometime soon probably.



ULTRA-64 said:

@Gnoll I will not buy this game unless local co-op is added/patched.....which it won't no sale for me! I'm not buying inferior products just cos I love Nintendo. I may miss games, but I still have my principles!



SkywardCrowbar said:

Everything in this game works so beautifully. Also, there are only a couple of moments when you are forced out of stealth. If you are really good, you can stealth through the vast majority of the game.

The mechanics are so fluid, and the story is so good, this is much higher than a 7/10 IMO. Not going to pull a LoZ GTA fanboy and start demanding resignations, though. I'd give Blacklist a 9/10. Excellent game through and through.



bitemykite said:

I think that the reviewer missed the point a little bit with this, the stealth is still totally excellent, I played the whole game stealthily and kicked myself when I was caught and had to shoot people. They haven't watered down the stealth, just made it so you have more options than that, it's 8.5/10 in my book, 9/10 if they manage to patch in the local co-op.



Melkaticox said:

Guys, look at this game's metascore. A 9? Seriously? It barely has a 82 on Metacritic.



gatorboi352 said:

Nice review, but having played the game for around 15-20 hours myself I must disagree with many of the negatives in this review. I found the action scenes and action oriented gameplay just as fun as the the stealth gameplay for entirely different reasons. All around solid title that I'd give an 8 until the second patch comes out for the online modes, at which point I'd imagine the title will be closer to a 9 (only knock being the unoptimized loading times that could have and should have been patched as well).



sr388survivor said:

I really am enjoying the game and personally haven't had too many problems with online. Also, while I play the campaign pure ghost mode, it is fun in the Charlie missions to go all out assault so as a 3rd person shooter it still is good. This review feels a bit too much like "it's not like the old splinter cell so it's not as good."



mudmask said:

Not gonna lie... was looking forward to co-op with my wife. Any game that I trick my wife into playing would get at least a 9 in my book.



gatorboi352 said:

@skjia Yeah, see I came from the background of only having played 1 other SC game for like all of 10 minutes. So I had no reservations regarding really any knock on this game from reviewers. Eric Johnson's voice means nothing to me. The action-y sequences feel great. The stealth is unsurpassed.



SphericalCrusher said:

@ricklongo I agree man. Although I don't care for scores, a 7 is not a bad score. I'm sure this review is great. I just get annoyed with some people who refuse to play any game that is scored below an 8 on IGN... Lol



element187 said:

@Snkfiend I would probably call this one an 8/10...
Rayman Legends 7/10,
Pikmin 3 and W101 9/10+

Game reviews are only opinions of that particular gamer...



djtwenty9 said:

This game probably deserves a 9, however the Wii U build is flawed and is an after thought for Ubi, we got the patch last, the patch didn't fix any of the game breaking issues. I can't even play online, without my console freezing mid game. It has so many bugs its not even funny. So it



Dreamcaster-X said:

OUCH, a 7??? This is the best Splinter Cell since Chaos Theory. Ubi nailed it for the most part, this is easily an 8 or 9.



whatisyourforte said:

best game on wiiU to date. loaded with features, replay-value, and is a great example of the powers of the wiiU (graphics, gamepad integration, etc.). i have most of the wiiU games (i'm a collector), and this is the first game i've played for it that really held my interest since Lego City Undercover. This game, however, is much more streamlined of an experience and much more mature in terms of the story and gameplay. if you're on the fence....just get it. trust me, you won't regret it!



sr388survivor said:

@gatorboi352 Yeah the stealth might be diluted compared to the old games (though mastering ghost mode on perfectionist comes pretty close), but compared to any other "stealth" game on the market, nothing even comes close. (Also, great profile pic! haha)

@Platypus101 @SphericalCrusher Wow people who speak positively about Other M! Nice to meet you! Glad to know I'm not alone here lol.



Mahemoth said:

@bitemykite Ahh ic, thanks for the response.

I always liked chaos theory and it sounded like it was going away from it roots. Anyway the huge deal breaker for me still is the absence of local coop. I hope they will be able to patch that up



Banker-Style said:

In my eyes it's tied with Rayman as the best third party experience on Wii U,yeah it suffers a fair few long loading times,and the online pauses a bit,it's still a fantastic game.
Hopefully Watch Dogs will be of the same quality.



Chomposaur said:

sorry but i cannot see the fuss over the game not having local co-op .. in 2013 who goes around to peoples houses to play games ? YES some people do still but its all online now you can play co-op in the comfort of your own home. Only 2% of Wii U owners are playing SCB why everybody is complaining i don't know lol



mikeyman64 said:

The way I read the conclusion was 'It's basically the same thing as Conviction'.
I truly love this series, Pandora Tomorrow being my favorite, and I can honestly say that, even though they are fairly entertaining, the newer games just don't make the cut. I hate it when developers push too hard for the median, sullying games in the process.

After reading some comments from other players, it seems that the review may have been a bit off.

Anyone here that has an appreciation for the old playstyle (stealth and timing strategy) played the game yet?



supremii said:

I don't care about the actual rating the game has gotten, I haven't played it yet so I can't judge it anyway. I like that the reviewer tells about what has changed, the addition of the shop and ingame currency and that he starts to point out the pros and cons. However, I feel that the review is cut a bit short on the pro side and in general on a detailed description of the more interesting parts, i.e., the gameplay itself. For instance, I would have liked some more information on how the gamepad integration feels and adds to the experience as it is a unique addition and also some more about the individual modes. I just feel that a lot of the actual experience hasn't been described in here. It also sounds as if it is still possible to play silent so it seems like a bit too much bashing on that part in my opinion.
Apart from that I was really looking forward to this review and enjoyed reading, thanks!



booopn said:

I wanted to see the differences with other systems emphasized in this review, because this is one of the rare reviews that focuses on WiiU, yet the review barely mentions the WiiU features. How is the gamepad used in this game? Are the graphics relatively better than other systems? Are there different control options?

Also a mention of the features that it lacks would have been helpful too like no local coop where it worded in the article as "offline co-op is posted missing" which is confusing.

There is no mention of the bugs that currently exist for the online (the review can be revisited if a patch is released down the road) and no commentary on the spies vs mercs which is one of the most popular modes (maybe they are related). To me the multiplayer is one of the game's strongest selling features, but the review skims over this aspect.

I haven't played it yet (sitting on my shelf awaiting me to finish Pikmin3),but other reviews I've read state that it goes back to stealthier roots compared to the last SC release. A lot of the review seems to dock it for not being stealthy enough, which I suppose is a personal opinion.

I don't have a problem with the final score at all, but the missing information from the review is just sloppy and at worse misleading.



CorusFace said:

@JogurtTheYogurt actually, only 0.3% of wii u owners are playing the game. but if you do the math, only 0.5% of 360 owners are playing the game as well. the game seems to have performed poorly on every platform. that's without mentioning that the wii u version had zero advertising and that a large chunk of retailers never even offered the game for the wii u...



Mystemo said:

I finished the game yesterday and I thought it was very good. The levels where perfectly designed for the stealth gameplay while still giving you the option of a more action oriented approach if that's what you want. The Spies vs. Mercs mode is in dire need of patching though, even after installing the latest patch the game freezes the entire system almost every time I try to play it,



Snkfiend said:

@element187 I agree but I like all the games you stated but my preference of reviews is my opinion then and after I finish a title or If I get bored in the middle of a title. Reviews are exaggerated and some are very immature biased so I go for my gut.



capitalism said:

Don't listen to this review, it's way better than a 7. Best Splinter Cell I've played in a long time.



SetupDisk said:

It's just peoples opinions. The reviewer thought it was worth the 7 and gave a review, I thought it was a 9 and gave my reasons. I don't think most were bashing the review or the reviewer just giving their honest opinion on the game. That metacritic average the other guy was typing about, some loved it and some didn't think it was that great at all, probably like most gamers varying opinions.

Plus as I and others have pointed out one of the key gameplay modes for fans of the older games, perfectionist mode, was not even mentioned and it was a huge selling point for me.

A review now doesn't matter that much anyway, it you are still not sure about the game check out let's play videos or the like on youtube if you aren't worried about spoilers.



HappyHappyist said:

what makes it different from other versions? is it slower? does the gamepad add add anything that makes this version superior?



Morph said:

Review score does seem low, interesting how theres a lot of users rating this higher, dont normally tend to see that on here



MikeLove said:

I bought this game day one and agree with the score.

It's pretty good, but there is lots of slowdown when more then a couple enemies are on screen at once and the gamepad elements feel tacked on. Why am I forced to snipe bad guys in one mission using the tiny gamepad screen when I have a blank 55" TV in front of me? I'd much rather be playing that portion in HD on there,

The online multiplayer sucks too, with shoddy controls and problems with connecting online and the system freezing.

This is likely the last UbiSoft game I purchase. The lack of polish and bug testing in all their games I've owned is shocking.



JaxonH said:

While everything noted in this review is in fact true, more or less, there is one thing the reviewer fails to mention: the game is incredibly fun. And that outweighs any awkward 1st person perspective for half a mission or CoD styled missile takedowns. The whole is definitely more than the sum of its parts here- and Splinter Cell Blacklist is one of the funnest games I've played all year.

Jaxon's Score



Razalom said:

Strange review as I really feel this game has returned the series back to a better stealth game than some previous editions. Sure the load times are horrible (hey its the Wii U!) and its a shame there is no offline co-op but it would still have been a high 8 to 9 out of 10 for me.



CaPPa said:

That's a bad review, this game is easily a 9.

The lack of local co-op is disappointing, but I'd still pick the Wii U version over all of the others because the GamePad makes it a joy to play. Weapon and gadget selection is always at your fingertips (instead of having to scroll through a list with a d-pad like on 360/PS3), which is a huge game changer for me.

The best part for me though is the online co-op, performing synchronized takedowns really is a beautiful thing.



WinterWarm said:

Wow, a seven.

It did seem a bit out of place in the video when they showed the first-person view. :/

Well, good review. Good game.

All is good in the end.



Genesaur said:

@Damo Because people like to have their exaggerated preferences shouted loudly from the rooftops. Whatever you like is best! No game that you enjoy deserves anything lower than an 8/10! Arbitrary numerical ratings mean everything!



GiftedGimp said:

@6ch6ris6 and others, You have 3 playstyles, Assault: Run-n-Gun, Panther: Steath Kills, Ghost:Stealth Knockouts and your awarded Points/Medels for each way you play. Stealth is a VERY big part of this game.

Review doesn't do it justice, but a review is just 1 persons opinion. My Self-Confessed Sony Fanboy Brother-in-Law even admits WiiU looks and plays better than his Ps3 version. There are Masses of unlocks, Lots of replay value, tons of experimentation allowed and In-game challenges with freinds via Shadownet service... and thats just in Solo Mode.
Online Co-op is excelent with team work really needed to get the highest scores as you and a freind work through, at times quite large Co-op levels. Offline Co-op is missing yes, but that was to ensure SC released at the same time as other versions and in its place it has the Gamepad functions.
Multiplayer is great too, again team work is required if your going to have a chance and again you have numerous unlocks to earn.
Sadly, on all versions there's been connectivity issues, Patch 1 has made things a bit better, but only for those who know about port forwarding/DMZ and understand about running certain rules on a routers built in firewall. However Ubi-ComDev Is Ubisoft recent Miiverse participant and has been activly relaying info regarding Splintercell issues. They have said Patch 2 being worked on and yesterday the WiiU servers were shut down briefly for diagnostic work. Pretty much what Ubisoft had to do with ALL other versions and after 2/3 patches they seem to work online fine now so it shouldn't be long untill the WiiU version is fixed.



6ch6ris6 said:

i know of the 3 game modes. that doesnt change that sam fishers movement is ridiculously fast and unrealistic. he is jumping around faster than a professional traceur doing parkour. why does sam fisher get faster when he gets older? i hate that. kills the game for me.



nathanjones007 said:

I give a 8.5 out of 10

If they can patch those bugs and drop the price to 39.99 ( As in saying sorry) the WII u version of this game with pick up alot!



GuyMan said:

This guy gave Just Dance 3 an 8 out of 10, I think it was. Take this review with a grain of salt, as it's really bad. Read Nintendo Enthusiast's review for a quality review.

Like dude, just be happy they released a triple-A Wii U title with DLC in the first place.

@Azooooz The PC version doesn't have it either. And remember, the Wii U version was commissioned later and also had to come out on the same day. The development was slightly troubled.



TrollingThunder said:

The Wii U version of Blacklist on multiplayer is so broken barely anyone able to play it. Just like what Ubisoft did with Far Cry 3 on PC, this deserves a 4 or 5 for being mediocre. This game was developed differently & rushed into publication by Ubisoft Shanghai instead of Ubisoft Montreal on PC, Xbox 360 & PS4 versions.



wiiuprotacker14 said:

The game looks really cool and i want to buy it but... people say the online is awful and you can't find a match on the wii u is that true???



AceTrainerBean said:

This will be my first Splinter Cell game I am really excited to play it once I complete Windwaker. By the way I got my copy on Ebay for 30 euro so if anybody is interested I would check there first because it is 60 in gamestop.



bail said:

7 is way too low. 8,5 to 9 in my opinion. it's one of the best 3rd person shooters / stealth games i've played in the last few years.



Nik-Davies said:

Got this game free (along with Rayman Legends) with my Premium Wii U (bundled with Nintendo Land) for just £239 from Amazon. Can't wait to play it. Also going to get this Christmas The Wonderful 101, Super Mario 3D World and the Wii Fit U Meter to get Wii Fit U cheap while the offer lasts. Can't freakin' wait



PK_Wonder said:

In my opinion, this game is a solid 9/10 and one of the Top 5 in the Wii U's current library.

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