PAX Prime 2012: The King Fisher is Out Looking for Answers in Splinter Cell: Blacklist
We already know that Snake is back, but do we know that Sam Fisher is back? Yes he is, and in Ubisoft’s explosive live demo on the PAX show floor, Splinter Cell: Blacklist isn’t holding anything back. Sam Fisher is now the head of the Fourth Echelon, in charge of targeting terrorists who have issued an ultimatum called “The Blacklist.” It’s his job, and his team’s job, to stop these terrorists at all costs.
And that’s where the explosions begin.
The gameplay demo took place in a remote setting, filled with crates, rundown buildings, and the usual gruff men packing a lot of fire power. Right away, I notice that the graphics are impressive. I mean, this is Ubisoft Toronto at work here. The studio as a whole produces amazing work, but this? It was like Modern Warfare got a smart makeover. With an emphasis on the “smart” part.
The easiest way to describe this stylish military run-and-gun is a modern day Assassin’s Creed with a lot of military-grade fire power. Seriously.
Now, I’m not the most versed person in the world of Splinter Cell. Blacklist admittedly caught my eye after its announcement at E3 2012, and I began wondering about it. This demo, however, blew me away. Modern-day military games have become pretty run of the mill, and honestly a lot of them look the same. With the likes of Battlefield, Modern Warfare, and spin-offs of these titles, the market’s pretty saturated with the genre. Blacklist is hoping to offer something a little different, and it does so in a nice way.
While watching the pulse-pounding demo, Ubisoft noted that players will be able to choose two ways to approach a situation. You can go in, all guns blazing, or you can reach your goal using a more discreet method. The live demo featured the former, with Sam Fisher leaping over railings and shooting like a boss.
We were then introduced to the highlight of the combat system, called “Killing in Motion,” and it does exactly what it sounds like it does. While Fisher is on the run, he can chain together attacks and takedowns seamlessly, moving from target to target in a bid for escape. I realize that it’s not necessarily an issue of glorifying wartime combat, so it’s hard for me to say that it looked pretty awesome.
In all truth, it did look pretty cool. Once Fisher has learned most of his moves, players are given the opportunity to chain together attacks in any way they want. They can kick a guy first, disarm him, then shoot somebody else, take their weapons, and keep on going from there. They can shoot a guy first, use fisticuffs or disarm and then shoot. It’s like a huge bag of mix-and-match, with little apology in between.
Those wanting to make a more discreet approach can do so — Sam Fisher has the field tech of being able to see through walls, allowing players to make a judgment call when encountered with an obstacle. Depending on how many enemies are waiting for you, you can choose to toss a grenade into the scene, sneak around behind their backs, or kick a door down. A multitude of options are laid down at your feet, and Ubisoft assures us that there’s no right or wrong answer in however we approach the situation.
The gameplay demo, after many an explosion, shouting, and gunfire, came to a tense moment. After locating a target, Fisher peeks underneath a doorway to see what was going on. Finding his target surrounded by insurgents, he had to go in and take them out without harming the hostage. Here, we’re given the slow-mo shooting treatment again. Thanks to Rockstar’s release of Max Payne 3 earlier this year, it suddenly seems like Bullet Time is a thing once again. With a kick of the door, Fisher was suddenly on the ground and shooting like there was absolutely no tomorrow, or no other alternative.
Some dialogue and a plot point later, Fisher is instructed by his superiors to GTFO. Whereas Fisher was the star of the show up until this point, the presenter revealed that in Blacklist, you’ll get the option of controlling your own aerial support, which wasn’t an option in previous Splinter Cell titles. Given Fisher’s new status as the leader of an elite squad, players can call in an air strike if they find themselves in a bind, but in this particular instance, we were given a nice display from the aerial support’s perspective. It was, to simply put it, a Modern Warfare moment. With missiles and bullets raining down on the battlefield below, it was just a matter of a few seconds before the enemies were laid to absolute waste, and Fisher given his escape.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist, with all of its fluidity and player choices, is shaping up to be one hell of a nice modern-day military title comparable to Call of Duty or Battlefield. We already know that, because of sheer numbers, it probably won’t get the accolades it deserves, but the return of Sam Fisher is looking to be triumphant, and I personally can’t wait to see how the rest of the game plays out.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist is expected to release in 2013 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.