If you’ve been following me lately you may have seen me casually hinting at my location the past few days. You may have guessed off of my not-so-subtle hints that I was at the amazing Ubisoft Toronto studio and yes, I managed to get all hands on and grabby with Blacklist. Let me first just say that it was an incredible experience, one that I won’t soon forget. The game impressed me beyond what I had seen previously and the wait for its release is even more painful than it was before.
I managed to play all aspects of the title, but for today I’m going to focus on the co-op aspect. Come back tomorrow for the low down on the recently revealed Spies verses Mercenaries multiplayer modes. Yes, there are more than 1.
Full impressions await below the jump…
I had a feeling co-op would be making a return to Blacklist considering that it made up a significant chunk of the previous Splinter Cell title, Conviction. Not only that, it was very well received by reviewers and players alike. Guesses were confirmed as we were shuffled into a room and met with Richard Carrillo, who is Blacklist’s lead game designer on co-op and online systems. They knew that co-op was a major element for Conviction and looked to expand that out even further for Blacklist.
This time around, players will take up the goggles of Sam Fisher and newcomer Isaac Briggs, who has joined on with Fourth Echelon being formerly with the CIA. The Cooperative experience carries over the extensive customization options present from the single player mode and Spies vs Mercs Blacklist mode, allowing players to tailor their character to their particular playstyle. Cash, which is used to buy new items and customize them, carries over from the other modes as well giving players significant options on how they want to spec out their character. Now is your chance to use those pink lighted goggles you’ve been dreaming of. This also means that both players could end up having wildly different loadouts making for some very interesting play throughs.
We were given two missions to play through as each of the major characters on the Paladin (Fourth Echelon’s mobile flying base) can give out side missions for the player to tackle. Each character on the plane also has specific mission types with their own unique conditions so for example missions that come from Briggs will be more narrative driven. The first came from Briggs himself and involved the two infiltrating a missile base in India. The mission featured a great variety of gameplay touching on the three pillars of Ghost, Panther, and Assault while still maintaining player independence on how to tackle objectives.
We moved silently around the base, trying not to alert the patrolling guards and starting an international incident. Detection was not an option and we moved silently through the hangars, buildings, a makeshift minefield, and even managed to escape a large area as giant spotlights came online. Classic Splinter Cell gameplay guided us as we stuck to the shadows, silently took out guards, hid bodies where needed, and silently slipped past their watchful eye. It really was poetry in motion. Nearing the end of the mission, things escalated as a mercenary unit entered the picture as we infiltrated the base to take back the nuke being stored there. As we had to reassemble the missile, the Mercs would storm in on high alert. It was up to us to put down the threat and find an extraction point. At this point, things moved towards the Assault end of the spectrum at this point but no where did the fun drop off. The mission was engaging, open, and oh so satisfying.
The other mission came from Grim who specialized more on classic style assignments where being detected is not an option. Just like the Splinter Cell games of old, the mission ends completely if you’re spotted though the good news was that we were allowed lethal or non-lethal tactics. We were also warned by the developers that the media who came through only a day or two prior had a very low completion rate. So all in all, this mission represented something on the harder end of the spectrum.
The goal was to hack into three terminals located around a dilapidated factory complete with a sniper perch, roving dog, normal grunts and heavily armored guards that required either a double kill attack to first remove the helmet and then the headshot or move conventional stealth take downs. These guys could ruin missions fast. All in all, this mission was pretty challenging but never pushed into frustration or anger which speaks to the level of care the team as put into balancing these levels. My co-op partner and I failed quite a bit but never stopped having fun along the way until actually finishing the level right under the allotted time we had to spend on these modes. What’s also interesting is I noticed subtle changes in guard patterns as the level reloaded. At times a guard would appear in a new spot unlike other times where he was somewhere else entirely. This should make replay value even higher than it already is.
All in all, the co-op is back in a major way. If you loved the content Conviction gave you, it’s a very safe bet that you’ll love what Blacklist is bringing to the table even more. The mode has been fleshed out and for you lone wolves out there, you’ll also be able to tackle most of these offline by yourself. There’s a ton of maps this time around out of the box on day one and maybe some added deniable ops material yet to be revealed (we tried, they wouldn’t confirm or deny), Blacklist is going to keep you occupied for quite a while.
Come back tomorrow for my look at the returning fan favorite mode, Spies vs Mercs. I’d also like to take this time to thank the great folks at Ubisoft Toronto for opening their studio to us and also to Zack Cooper and Lisa Pendse for putting this whole thing together.