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Game Review

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist focuses on a group of international terrorists called the Engineers. These heartless killers destroy an American military installation and threaten to undertake a string of additional attacks that will cripple the United States' economy and kill thousands of its citizens.

Somehow this underground group has pulled together an enormous network of surreptitiously deadly forces and set a series of twisting schemes into motion. And the only way out is for the world's sole superpower to agree to call home all its troops stationed around the world.

Well, almost the only way out. For the Engineers don't count on a hyper-covert agent named Sam Fisher. Sam and his secretive Fourth Echelon team—tactical expert Anna Grimsdottir, tech superstar Charlie Cole and support specialist Isaac Briggs—jump onboard their high-tech airborne headquarters and set off to stop the baddies.

Stealth Action Gone Global
In a series of globe-trotting missions to the likes of Libya, London and Guantanamo Bay, gamers put Sam through his sneak-in-the-shadows paces. And from a pure stealth-game perspective, Blacklist—the sixth title in this respected franchise—is very well-made entertainment. The shadow-crawling and leap-from-cover-to-cover challenges are fun. And they lend a realistic sense of danger and ticking-clock tension.

In each new chapter, you get to choose from several missions. You pick up special equipment packages of sticky cameras, stun guns, sleep-gas grenades, night vision and sonar goggles and the like to suit your circumstance. And then you must figure out ways to reach heavily guarded goals by traversing an open world of ventilation ducts, rocky cliffsides, rooftops, elevator shafts and darkened hidey-holes.

Lethal or Non, the Choice Is …
The game also offers three different styles of play and ways to tally up points on the way to victory. You can test your Ghost skills and attempt to remain undetected while using only nonlethal means against foes. Or you can stay silent but go deadly with silenced-pistol bullets to an enemy's head or knife slashes to the throat in Panther play. Or you can choose to go all out with run-and-gun open combat in Assault.

What that means is that, to a large extent, gamers can determine just how messy things get as this M-rated game unfolds. In fact, Blacklist actually doles out special rewards to those who choose to keep the bloody stuff toned down.

If you decide to get out your AK-47, though, there's a completely different kind of "reward" waiting: quantities of spurting gore, snapped necks and up-close wet work that's gregariously glamorized through stylish kills.

… Yours (Sorta)
Frankly, even if you choose to stay as bloodless as possible in your missions, there's no avoiding the graphically rendered cinematic cutscenes which include moments of choking and twist-a-knife-in-a-wound torture, über-violent melee takedowns, gun-to-the-temple executions, slit throats, slashed tendons and grisly dismemberment. And those ugly bits are a part of the Splinter picture no matter what settings you choose. Occasional uses of obscene and vulgar language—including f- and s-words—are unavoidable as well.

They say writer Tom Clancy goes to great lengths to make sure the military tech details of his action-thriller novels have a certain pinpoint accuracy. And while the games that carry his name aren't penned by the author, I gotta say there's a part of me that hopes the high-tech fight-back tools and techniques found in this Blacklist are also based on reality.

I mean, if another big terrorist threat ever lands on our shores there's no question we'd want this kind of tech and guys like Sam Fisher using it to take it to 'em in the real world. It's just that in the fantasy world of video games, there's the significant question of whether or not we should all be right there on the messy and torture-prone front line with Sam.

Positive Elements

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Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U, PC




August 20, 2013

On Video

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Bob Hoose

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