E3 2012: Splinter Cell: Blacklist
“Dude, you’re a machine! You get it perfect every time!”
So commented the Ubisoft host to the game’s design lead as we left the demo room. This is what the new Splinter Cell wants you to feel like: a consummate badass.
The demo we were shown was an extended version of the one seen in the Microsoft press conference. Set on the Iran/Iraq border, Sam Fisher is now head of the Fourth Echelon, tasked with locating a terrorist.
It’s a perfect setting to show off the game’s new moves, the most prominent of which is dubbed ‘killing in motion’. Sneaking up on a group of enemies, you’re able to designate the order in which you want to take them out, then execute a cinematic, slow-motion kill sequence. It borrows heavily from other games, but the reaction it gets negates any concerns about originality.
Another familiar gameplay element is the smooth free-running and climbing from the Assassin’s Creed series, allowing Sam to scale walls, rocks and other objects in his way. This comes in handy as you make your way through the levels, which allow you some degree of choice in the approach you take. Similar to Deus Ex, there are straightforward and alternative routes corresponding to aggressive and stealthy approaches respectively.
There’s also a degree of moral choice, shown in the demo by a somewhat alarming torture scene. Upon finding the terrorist, Fisher stabs him in the shoulder, then extracts the information he needs, Jack Bauer style. Once he has what he wants, there’s a choice to kill or knock out his victim. Of course, the Ubisoft developer chooses to put him out of his misery.
The loss of Michael Ironside – voice of Sam Fisher in the previous games – has come as a surprise to fans and this came up in the Q&A following the demo. The answer seemed straightforward: the cutscenes in the new game require full-body motion capture and Ironside’s knees aren’t in their best state, making him unable to perform the required moves.
Blacklist is still a long way off, but from what we saw, it promises to deliver a fluid and visceral combat experience when it lands next Spring.