Splinter Cell: Blacklist (I’ve Been On A Few Of Those)

By Alec Meer on June 5th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

All this week, I shall be standing outside with a bucket, attempting to catch as many ephemeral droplets from the downpour of videogame sequel news as I possibly can. Well, I wish I was outside. And I wish I was standing. Instead, I shall be sitting inside and embedding as my already withered legs continue to atrophy. Next to meet its fate at the hands of my ability to resize video code to 600 pixels wide is the latest, somewhat rebooty Splinter Cell. It’s called Blacklist – a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many a videogame journalist who’s dared to say negative things about [REDACTED] or [REDACTED], and it stars an apparently younger Sam Fisher in a more action-orientated setting, with Michael Ironside retired from voice duties. There’s already been a letter from the dev in a desperate attempt to placate the inevitably furious response.

Before we chew this over, let’s look at a see, gee, aye trailer and then some in-game footage first.

Trailer:

In-game:

Okay. While it’s all pretty and explosive and, well, E3y it doesn’t seem very Splinter Cellsome at all. And the new voice dude does come across as Captain Hollywood, without the gravelly gravitas and vague edge of scorn that Ironside does so familiarly and reassuringly. (In every single character he’s ever played, but that’s another debate). It’s hard not to worry that Blacklist is trying more to keep up with the Call of Warfields than it is being a Splinter Cell game, but Ubisoft Toronto Community Developer Zack Cooper has waded into the instantly disappointed fray with claims that there will be “PLENTY of stealth” despite all the daylight and high enemy headcount. “It comes across as an action game. I know. …and it can be just that….but you can also be the sneaky bad ass Sam Fisher who a lot of you know and love.”

This is essentially the same thing that’s being said of Hitman: Absolution, and from a hands-on stint with it a couple of weeks ago (for a preview I have yet to write) in that case it did turn out to be true that there’s a genuine choice between being Jason Statham or a silent assassin. Hopefully the same’s true here.

As for the matter of the voice, the official line is that it’s because they thought the game would be more convincing if the guy doing the mo-cap also provided vocal talents. I dunno. I’d question the wisdom of prizing slightly more accurate lip-sync over one of this series’ most recognisable elements. I’d also say that the newly young Fisher both looks and sounds significantly more generic than previous incarnations of the character. It’s not like Sam Fisher was ever a mould-breaking action hero, but the grizzled aspect at least made him easily identifiable where other game lead characters are not.

Here’s some discussion about the change, including commentary from an apparently non-pissed-off Ironside.

Tell you what, I think Ubisoft would be crazy not to include an option to swap to Ironside’s voice for those who prefer it. I know it means spending money and time, but it’d buy a whole load of goodwill overnight.

Finally, here’s a look at some of the new toys in the game. Half of them will be DLC/pre-order only, presumably:

Splinter Cell Blacklist’s release date is next Spring, with PC confirmed as one of its platforms. I’m not holding my breath that the PC version will launch day and date with the consoleboxes, of course.

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80 Comments »

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  1. Moni says:

    Seems like a more polished Conviction to me, and I quite liked Conviction.

    I think they should have just retired the Sam Fisher character and replaced him with a strangely familiar new character, the same way the new Jason Bourne film has replaced Matt Damon.

    • sneetch says:

      Yeah, why not have old Sam back in base guiding his young replacement in the field? That would be a lot more “believable” if the leader of a shadowy agency was not the one in the field.

      • Heliocentric says:

        Yes, this please, I dont retcon backwards traveling, let Sam go old.
        I’m quite happy to play as Griffin McGruff in shooty action stealth, but lets not retcon the whole series with toys later Sam’s didn’t have.

        • woodsey says:

          Pretty sure it’s not a retcon. They’re just pretending he doesn’t age.

          • Heliocentric says:

            Oh… The younger voice actor is just an act of insanity then? Yeah, I was wondering how that was going to make sense.

      • Guhndahb says:

        Yeah I agree. That would have been the best course of action. But it looks like the die has been cast.

        • GlokyCZ says:

          I think its terrible idea, more advanced gadgets than in future? Not a good call.

        • Fuzzball says:

          Maybe they did it as insurance for when the cast will die?

    • Syra says:

      I would like it if it resembled conviction, which was amazing, but this looks really really stupid. It may aswell be a run and gunner, can we atleast have some stealth choices!?

    • dedicated medicated says:

      Just looks like Conviction 2.0 and that’s not Splinter Cell at all. And no Ironside? Not interested.

  2. Jim9137 says:

    Hah hah ha ha hah hah haa.

  3. Hug_dealer says:

    errmmmmm. Looks pretty much like every other game out there. Whether you enjoy that kind of thing decides whether that is good or bad.

    Being Ubi, I dont buy their products anymore.

  4. sneetch says:

    They’re sure getting their money’s worth from the Assassin’s Creed engine/game.

    I recall that being exposed like that in the original games was a death sentence. Sam was easily killed by people with assault rifles; he wasn’t an auto-targeting ninja.

    • Sinkytown says:

      What is Sam if not an auto-targeting ninja?

      He is ‘the best’. He is a trained marksman, with human reflexes that allow him to quickly aim and fire at targets in succession. In Conviction, this mechanic is earned and implemented carefully. Presumably this will hold true in Blacklist.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Gundato says:

    Conviction was actually really fun. It wasn’t a “true” Splinter Cell, but R6 Vegas wasn’t a true R6 and still managed to be a blast.

    That being said, no Ironside is just crap. I get it, Sam as Ironside sounds “old” and they probably want to go with a younger guy and what not. But the whole point of Sam is that he had already done the special forces thing and had been in the business for so long that it made what he did believable (even if he became a monkey on crack in Conviction)

    And the mo-cap thing is crap. Enslaved had AMAZING mo-capping, but I really doubt the girl voicing Trip was bouncing around (Andy Serkis might have been…). And, if memory serves, Uncharted (another gold standard) doesn’t have Nolan North doing all of the stunts Drake does.

    The trick is the same one they did with Captain America (the movie): Have one actor be the body, one be the head. If it worked for scrawny Steve Rogers, it will work for Sam Fisher.

    • woodsey says:

      The girl did mo-cap Trip, and Nolan North mo-caps Drake – they probably just hand-animate anything exceptionally stunt-y.

      And I’m pretty sure the actor playing Captain America was skinny and had his body digitally reduced, aided by some camera angle trickery.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      Actually, a very very large part of what makes Uncharted feel so natural is that voiceovers are recorded in mocap, with the actors themselves acting out the scenes. They say it makes it a lot easier for the voice actors to get into the role and add nuance, and looking at the end result I’d agree as animations and especially voiceovers are superb in Uncharted.

  6. Aedrill says:

    At some point I started to think “God, I miss Dubstep. I’d listen to some of it RIGHT NOW!”. And guess what? There was some Dubstep in this Making Of, which was completely unexpected!

  7. Premium User Badge

    mR.Waffles says:

    I’m a huge fan of Conviction and prefer the direction it took over the originaly, slower games. However, I am not okay with 1) Sam not being an old spy, as old spies are a million times more interesting and 2) a lack of Michael Ironside. You can’t just change a character that dramatically.

    • Sinkytown says:

      The response I’m seeing here staggers me.

      Splinter Cell: Conviction is my favourite stealth game. It is ambitious and gameplay driven. It’s a fluid action game with an effortless sense of momentum. It captures perfectly the tone that it sets for itself, and not merely through presentation but through gameplay. It is cinematic without scripting and it is endlessly replayable and dynamic. It is ‘gamey’ in the best sense. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was hugely influenced by SC:C and is a great game because of it. Please judge Conviction for what it is, and for what it tries to do. For my money, Conviction is a masterclass in design.

  8. woodsey says:

    Looks shit.

    As for ‘keeping’ Sam, the decision is stupid. Looking at the series’ wiki, he’s 55. FIFTY-FIVE! If you want to move it away from being brilliant and into looking like every other bloody thing being released by mainstream developers then change the character instead of hanging on to the one with thing older fans of the series can still connect with.

  9. Gonefornow says:

    Well the SC series has changed then.
    Shame, but think it this way.

    It used to be a stealth game, in which straight up action was not preferrable and mostly clunky (slow aiming, health packs, alarms).
    Now it’s an action game, in which stealth is indended but prolly not so well implemented (scripted action sequences? [this here is speculation]).

    Yeah, someone will like it.
    I won’t.

    • robjwells says:

      Exactly this. I finally got around to playing Conviction a few months ago (after skipping Double Agent or whatever the fourth one was called) and it looks like the series’s stealth roots are just that, roots. I remember people complaining on forums after playing the first game that there wasn’t enough ammo to accommodate their murderous tendencies. Oh, the memories.

      I never thought there’d be a day when I considered Pandora Tomorrow to be one of the better Splinter Cell games.

      • codename_bloodfist says:

        Quite frankly, Double Agent was one of the better Splinter Cell games too. Try playing that on hard difficulty and start a firefight. GG, WP. o/

  10. Jesse L says:

    Instead of being interesting, let’s piss people off!

    MONEY MONEY MONEY!

    …I’m sorry, I have nothing insightful to say about this. It’s just dumb. So dumb! I wish I could do more than not-buy this.

  11. ShowMeTheMonkey says:

    I miss the feeling of being “human” in the Splinter Cell games. I don’t want to feel like a super hero all the time. I loved Splinter Cell because Sam was that, just a well trained human. Any one person was a danger and could kill you very easily, I mean the highest number of guys you ever fight at one time was around 4 in the first game.

    Same applies to Rainbow 6.

    • Guhndahb says:

      Absolutely. “Plenty of stealth” doesn’t really cut it. Sam not only needs to be able to do stealth in 99.9% of situations but it should really be necessary. Sure things need to go SNAFU from time to time (player-driven OOPS situations, not setpieces), but then Sam needs to run away and regroup. The whole point of stealth is that it’s the only way a single human has even the slightest chance of going up against such numbers no matter how skilled he is.

      There are plenty of shooty games for people who want that.

      • Sinkytown says:

        This is exactly how Conviction plays, and is presumably how Blacklist will play. Ubi Soft introduced mechanics that facilitate escaping when discovered, like the EMP charge and the Last Known Position marker. The game is easier and more satisfying as a stealth game, and on Realistic difficulty, stealth is necessary.

        • Guhndahb says:

          I haven’t picked up Conviction yet, so that’s good news to me. Thanks.

    • Geen says:

      Yes, I loved that feel. MGS3 had that feel as well, that bullets could and would kill you in a few shots. (at least on the highest difficulty)

  12. jack4cc says:

    Ah, Spliter Cell: Random Shooter.

  13. Mr. Mister says:

    I see it only as an egocentric overreaction: remember that a great portion of sales will be on non-English countries, and the vast majority of such will be played on a different language.

  14. Dreamhacker says:

    No. Just no. This is a fucking disgrace. Fuck Ubisoft.

    I’m boycotting this from day zero. Splinter Cell ended with Double Agent.

  15. Prokroustis says:

    This is a perfect example of what’s wrong in the mainstream gaming industry nowadays. One of the wrongs anyway.

  16. WoundedBum says:

    Erryone be hating on Splinter Cell, but it seems like Dishonoured will appease our stealth urges:

    Q: But theoretically somebody could sneak through the entire game
    A: Yes, It is possible to play through the game without killing anyone

    • KenTWOu says:

      Q: What are your thoughts on stealth gameplay being included as one possible path or playstyle, as opposed to the main focus of the game?

      Harvey: One could argue that the game is stronger with a pure focus on stealth, but like Raf said we find it more interesting when a range of options present themselves.

      Splinter Cell:Blacklist does the same thing!!!

      • Gonefornow says:

        If only they could balance them both correctly.
        Judging by the videos, marketing malarky or not, and Conviction I highly doubt it.

        The thing is, the end result is going to lean on one side or the other for a few reasons:

        -The people making the game like/understand stealth or action better.
        -Ensuring both approaches are valid they’d have to do more testing and planning i.e. work harder in the same time frame presented to them by the publisher.

        The publisher certainly doesn’t have the ambition to let these things happen whatever the developers might or might not say.

        • KenTWOu says:

          The publisher certainly doesn’t have the ambition to let these things happen whatever the developers might or might not say.

          This publisher made special studio – Ubisoft Toronto – just for this game. Blacklist already has more features than Conviction which had tons of problems during development (you can read about them here). Even Spies vs Mercs multiplayer mode is back. We just don’t know anything about the game and devs’ ambitions except few over the top action packed trailers for casual E3 crowd.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        Not if it’s anything like Conviction. There were parts of Conviction that FORCED you to shoot your way through. The Iraq section comes to mind.

        • KenTWOu says:

          They already said this several times that Iraq level was a huge mistake! Also co-op mode wasn’t that bad and Conviction hunter mode was pure stealth.

  17. Orija says:

    You’d have thought that all modern fps games would have collectively exterminated the entire Arab populace by now.

    • DrSlek says:

      Oh there’s plenty of other brown people out there, to shoot. Bedouin, Berbers, Maghreb, Turks, Persians…why stop at just Arabs?

  18. CaspianRoach says:

    Sam has Pip-Boy now!

  19. rockman29 says:

    I think the game looks great, but it doesn’t look like Splinter Cell anymore. It wasn’t so much stealth as it was blowing everyone away in every room he came across… a new character at least might be fitting, I agree.

  20. jakeandbake says:

    Generic 3rd person military action shooter #2445: Sam Fisher’s costume is stolen by Ezio Auditore, who is now voiced by Channing Tatum. He proceeds to stab a bunch of people and put the audience to sleep with the generic action game plot.

    Chaos Theory was the last one I REALLY enjoyed, and remains my favorite game of all time. Equal parts stealth and action, and the multi-player never got better than that. The co-op was seriously, amazingly out of this world and I’m not sure why it never got it’s own spin-off, or even continuation.

    This looks exactly like Assassin’s Creed. EXACTLY.

  21. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    This looks worse than Conviction and the contrary was intimated through interviews. Why can’t there just be a continuation of the brilliance that was Chaos Theory which among other things featured one of the best soundtracks to any game.

    • KenTWOu says:

      This looks better than Conviction, cause it has tons of stealth features which Conviction doesn’t have: variable speed while crouching, knife, takedowns from any cover, non-letal takedowns, movable bodies, whistle, shocker, rappelling etc… Spies vs Mercs mode.

  22. BreadBitten says:

    Why couldn’t they just have done a whole new character altogether? Have Sam be the new head of [Enter number] Echelon with the player getting to control a prospective new subordinate?

    The way I see it Ubisoft tried to take a page from the Bourne films with the actor replacement without the explanation that there’s more to the character(s) than just the name…

    Also, did they just say that Mr. Ironside has some narration duty in this game?

    Edit: Just noticed Moni and sneetch’s banter regarding the same thing, sorry guys…

  23. HisMastersVoice says:

    I’d rather have them drop all pretense of SC being a stealth game and give me fluid and entertaining shooting mechanics. Crouching behind a waist high wall is not stealth so why even have it there. Just let me left click people in a spectacular fashion and be done with it.

  24. Stardog says:

    Horrible game designed by marketers.

  25. Radiant says:

    Well in the last game I literally killed a truck load of people.
    It’s literal because they were coming out of a truck when I killed them.

    Splinter Cell: Snapping Necks Cashing Cheques

  26. shizamon says:

    Looks shit

  27. Radiant says:

    Ah fuck it I really do want to play this game.

  28. dongsweep says:

    Anyone see the screen shot from the video that showed the mission listing behind Sam with one of the missions saying “Operation DLC”?

    If I wasn’t at work I would dig it up.

  29. Radiant says:

    How can you guys say this looks bad?
    It looks like a really fun game.

    Granted it’s not a remake of Chaos Theory but what other game does what this is doing as well as it looks like it is doing them?

    [Unlock an achievement for that escher staircase of a sentence].

    Keep in mind I’m playing MGS peacewalker.

    A game in which I’ve just ludicrously kidnapped and brainwashed over 300 men using my superior gaffling technique and a helium balloon.

  30. Paul says:

    For people who do not know why Ironside is a MUST for Sam Fisher:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM3Cl5wBgNU

    Writing by Clint Hocking helped too.

  31. celozzip says:

    so he’s younger but it’s still set in the world of ‘tomorrow’ and now he’s going full auto with a machine gun? sigh…

    the only way i would accept a prequel is if they set it in the 70s/80s during the cold war or whatever and had a young sam without all the cool gadgets he has now and making do with a map and compass and a crappy radio transmitter and stuff. that would’ve pleased the hardcore stealth crowd a lot more than this rubbish. isn’t that what they’ve done with tomb raider? stripped it down made it survivalesque.

  32. celozzip says:

    oh jeez, watching the in-game vid now… that ‘execution’ shit is even worse than conviction. it’s literally a quick time event one-button-kills-everyone feature now, what a load of crap.

  33. Ross Angus says:

    So I’m guessing with those cameras on their faces, there won’t be any kissing? Shame.

  34. robby5566 says:

    I can’t agree more about the game becoming more and more generic. Take for instance how Sam Fisher is now “the leader of 4th Echelon and reponds only to the President.”
    Did they base the backstory on a kindergartener’s crayon drawing of a super soldier?
    I figured out of any series, a Tom Clancy game wouldn’t include something as stupid as the head of an intelligence agency going on field missions.

  35. Examiner2 says:

    I think the series splintered away with the last entry. My conviction is that the series did away with stealth and is just another generic TPS. The trailer just leaves a fishy taste in my mouth.

  36. Synesthesia says:

    ok, am i the only one a bit disgusted about the timing and theme of this? Blacklist? Really? Why dont they make sam machoman fischer control a drone strike on a civilian place and just be done with it?

  37. Premium User Badge

    Moo says:

    I didn’t like Conviction, but I wholeheartedly supported them trying something new.

    This isn’t new though, this looks like Conviction 2, and I think we can agree that Conviction was disappointing to most fans of the old Splinter Cell. I really think they should either keep pushing forward or go back.

    Then again, I shouldn’t make assumptions based on these short trailers. We all know what happens when we do that: WHINY ONLINE PETITIONS, and everybody hates those.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I wholeheartedly support them trying something new as well. With a new character and a new name (and maybe some new gameplay, rather than familiar shit, but that’s another discussion). Doing something new, or rather something totally different, with a franchise that really seems to be clinging onto its extant fanbase by a damned slender thread already, that’s just idiotic. Let Splinter Cell be pure stealth, and make this something else entirely.

  38. PC-GAMER-4LIFE says:

    Michael Ironside provided most of the atmosphere dropping him was all about money as Ubisoft did not use him until very late in the day on Conviction due to money. Good luck selling this game when you drop the 1 major selling point from the series.Iironside is Splinter Cell to most players this will flop then the next game will bring Ironside back!

    I know there is a limit to what he can be paid perhaps he got greedy on the last game (rumoured he did which is why Ubisoft left it until very late in the day to confirm him as in 2008 his involvement was TBC). I cannot see the game working without his voice so no interest from me (I bought all the other SC games on PC @ release @ full price & love em all for different reasons but Chaos Theory minus Starforce3 via official patch is still the best IMO!!)

  39. skyturnedred says:

    I like Eric Johnson, so I don’t mind. Just hope the game is good.

  40. Kevin says:

    You know, I’d be okay if it featured a new protagonist with Michael Ironside still playing Sam Fisher, except Sam would be the new protagonist’s mentor the way John “Clark” Kelly was to Ding Chavez and he was coordinating intel and assets for the operation from afar the way Lambert and Grimsdottir did.

  41. GlokyCZ says:

    More action and that execution shit? So much light? Ok, screw Ubisoft. SC as a stealth action died in Double agent.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Did you notice that it has more stealth features? Also Double Agent already has daylight levels and most of them wasn’t bad.

  42. Premium User Badge

    ffordesoon says:

    I liked Conviction, but wanted more stealth options. This gives them to me.

    I’m looking forward to it.

  43. lordfrikk says:

    I see the game got the Hitman Absolution treatment.

  44. iZen says:

    I’d bet my left nut this is AssCreed’s engine.

  45. Ultra-Humanite says:

    Lol @ them using Whitney from Smallville.

  46. Suits says:

    Noooo… Ironside!

  47. aq119 says:

    Oh look, it’s standardistan and it’s band of evil oriental terrorists!

    Sick to the back teeth of this bullshit.