Splinter Cell: Blacklist’s Spies Vs Mercs Video Decloaks

Guess which team I want to be on?
I am grumpy. In the world away from my desk and monitors, people have been meeting and playing Splinter Cell: Blacklist and I wasn’t invited. They were probably worried that having someone there who has completed every Splinter Cell, bar that rubbish one set in the prison, would mess up their plans. I might be disrupting their electrical flow of PR by dropping truth EMPs. Like pointing out that Ubisoft don’t understand what “Ghosting” means. They don’t want my truth making their screens all squiggly. The thing is, Ubisoft/The MAN, the video below of the Spies vs Mercs mode might have just won me over.

It looks like they’ve realised what they have in Spies vs. Mercs. A well-regarded and different take on multiplayer isn’t something many games have in their DNA. You don’t always need to keep coming up with new ideas to grab attention. Yes, the new SvM has a number of tweaks, but it’s still, at heart, about the tension between two different playstyles, with Mercs protecting datapoints from the hacking stealthoids. Blacklist’s take will be four-on-four, and full of gadgets that creates sub-classes within each side: Spies will be able to access an insta-stealth invisibility cloak that Mercs can counter with a drone that reads heat signatures. Another Spy preset will be able to track enemy movement and inform others, while a Merc has toys that’ll blind spies.

And if you’re staring at your copy of Pandora Tomorrow, weeping at how they’ve taken the classic template and ruined it with all the additional extras, there is a crowd-pleasing addition of “Classic” mode. It drops the player count and the gadgets. It’s about shadows and movement, over gadgets.

It’s out August 23rd, and I am now intrigued.


  1. Aldehyde says:

    That hit detector cross thingy that is in all games now is MUCH more annoying to me than regenerating health.

    • TaylanK says:

      Me too. It’s essentially a form of radar. “That shadow over there that moved slightly, is that a bush or an enemy player? *Shoots* Oh, it is an enemy player, I got the cross!”

      I think it started with CoD, no?

      • Brun says:

        It was around before that. The PC port of Halo had an aural cue for hit detection. It’s not really a new thing.

    • Felix says:

      FPSes have had a way to detect if your bullets hit someone for quite a while, audibly or visually. Of course, this recent method is just the most obvious.

      • P.Funk says:

        I never understood the need for that personally. There is this whole faction of Shooters that basically give away information for free like crazy. One of the most exciting things about a good shooter for me is not knowing if I got somebody or not. Having to guess, use incomplete information.

        CoD of course rewards kills with insane OP gadgets that give away info, kills, etc.

        Obviously I have a very low opinion of most shooters. :P

        • Brun says:

          It’s mainly to deal with latency when you’re playing multiplayer. If you have higher latency you can be landing every shot on your target but they aren’t taking any damage because latency means they’re not actually where your client thinks they are. Hit indicators help you figure out how much you need to lead your target to account for latency, which you have to consider when making distant shots (along with bullet time-of-flight).

          • OfficerMeatbeef says:

            Yes, exactly. Q3A of course had the audio cues, and the first thing I personally remember with the now-common center-of-screen cross-type hit indicator was BF1942. In fact, I remember it perhaps specifically because they added it in a semi-early patch, almost certainly mainly because of what Brun says here: to help counter accusations that the game’s netcode was broken because for most people the idea of shots having actual travel times was completely foreign.

            Without being aware of this and coupled with maps/view ranges much larger than many shooters, the natural assumption for any latency-prone environment, after all, is that your shots are just not registering, particularly at those long ranges where you may also not be able to see the pain responses very clearly even if you are hitting. The hit indicators both helped to teach you necessarily lead times and gave you satisfying feedback that yes, you were hitting, even if it wasn’t sufficient damage to get a kill.

            Target recognition is likely an unintended side effect, but then why wouldn’t you fire on ex. a shadow you think is an enemy regardless of whether you’d get confirmation of a hit? Even without a hit notifier, if it is a person you’ve at least injured them and forced them into moving/responding to a situation where they are now disadvantaged.

            So yeah, this is definitely a case of not everything you dislike starting with CoD. In fact, the first Call of Duty featured no such on-screen hit indicators despite coming out a full year after 1942, although CoD 2 did apparently implement them… 2 years after THAT.

    • Snakejuice says:

      I remember audio/visual hit-feedback dating back to Quake 3 Arena, they even made the tone of the sound different depending how much damage was dealt! :-)

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  2. Low Life says:

    I loved the original Splinter Cell but never really played the sequels for some reason. Which one’s better, Pandora Tomorrow or Chaos Theory?

    edit: Chaos Theory it is, then. *Adds another game to the pile of games to play right away instead of waiting for the right time*

  3. Discopanda says:

    Unless they really really really really really screw up Spies vs. Mercs, I’ll probably have to buy this just for the multiplayer. I had so much fun in spies vs. mercs back in the day.

    +1 to you, Mr. Ubisoft!

    • Benny says:

      I was thinking the same, but I fear they’ll enforce their servers and remove any LAN/direct IP options. Then the inevitable server shutdown a year or two later.

      I still dig out Chaos Theory for LANs (2v2 warm up game while other people setup) and would be a shame if this new one wasn’t able to live past it’s first year or so.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Splinter Cell:Conviction has LAN, I didn’t try it in offline mode though.

  4. Iskariot says:

    I am not a multi player guy, but I will buy this anyway. I think this might turn out to be a good Splintercell again.

  5. Sian says:

    I loved SvM back in Pandora and Chaos Theory. I have no idea how this mode progressed from there, but this video makes me excited to try and get the gang together again. I wouldn’t play 4v4, though, because I prefer playing with friends instead of strangers and I don’t have eight friends who like Splinter Cell.

    • P.Funk says:

      This is why consoles suck. PC gamers develop friendships and communities through multiplayer, they don’t see it as a barrier to friendship.

      • Vinraith says:

        What? Multiplayer gaming with strangers sucks, no matter the platform. Multiplayer gaming with friends is fun, no matter the platform.

  6. Azophi says:

    Okay, maybe this is just something I need to adjust (read: desensitise myself) to, but is anyone else a little squicked out by the ultra- hyper-detailed melee kill animations that have flourished in the past couple of years?

    I’ve fake knifed and fake shot so many fake people in games but something about this “development” makes me real uncomfortable. Stabbing or shooting a hitbox feels very different to watching a well-rendered depiction of what was previously an abstraction.

    I get that it’s done for immersion, but I couldn’t imagine wanting to watch the scripted animation of a man being stabbed in the throat and then shot in the head over and over again, at the easy press of a button.

  7. upswimsdn says:

    Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but do all these levels look really really bright. Like there’s no where to really hide in the shadows. I kind of miss the old Splinter Cell lighting. Also, in the beginning, when the spy turns his night vision off, it made it even harder to see in the dark.

    • KenTWOu says:

      SvM will have two separate modes: Classic and Blacklist. These modes have the same levels, but they are lit differently. Classic has more shadows and these shadows are really dark. So the old Splinter Cell lighting is there!
      Moreover, the game also has ‘Shadow Blend’ feature, it means engine changes rendering of the character model in shadows, so it’s really hard to see a spy without flashlight. You can see a glimpse of this feature in this video (0:48).

  8. OfficerMeatbeef says:

    So I think Pandora Tomorrow’s Multiplayer is unquestionably one of the best multiplayer modes in gaming history, a brilliantly designed and still utterly unique game that did what I seriously didn’t think could be possible: transition Splinter Cell’s stealth-based gameplay into a MP setting. Although I had liked the original SC well enough, the multiplayer demo for PT is what made it into an immediate must-buy.

    Sadly, it had some tiny yet severe issues that took much longer than they should have to be ironed out, though I imagine/hope Chaos Theory cleaned those up; unfortunately by the time I could get at CT the MP was long since gone. Then, the demo for Double Agent MP unfortunately (but thankfully) revealed a tragic amount of oversimplification, so I stayed away from it. So I was honestly excited when I saw this mention of “Classic Spy vs. Mercs”, and in the video everything they’re saying and showing was sounding and looking so very right.

    Then in the last clip of Classic mode before they start showing the new mode, you see a spy chain-kill two mercs with presumably a button press each.


    Honestly, just the fact that a Spy is getting “Kill Streaks” might seem so small, yet is so huge and completely antithetical to the concept and design of the original mode that I honestly can’t imagine how it will not completely change the overall gameplay, even if they literally have kept all the gadgets/maps etc. the same. The fact that the Spies had to play virtually entirely non-lethally was so entirely core to the design, necessary to keep the Spy focus on achieving objectives and to keep the game from devolving into first-person vs third-person deathmatch.

    Spies had options for temporary knockouts of course, but the only way to kill a Merc was to get behind them, get them in a headlock, and break their neck, and that process also left the Spy greatly exposed to getting killed by their partner. A spy outright slaughtering two mercs like you see here was simply not possible, and that’s not even considering that dropping on one was sensibly a knockout, not an outright kill.

    I really didn’t want to have to be negative on this, but it looks truly troublesome and I guess I can only hope they’re really REALLY carefully designed around it? And also that there will be that MP demo that was so integral in making me buy PT straight-out, though I can’t help feeling my hopes for that are even slimmer. I just don’t really understand why they’d make such a fundamental change if they really were trying to be “Classic”‘; if it’s the excuse that “players today wouldn’t play something where they can’t kill (streak) their enemies” that doesn’t really hold up at all because all the other MP games around when PT came out were also about everyone killing everyone too!

    To be clear, I don’t necessarily think “Classic Spies Vs. Mercs” should just a completely polished PT/CT redone in a new engine (though I’d be fine with that), there’s of course room for growth/improvement. I just don’t see killstreak-claiming murderspies being in any way a positive direction for the design of the mode. I really do hope I’m wrong.

    So I guess my primary point here is who wants to try playing some Chaos Theory MP? If it’s even still possible, anyway. Because I’m pretty certain it’s AWESOME.

    • KenTWOu says:

      So I guess my primary point here is who wants to try playing some Chaos Theory MP?

      CT official servers are still work. All you need is this trick to get rid of Mercs flashlight rendering issue.

      I really didn’t want to have to be negative on this, but it looks truly troublesome and I guess I can only hope they’re really REALLY carefully designed around it?

      Please, read this post from one of the hardcore PT/CT SvM fans, who hates DA SvM.

      • OfficerMeatbeef says:

        Thank you for both these informative links! With confirmation that CT is still doable I’m currently working on getting it installed (damn “new”-ish MB not having any IDE for my much older DVD drive), and while I’m still remaining guarded, the positive response from that/those players is certainly very heartening to hear.