Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist co-op and multiplayer impressions
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist isn't just about a compelling single-player story, as you might have seen from our previous impressions. Nope, it's a total package that also comes with two additional options – co-op missions and Spies vs. Mercenaries, a multiplayer mode making its return here. We recently had a chance to check both out at an Ubisoft event – and they're great.
Let's first get to co-op…
In co-op missions – which are different from the single-player mode and require utmost cooperation to get through them alive – you play as Sam Fisher and his cohort Isaac Briggs as they infiltrate a number of enemy bases, completing objectives without giving away their presence. Your mission isn't over if you're discovered, but it's trickier to survive a gunfight than it is to avoid one – especially if your partner is down for the count.
That's because when you are critically injured, you have to wait for your teammate to come and revive you. And if you've got enemies shooting at you, it's not easy to stay in a single position for a few seconds while attempting a revival. If both of you are critically injured, the mission is failed.
On top of that, when you're working with your partner, you might need to keep them out of danger. Some enemy soldiers don't get knocked out so easily with a melee attack and will swivel you around and use you as a human shield so that your partner can't take a solid shot to kill him. You could try to push him off, but he'll likely grab you or, worse yet, kill you.
It's important to work as a team, like having one man take a low path and eliminate guards there, while another works higher up to take care of snipers and other threats that could eliminate the operative on the ground. Sometimes you'll also need to work together to get over high walls or through other areas, so it's advisable that you stay close together.
Co-op can be tricky – we ran into a few frustrations trying to get our partner on the same page, and we kept dying as a result – but with the right person to back you up, it's good fun. You both have the same capabilities, so Sam doesn't outshine Isaac when it comes to killing people. It's a nice balance, and one that will keep you playing through the multiple co-op missions available. Just be advised – some of the survival missions can be tough, like trying to kill all the guards in an area while avoiding gunfire and landmines strewn through the area. Step through too many of those, and you're dead.
Moving on to multiplayer…
Spies vs. Mercenaries made its debut in Splinter Cell long ago, but Ubisoft has managed to refine it almost perfectly for Blacklist. Here, you've got two teams – the Spies, who move around in third-person and have a number of sneaky abilities; and the Mercenaries, who fight in first-person and can use high-tech toys to give away the position of the Spies, or, at the very least, throw off their technical gear.
Throughout each multiplayer stage (we only got to try one during the demo), you have three computer terminals. As the Mercenaries, your job is to protect these terminals and eliminate any threats that try to corrupt them. That means the Spies have the ability to hack them, and continue chipping away at them by staying in a remote area, so they won't get immediately picked off standing by the terminal.
Both sides have a certain balance to them. Spies are able to sneak around mostly undetected, grabbing soldiers off of ledges or getting the jump from behind. Mercenaries are well armed and can use anything from a pulse reader to land mines to kill the Spies and take back control of the terminals they were trying to hack. They can also use gliders to swoop in and eliminate a Spy with a resounding explosion. Like a flying grenade.
After each round, the teams switch place, so no one stays on either Spies or Mercenaries too long. That's a great option, letting players check out both sides of the playing field to see which one they prefer.
The action in Spies vs. Mercenaries is outstanding, and a lot of fun against good teams. We had more fun on the Spies side, admittedly, especially after cleaning up a three-kill combo with guards who just kept wandering near our ledge. SUCKERS!
There you have it. Not only is Blacklist cooking up a great campaign mode, but other options for everyone, whether you prefer direct competition or working alongside a devoted friend. We'll see how these options shape up when Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist ships on August 20th for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.