Sam Fisher may be the star of Splinter Cell, but in Splinter Cell Blacklist, the super agent finds a cooperative partner in Isaac Briggs. Splinter Cell Convinctions showed us that stealth can sometimes be even more fun with a friend. While Convinctions had us step into the shoes of entirely separate characters in their own story (R.I.P. Kestrel and Archer), Blacklist drops Fisher in the thick of things.
Our time with Blacklist at E3 today consisted of a single two-player mission with Sam and Isaac. I stepped into the shoes of Sam, which is pretty funny, considering I was the one doing much of the following.
With Splinter Cell Blacklist's cooperative mode, Ubisoft aims to focus on two major gameplay tenents: stealth and free roam.
Stealthy, yet Cooperative
The first isn't particularly surprising, since we are talking about Splinter Cell here. Ubisoft hopes to really drive that point home, however, given some concerns surrounding Blacklist's seemingly more action-driven gameplay. I can't speak for Sam's single-player adventures, but in co-op, stealth is definitely a staple.
An emphasis on player freedom means you can be more direct in your approach and just gun your way through a mission. That said, stealth remains the more satisfying route, and non-lethal takedowns -- should you prefer those -- come with better rewards. Most of your starter weapons will be silenced by default as well, so unless you pick up the world's loudest sniper rifle from an enemy, this whole stealth thing isn't too difficult to pull off.
A number of other mechanics were added to encourage a stealthier approach, too. In addition to the wide array of silenced weapons, both Briggs and Fisher are equipped with tools and abilities that can lure enemies closer for quick takedowns or bypass traps without setting off any alarms. For instance, our playthrough saw several hallways lined with laser tripwires. To get past these, we were able to pick up downed enemies and use them to walk through the laser beams without consequences. After all, these are their traps; makes sense that they would be able to waltz through, even if they're unconscious upon your shoulders.
Of course, player freedoms are a huge part of the co-op missions too. Although you'll find objectives across every stage, how you approach these and in what order are entirely up to you and your partner. Though the objectives in our mission were labeled A through C, we could achieve them in any order. The focus on free roam really allows for this, in that it lets players approach missions in any number of ways they choose.
The random enemy spawns certainly add to the challenge of a more open environment. Each reset may generate a different patrol pattern or enemy spawn. Good luck trying to get through them every single time, especially with those new heavy units in the way. Yep, Ubi added some heavy units that can't be killed with gunfire -- only dual executions or sneak attacks from behind.
Free roam is all well and good, but my interest remains fixated on the whole co-op stealth mantra. Yes, you can play Splinter Cell Blacklist with a friend, but that no longer depreciate the whole stealth aspect. Indeed, this (re)focus on Splinter Cell's stealth roots means cooperative play will be all the more interesting come launch.
Splinter Cell Blacklist will be out on August 20 for Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and Wii U. For those who are curious, I played the 360 build. Until then, dig some new screenshots below. Definitely looking forward to this one, and we'll be sharing much more about the game as release approaches.
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