With Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist, Ubisoft is bringing back Sam Fisher and company, but not in the way you normally expect. Sam is much younger this time around, working with an elite team to bring down the Blacklist, a new terrorist threat that promises to harm America.
Along with a single player campaign that will take you all over the world, Splinter Cell Blacklist comes with an all-new co-op mode, along with the return of Spies vs. Mercenaries. We recently had a chance to go hands-on with both during a recent event hosted by the developers.
First, let's talk about this new mode, where one player controls Fisher while the other guides his ally, agent Isaac Briggs. Each has the same capabilities when it comes to stealth and weaponry, including a silencer pistol and high-tech toys that will help you infiltrate with ease – such as the night vision goggles and the mini-cam that lets you peek under doors. They'll team up through different instances, such as assisting one another to get over a large wall, or working out a plan to take down enemies without alerting their allies.
Working as a team is vital, as we learned with our hands-on with the game. Running in with a rag-tag effort will result in a huge firefight where you'll likely get killed. It's important to be on the same page as your ally, working out a plan to slowly but surely take down enemies. One strategy involves one man taking the "low ground" – killing or knocking out ground patrols – while the other takes the "high road" – watching out for snipers and keeping his partner out of harm's way. With this kind of strategy, you'll take out guards in no time.
There's also a set of survival missions where you're asked to take down a certain number of guards in the fastest time possible. Sometimes this is easy, with a lot of them running outside, letting you pick them off with a pistol or assault rifle. Other times, they're much trickier, littering the area with land mines that can damage your life bar, or even taking your partner hostage.
However, if your partner does run out of energy, he or she isn’t necessarily out of the fight. Like most co-op supported games these days, you have a limited amount of time to run over and refill them with health. Just keep in mind this will take a few precious seconds and will leave the resurrecting person wide open to attack. If you do go down, try to crawl out of harm's way, lest you put them in the same boat. If you both get critically injured, the mission's over.
If you prefer to be more competitive with your friends, you'll be happy to hear that Spies vs. Mercenaries has made a return. In this mode, you've got one team of "hunters" that keep an eye on three circuit boxes that must be protected from incoming hackers. These users play as a team from a first-player perspective, with limited technical options but plenty of firepower. On the other team you have the Spies, who have physical capabilities that the other team lacks, as well as stealth tools that allow them to sneak around.
The goal of each round is to overtake the three circuit boxes scattered throughout each stage. Once a spy hacks into a box, they've got approximately two minutes to seize control of it. They don't have to stand in front of it, however. As long as they – or one of their partners – stay within a certain range of the box while keeping Mercenaries from retaking control – they'll successfully complete the hack. However, if they're killed in that two-minute span, control goes back to the Mercenaries.
This is a terrific mode, even though we only accessed one map. The Spies side is a lot of fun, as you can hang over ledges and set up traps to take out the Mercenaries. However, the run-and-gun squad has its moments as well, as they can set up land mines to hurt the spies, and use occasional gadgets like a signal disruptor to expose and take out the intruders. Best of all, players get to experience both sides during a match, as they "switch" following the end of a round. So you get to experience how both sides play, which is excellent.
Spies vs. Mercenaries has been well refined since the previous modes from other games, and with Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and PC support across the board, you should have no problem rounding up a troop and standing your ground.
Both Co-Op and Multiplayer have something to offer in Blacklist, along with a robust single player campaign that we'll detail in an article next week. One thing's for sure – Sam Fisher means serious business this time around.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist will ship August 20th for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC.