Friday, August 23, 2013

The First Few Hours: Splinter Cell: Blacklist

The First Few Hours is a type of post that I'll write after limiting myself to a sampling from a game. Partly because this allows me to take advantage of the PSN free to play, as well as Steam, but mainly because I think first impressions are very important and I'm sure someone already calls something "First Impressions".

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is an intensely strange experience though a very enjoyable one. From very early on it's fairly clear that this isn't "your dad's Splinter Cell" but something of a hybrid between that an Conviction. The whole game adds up to a great experience but not necessarily one I feel is entirely cohesive.
The game introduces elements in a haphazard way. Something I've not seen a lot of criticism of. It introduces side missions before it introduces full functionality of the controls. I'm a person who prefers as little hand holding as possible but if the controls need to be explained to me, I'd like that to happen as early and painlessly as possible so I can get to the game.

Instead, Blacklist opens up too much of the game too early. Side missions, upgrades, and co-op are all introduced before the introduction of how to deploy gadgets. While I can see how I might want those things with some immediacy if this was a subsequent playthrough, on a first handling of the game those elements should arrive with all deliberate speed.

Also, I really miss Michael Ironside. I thought that I could do without Ol' Ironside but I was completely wrong. I have no terms on which to understand the new Sam Fisher. It's not that Ironside's gravelly voice did anything particular for me, its that I connect him with the Sam of Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory. What is this new Sam's backstory? How old is he? He sounds to be maybe in his 30's? 40's? But what does that do to the rest of the Splinter Cell continuity? I understand the need to find a voice actor who can also do mo-cap (so in other words a real actor) but the transition feels odd and disjointed. Maybe others aren't as sensitive to the change as I am.

There is one addition that has greatly affected the way I play, dogs. As a stealth player I find that I use very few gadgets, avoid most guards, and leave very little trace. However, a dog that can find me without a direct sight-line completely upsets my ability to do that in the best way. Old tactics and tricks no longer work as they used to. Now, I'm forced to try new things to deal with what boils down to a new enemy type.

My lasting impression of the game is that it's filled with things I don't quite need. Maybe that's a consequence of not playing more than a few hours. As someone who sneaks around a lot with minimal guard interference or gadget usage I feel like the game is a bit excessive. I haven't been put in a situation where I say to myself "I really need a shock mine here" or "oh perfect place for a camera". Maybe those moments are to come but after a first few hours I'm left feeling like its all a bit too much.

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