There are few game series that have managed to continue successfully on the current gen of consoles while largely retaining the same premise as their original incarnations. Splinter Cell, however, is one of the few that has remained mostly true to its roots. Despite this its last few efforts have been rather short of the quality the original trilogy had. Double Agent was fun but too short and failed to really utilise the power of these new consoles and Conviction, only being released on the 360 for some bizarre reason, I can’t judge as I haven’t played. With Blacklist though I was more than ready to jump back into Sam Fishers lightweight, custom made black boots. And as you may have noticed from this, rather rambly, opening paragraph not much has changed in the conventions of this stealth action-er but Blacklist does mark a return to form for the, once classic, series.
The missions in Blacklist are pretty rigidly structured, after you’ve done a few you know what to expect from the rest, that’s not to say though that they get more boring. Quite the contrary, as you get to grips with the control system, the AI, and different options you could take your mission it gets all the more entertaining figuring out exactly how you’re going to work your way through. Blacklist is one of the best games I’ve come across where you really can choose how you want to play, you can choose to be a ghost and leave absolutely no trace whatsoever, or a panther; remain silent but brutal. Or, of course, you smash your way through all guns blazing and kill everyone off in active combat. And for once no option seems particularly more difficult, less rewarded or, most importantly, less fun. While, as has always been the case with Splinter Cell, you want to be a slick mover and aim to get the ghost rating, in Blacklist it can be just as fun to go on the assault and you’re rewarded with gadgets and trophies for doing so just as much. When you get to the end of the main campaigns, criminally short, thirteen missions you will be pleased to find there are an array of other 4th echelon missions you can find yourself playing through. These missions actually end up being some of the most fun and hardest on the game and as an added bonus all of them have the option to be played in co-op. Its a very rare thing to find co-op playable games these days so Blacklist gives itself instantly more worth than other games that might have better main campaigns in my opinion. It seems same-console multiplayer is a dying art but it’s still a huge selling point for me. The online multiplayer is especially fun as well, offering a fresh new game modes that don’t just use exactly the same conventions as every other game.
Overall Blacklist offers one of the most complete game packages your money could buy you and though the story may leave a lot to be desired there’s more than enough extra stuff to make this the best Splinter Cell since Chaos Theory.
One of the big gaming hits of recent months has been this interesting first person adventure, Dishonored. Set in a fictional time and place the game combines elements of Victorian style and weaponry with magic and mystery to create one of the most unique games, stylistically, in a long time. The gameplay is mostly based around stealth but can be played a number of different ways (high, medium or low chaos) and the way you chose does make differences to the outcome of the plot. You play as an assassin, Corvo, after his wife is murdered and daughter kidnapped he is framed for the killing and is forced to run away as a fugitive. As he attempts to retrieve his daughter he uncovers a conspiracy behind within the government that are out to get him.
The story, while, stylistically original, is ultimately pretty predictable and although the game is mostly story driven the cut scenes are brief. A feature I’m usually pleased to see as often games get bogged down with too many cutscenes but it seems that Dishonored doesn’t quite do its vividly designed environment justice. It is one of the most interesting settings for a game and a lot of work has clearly gone in to it but the story seems underdeveloped really. The fighting is fairly unique too, mainly based around swordplay, projectile weapons are available but you only really use them to get out of a sticky situation, I don’t think I’ve ever played a game with well designed sword fighting action but Dishonored is one of the better ones. It has great execution animations with a nice amount of gore but when you find yourself locked in combat between a number of enemies the control system doesn’t really allow you enough control over how things pan out, I eventually began just running away and hiding if I found myself having to fight off too many enemies. Another interesting feature is the magic abilities that you pick up along the way, when you first attain them is good fun getting to know how to utilise them but by the time you’ve got them all it feels like there are just too many to be able to get to grips with them all and the length of the campaign doesn’t give you enough time to fully get to grips with all the game has to offer.
Overall I think Dishonored becomes its own worst enemy, it is overall a fun game but, it lets itself down by trying to cram too much in in an underdeveloped and predictable storyline. There is a hell of a lot of potential here and it is one of the most unique games I’ve played in ages but it fails to fully utilise it’s great elements. Hopefully if they do a sequel it’ll all come together slightly better, there’s potential here for an incredible new franchise if Bethesda play it right.
Back in the day I used to be a big fan of Hitman, I used to play the first two games fairly relentlessly but I eventually forgot about the series getting side-tracked by other games that got in the way. However with the release of Absolution I thought it was probably about time I got back into the silent assassin’s universe.
Absolution, unlike most games that come out nowadays still keeps an arcade feel scoring you on how well you do for each level and giving you grades to tell you how good, or more often in my case how shit, you are as a hitman. It kept me entertained trying to find the sneakiest ways to kill your victim without being seen and trying but failing not to let the whole thing spiral into an all-out gun fight. Another factor that I’ve always liked about the Hitman series is that it is always still possible just to shoot your through but the scoring method deters you, you don’t want to do that, the most satisfaction comes from causing no carnage whatsoever and skulking off without a trace. I loved the amount of items available to use in the game you can pick up almost anything and there’s a massive variety of disguises you can pose in.
A minor though would be the very un-inventive storyline with games such as Heavy Rain around nowadays nearly all games have been forced to produce much better stories, a fact which the Hitman team obviously haven’t fully grasped as I found myself just wishing for the cut scenes to hurry up, this was made even more annoying by the fact that they are un-skippable as is, for some strange reason, the opening video which you’ll have to sit through every time you turn the game on. But the gameplay is done so well it’s hard to let the story get in the way.
The contracts mode is an effective new way of competing online too letting you play through the levels already in the game but picking your own targets and the ways in which to kill them before posting them online and seeing if anyone can do it better than you, a fun addition to the game that will certainly get a few more hours out of me.