Game Review: Splinter Cell Blacklist

Sam Fisher sneaks into an insurgent stronghold. (Photo credit: Diego Carrera)

Changing the voice actor of an iconic character in a decade old series is a big mistake. Sam Fisher, the main character of the Splinter Cell series’ voice actor was changed in Splinter Cell Blacklist. The famous man behind the voice, Michael Ironside, is missing from the game and is instead replaced by Eric Johnson.

This is not to say the Eric Johnson did a bad job — in fact, he did a good job with his acting. However,  to longtime fans of the Splinter Cell series, the rest of the game feels very strange due to this sudden change. It makes me pause and think, “Wait a minute, this isn’t Sam Fisher. This isn’t the same guy that I’ve been following for over a decade.”

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It took me out of the experience and I wasn’t able to get back into the story of Blacklist after that. It just became a game with a not-so Sam Fisher and a generic terrorist threat instead of an intense covert ops thriller.

Die hard Splinter Cell fans need to roll with the punches on this one, as the game has shifted to be more of a cinematic experience in the sense that the characters are “fleshed out” more, featuring full-body and face motion capture. Blacklist emphasizes dialogue and the relationship between characters, though Blacklist fails to create an inspiring universe with characters that you care about.

The game tries to mostly use the Mass Effect trilogy’s formula for character development, but each character remains so static that it’s difficult to feel any sort of connection with them.  You’re not able to interact with them as much as you were in Mass Effect, despite attempting to follow their formula.  The game just pans you over through each character as if it were a movie, making the whole experience feel terribly forced and linear  it never gives the player a good reason to care about the characters.

Overall, Blacklist was very compelling. It expanded and improved upon the previous iteration, Conviction. Blacklist allowed for three main play styles and provided a great range in selection of gadgets, tools, guns, grenades and suit upgrades to play around with and adjust for each mission.

It is most certainly a blast to play and especially more so with a friend. Your character’s movement is responsive and precise. Without much hassle, it does what you tell it to and quickly — you’re not fighting the game to move around in the world; it is very smooth. In addition, you have to carefully evaluate each level in Blacklist to succeed and I found myself often having to revise my kit and tactics in order to progress through levels, which is exactly the kind of game that Splinter Cell should be.

Overall, Splinter Cell Blacklist left me walking away with cognitive dissonance. The game play was fantastic and exactly how the next evolution of the series should be, but the story and characters were not great and the game truly suffered from the abandonment of Michael Ironside, who was rightfully Sam Fisher. You just can’t replace such an iconic actor for a character. Sorry, Eric Johnson.

Collegian Entertainment Reporter Diego Carrera can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com.