Ubisoft released a new video walkthrough at PAX Prime to help assuage some of the disgruntled rumblings within the niche parts of the stealth-action genre. Pretty much every fan of Chaos Theory (hailed as the best Splinter Cell game in the entire franchise) feel like Blacklist diverges too much from the stealth route. Well, the PAX Prime video is Ubisoft's way of saying they're still thinking about the stealth audience. The only problem is that the stealth elements look tacky and clumsy compared to the game's very fluent action elements.
I'm just going to dive right into the thick of it and say: all the stealth elements for Splinter Cell: Blacklist look like they were added in at the last minute. The previous walkthrough videos mostly focused on the action elements of the game, which ironically enough, look and feel very thorough and polished.
In the seven minute mission trailer below we get to see how Sam can use stealth to avoid killing people (except for one, because non-lethal animations haven't been added in yet), but it's just not Splinter Cell.
First off, why was that ledge near those three guys so out of place? It almost looked like someone went back into the map editor and “bumped” out a place for Sam to move. It didn't look or feel natural to the environment at all.
The other problem was the dog...what was up with that dog who went the complete opposite direction of where Sam was, even though he was like 10 feet away? Was the dog's sense of smell impaired or something? Had the AI been better the other problem is that there was no way out of that situation save for killing everything in sight.
And finally, what was up with the odd pacing of the stealth elements? Ubisoft kind of shot themselves in the foot doing the side-by-side comparison of using stealth versus going in guns-a-blazin'. The problem is that shooting everything in sight looks fun and exciting, where-as using the not-so-convenient stealth elements looks boring and trite, which is the complete opposite of what was established in the first four games.
I find it odd that the team polished up all the Michael Bay 'Splosions™ and highly entertaining Jack Bauer shooting mechanics first before addressing the franchise's staple feature: stealth.
Chaos Theory did a superb job of making the stealth elements punishing and unforgiving. You had to think about how you planned to utilize the environment to your advantage. You had to hide bodies frequently and think intelligently about how to progress through each segment.
The problem that becomes apparent in that video is that stealth is obviously an afterthought. There didn't seem to be any gadgets to help with the stealth and it didn't look like using stealth was a well-thought out alternative for that particular stage.
Nevertheless, Ubisoft is about making money so gamers should at least be glad there is an option for stealth. And while stealth fans don't really get stealth games anymore, you can always go back to your old collection of Splinter Cell games for intense, thought-provoking stealth gameplay. Oh yeah, and there's always Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.