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With Ubisoft’s last two Splinter Cell games, Double Agent and Conviction, it was easy to feel like the developers were straying away from what made the series so great in the first place, turning it into more of an action franchise than a stealth one. Despite the fact they were both great games they never really felt like Splinter Cell. Perhaps this is why it is so pleasing that with Blacklist, Ubisoft have gone back to the series’ roots while keeping the best parts of the previous two instalments and put simply, the result is awesome.

Once again you take control of Sam Fisher, ultimate badass super spy, and just like the originals, striking from the shadows taking down unsuspecting enemies is immediately rewarding and satisfying. This original formula is complemented by the better factors of the previous two games, benefiting from Double Agent’s level of choice and optional objectives as well as Conviction’s ‘Mark and Execute’ and active cover systems.

The result is thrilling missions that can be completed any way you want, with your actions being tracked and scored against three categories; Ghost (silent and non-lethal), Panther (silent and lethal) and Assault (loud and lethal). These different play styles add an unexpected level of challenge and fun to the game, encouraging you to mix up your techniques for varying results.

The different rewards for these styles, as well as optional objectives translate into money that you can spend on upgrades to your equipment, both online and offline, as well as upgrading your home base, 4th Echelon’s plane ‘Paladin’. More points and cash can be obtained by completing several side missions obtained from your allies onboard Paladin. These are mostly fun but a bit repetitive, however they are an excellent way to hone your skills and acquire new upgrades.

Despite the improvements, like all Splinter Cell fanboys I couldn’t help but sorely miss Michael Ironside and his incredible voice acting of Fisher. While the new guy, Eric Johnson, has done a great job voicing Sam, it’s just not the same without Ironside’s trademark gravelly tones that turned Fisher into the ultimate grizzled badass. It’s easy enough to get past but it’s also very difficult not to notice and you can’t help but miss the old Sam.

Overall, Ubisoft have done an exceptional job bringing Splinter Cell back to the top of the stealth genre, introducing great new play styles and challenges to the game that will keep me coming back for more.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist review info: