It’s quite amazing that it only feels like yesterday when the first Splinter Cell debuted on the original Xbox way back in 2002. Eleven years and several games later, Ubisoft is all set to release it’s latest iteration in the Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell franchise: Blacklist.
Splinter Cell Blacklist promises to be different than Conviction with a focus on both stealth and action. In order to learn more about the game, we got in touch with Maxime Beland, the creative director of the game. We asked him about what players can expect from the game, the Wii U version and how Blacklist is Ubisoft’s biggest Splinter Cell game till date.
Ravi Sinha: What was the reason for going back to the style of earlier Splinter Cell games, with the support team and infiltration suit, as opposed to staying with the rougher and tumble style of Splinter Cell Conviction?
Maxime Beland: I’ve always loved seeing Sam Fisher in his tactical suit. I think he’s iconic, powerful and unique. I also love seeing him with the goggles. After two games without these iconic elements, the team felt the time was right to bring these elements back, and that got me very excited for the direction for Splinter Cell Blacklist.
"The core narrative dictates what happens in the gameplay, and the interactive interrogations weren’t serving the story the way we wanted. "
Ravi Sinha: Given that players can use much more lethal force in Blacklist, as part of one of the play styles, what incentives will there be for using a more stealthy approach?
Maxime Beland: Our economy system is balanced in a way that gives more rewards to the Ghost player. For example, taking out an enemy non-lethally, without ever being detected, rewards you more in game currency than taking the enemy out lethally. You will get even more points if you pick up the body and hide it in a bin.
Ravi Sinha: Are there are any special skills or upgrades that players can achieve on mixing play-styles? Or will there be distinct upgrades for each kind of style?
Maxime Beland: One of the things that I find most impressive about our game mechanics is that each of them supports multiple playstyles. For example, we’ve added the ability for Sam to whistle; the player can whistle at the enemy and attract the enemy to where he is and then flank him, or he can draw him into a direction in order to surpass him, and completely avoid detection.
Ravi Sinha: One controversial aspect of the game we’re still curious about are the interrogations. Will they get any more violent than the ones seen till now? And will there be any unique twists on the formula in Blacklist?
Maxime Beland: Making a game like Splinter Cell Blacklist is a highly iterative process and design decisions sometimes change along the way. The core narrative dictates what happens in the gameplay, and the interactive interrogations weren’t serving the story the way we wanted. The interrogations are still in the game, but now they are narrative moments that progress the story. When we launch the game in August, we’re confident that players will feel like the story and message is getting across.
"I’m proud of the fact that our WiiU implementation makes sense in the Splinter Cell universe, it feels like a really natural platform for Splinter Cell Blacklist. "
Ravi Sinha: One of the bigger criticisms against Conviction was its length, even with the presence of a co-op mode and extra missions. Will Blacklist feature a longer campaign this time around?
Maxime Beland: This is the biggest Splinter Cell game we’ve ever created and there is a huge amount of content between the immersive SP experience, Co-op with the 4th Echelon missions, the legendary Spies Versus Mercs multiplayer and of course our universal economy and customization system in the game. The single player campaign features 13 exciting levels that immerse the player in a thrilling modern story ripped from today’s headlines.
In co-op, players can take on 14 4th Echelon missions. And we feature the massive Spies Versus Mercs multiplayer mode that support multiple modes, playstyles and endless variety that will provide months of intense multiplayer entertainment for fans. We will have more details on the Spies Vs. Mercs mode as we get closer to launch. We think fans will agree the scope of the game is worth the price tag.
Ravi Sinha: How far did producer Jade Raymond’s experience with the Assassin’s Creed franchise affect the overall direction of Blacklist?
Maxime Beland: Jade was involved from the beginning of the project, especially with the positioning of the game. She’s a strong believer in the spy fantasy and building the fantasy to play the game as Sam Fisher. Jade is the Executive Producer for the Splinter Cell brand, so we’ve had many discussions and excellent support and feedback from her.
Ravi Sinha: Tell us a bit more about the GamePad features for Blacklist’s Wii U version and how they differentiate from other developers are doing with the platform.
Maxime Beland: Splinter Cell Blacklist as a game is a great fit for the WiiU. What’s fun and interesting is that Sam Fisher has an OPSAT in the game that he uses in the same way players can use the WiiU gamepad when playing Splinter Cell Blacklist. Sam uses his OPSAT to control gadgets like the triorotor, which the player can also do using the gamepad. I’m proud of the fact that our WiiU implementation makes sense in the Splinter Cell universe, it feels like a really natural platform for Splinter Cell Blacklist.
Ravi Sinha: Considering that most third party developers are currently avoiding the Wii U for their own reasons, what is Ubisoft Toronto’s stance?
Ubisoft Toronto is looking at new technology and seeing in which ways their features make sense to use for our brands. As I mentioned earlier, using the WiiU gamepad for Splinter Cell Blacklist makes sense. It’s an extension for what Sam does in the game. It’s great feeling when new technology immerses the player into gameplay in a fun and realistic way.
"PS4 and Xbox One will offer some very interesting online connectivity for gamers. Thankfully we have a lot to look forward to :) "
Ravi Sinha: As you are aware, the Xbox One was recently announced and Microsoft seems to have taken a more entertainment approach with its next generation console. Given that Splinter Cell started its roots on an Xbox, what do you think about the future of the franchise on Xbox One?
Maxime Beland: Right now we are 100% committed to Splinter Cell Blacklist which is set to release on Xbox 360, PS3, WiiU and PC. We’ve been really focused on coming up with something that I think the fans of the game will really love and haven’t had time to think about what’s coming next.
Ravi Sinha: From a development perspective how will you compare the PS4 and Xbox One? Of course both of them have a fair share of advantage over each other but in terms of technical prowess which system appeals to you the most and why?
Maxime Beland: Honestly, I have been dedicated to Splinter Cell Blacklist for the last three years so I haven’t had time to analyse what excites me or what I look forward to the most on the next two platforms. Both of them will offer some very interesting online connectivity for gamers. Thankfully we have a lot to look forward to
Ravi Sinha: Is there anything else you want to say about the game?
Maxime Beland: I’m really excited and proud of the broad scope of player choice we have incorporated throughout Splinter Cell Blacklist. Gamers will find there are three main play styles in which Sam Fisher can approach any challenge: Ghost, Panther and Assault. The Ghost player wants to remain undetected, achieve level objectives without killing anyone, analyze and plan the best way to make it happen. The Panther player looks for lethality in the most efficient and silent way.
The Assault player wants to blow off steam, relying on instincts and frontal blow to deal with a situation. In Splinter Cell Blacklist, gamers can also move from one playstyle to another within a level in an organic and fluid way if they choose to – however if you are detected you will not be able to go back to Ghost until you successfully clear an area or if they find a dead body. I think gamers will be satisfied with the experience we deliver and we can’t wait for August so our fans can finally get their hands on the game.
Thank you to Kiran from E-xpress Games for setting this interview up.