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'Splinter Cell Blacklist' preview: Spies Vs Mercs multiplayer revealed

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Splinter Cell Blacklist Spies Vs Mercs

© Ubisoft


Splinter Cell: Blacklist's Spies Vs Mercs mode has been fully revealed by Ubisoft.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal alongside lead studio Ubisoft Toronto, the fan-favourite asymmetrical multiplayer mode first debuted in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow in 2004.

It sees stealth-playing Spies hack three terminals, while the opposing Mercs - who play in first-person - must track down and kill the hacking spy before the timer counts down.

Spies can climb walls and exclusively make use of certain spaces such as air vents, while Mercs have the advantage of wielding more powerful weapons that are effective at longer ranges.

'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' Multiplayer Spies vs Mercs screenshot

© Ubisoft

A Merc moves in on a Spy.



As well as a 'Classic' mode that pits two Spies against two Mercs, it will see the debut of a new and updated 'Blacklist' mode.

'Blacklist' doubles the number of players for a total number of eight players at once – four on each side - and introduces classes and customisation options.

"It changes mainly the pace, I'd say," multiplayer game director Gunther Galipot told Digital Spy.

"It's more stealth action now. There's more teamwork also, because of the number of players."

Default Spies and Mercs classes will have unique abilities that aid themselves and team members.

For example, Spies will be able to highlight all enemy Mercs on the map for friendly players to see, or deploy an invisibility cloak.

'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' Multiplayer Spies vs Mercs screenshot

© Ubisoft

A spy defends a hacking terminal.



On the Mercs side, a Disrupter will disable all enemy electronics, or can deploy a UAV that can locate spies and can be detonated at will.

The abilities will allow players to customise the way they play, and also outsmart the competition, in what Galipot describes as a "predator loop" that keeps all classes balanced.

"It's balanced because in every sense every class will find its weakness in another one, so we make sure no-one can use this item and be unbeatable."

For example, the UAV allows a Merc to navigate vertical spaces that are usually only accessible for Spies, and mark opposing players for team members to see.

The Disrupter, meanwhile, can disable the invisibility cloak and other electronics that opposing Spies can make use of.

This balance also applies to customisable equipment as well, where gas masks counter poison gas grenades, and anti-flash visors defend against flashbangs.

'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' Multiplayer Spies vs Mercs screenshot

© Ubisoft

The first person viewpoint when playing as the Mercs.



Ubisoft Montreal was keen to see the return of Spies Vs Mercs after it was omitted from Splinter Cell Conviction due to time and resource constraints.

Fans were "very vocal" about it returning, making it the number one requested feature to return in a sequel.

Galipot said that the mode stills hold up today because players can easily relate to the "hide and seek" mechanics.

"I think it's pretty universal because it relies on the foundation of what you'll be doing as a child, like light and shadow," he explained.

"It's really something everyone can relate to, because everyone did that.

"I think some people wouldn't forget their experience because of this intensity. It is being the pray, and being the predator.


"That was one of the reasons why we bring it back, and we want to push some aspects too, but mostly to give the fans what they were asking."

The introduction of abilities and customisation in 'Blacklist' is a way of making it feature comparable with other shooters.

But there are also strives to make it more accessible without compromising what makes the mode work so well.

"Currently Spies vs Mercs is not only trying to align with the competition, but also to grab the best pieces of previous Spies Vs Mercs instalments," said Galipot.

"Definitely, we want more people to be able to enjoy the game and make it accessible. Accessible doesn't mean shallow.

'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' Multiplayer Spies vs Mercs screenshot

© Ubisoft

A Merc carefully checks a corner.



"It has a lot of depth, as what you can see, but at least having a good time when you start it, because it was pretty intimidating back in Pandora Tomorrow.

"Playing two vs two only, and most of the players were really already advanced when you tried to jump into the game, so you had a hard time. We really wanted to improve this."

That said, for players who prefer the classic Spies Vs Mercs experience, 'Classic' sees the same six maps available at launch plunged into darkness, and strips away the customisation options and abilities.

Even with the fewer numbers of players, it's a very tense experience of hunting and evading by flashlight.

'Classic' Spies Vs Mercs holds up remarkably well nine years after the mode made its debut, and still has the power to make players jump at a surprise spy takedown or panic when the timer reaches its final seconds.

'Splinter Cell: Blacklist' Multiplayer Spies vs Mercs screenshot

© Ubisoft

A spy sneaks into the shadows.



While Galipot was silent on post-release support or a beta, he added that bringing back classic Spies Vs Mercs maps would "definitely be a good idea".

Spies Vs Mercs joins a story-driven campaign and co-op missions as the three modes in Splinter Cell Blacklist.

The stealth-action sequel won't feature a main menu, and instead bridges together its missions and modes with a hub explored by Sam Fisher.

Money earned from kills and playing matches in Spies Vs Mercs will feed back into the player's economy that can be spent in any of Splinter Cell Blacklist's modes.

Splinter Cell Blacklist will be available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Wii U from August 23 in Europe and August 30 in North America.

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