An In-depth Assessment of Splinter Cell: Blacklist @ the Microsoft Pre-E3 Press Briefing

Keeping with the established tradition when unveiling a new addition to the vaunted Splinter Cell game series, Ubisoft's Alex Parizeau and Maxime Beland followed the rousing introduction of the Microsoft Xbox 360 Pre-E3 2012 Press Briefing by Microsoft's President of Interactive Entertainment Business, Don Mattrick, and took us on a brief adventure with an old friend: Sam Fisher.

As the pair stood on the darkened stage in the real-life Galen Center, the first part of the demo video played out in the virtual world on the jumbotron screen behind them, and we watched as Sam Fisher calmly carried the wounded body of a terrorist guard -- who he no doubt put in its present condition -- into the heart of the terrorist enclave, where he blithely hands the wounded body over to the trio of terrorists that he has encountered, following them into the nearby tent in a reversal of the spider's den scenario. As Sam stands passively at the entrance the terrorists frantically assess the damage to their comrade and we enjoy our first tentative taste of the new Sam Fisher.

The member of the trio who is obviously in charge divides his attention between his wounded man and the stranger who carried him to them -- clearly suspicious -- but before that suspicion can solidify into the sort of certainty that leads to direct action, Sam grabs him as a human shield and, in a bullet-time frenzy of well-placed shots, marks and eliminates the remaining two terrorists before delivering the killing blow to their leader, and the tradition of showing what is new in the next Splinter Cell game proceeds!

With the new fusion of the traditional Splinter Cell stealth format and the action-adventure and open combat more familiar in the war game genre of games like CoD and Battlefield, we find ourselves deeply examining just who Sam Fisher is to us for the first time seriously since the launch of the first game in the series that established its title: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell.

As we watch Sam work his way through the village, our hosts set the stage by telling us what has happened: a group of rogue nations have masterminded the Blacklist -- a terror ultimatum of escalating attacks on US interests. Their demands?

"Get your troops out of our countries, or we bring the war to you!"

As the game plays out on the large screen the pair of presenters from Ubisoft Toronto fade into the darkened shadows, with all of our attention focused upon the action on screen -- which is being provided by Alex Parizeau who holds the Xbox 360 controller in his hands, and the calm voice of Maxime Beland, who is narrating the on the screen events as he fills in some background, setting the virtual stage for the adventure that is unfolding before us.

A New Sam Fisher?
Sam finds himself in a village on the Iran-Iraq border, where he must make his way through the hostile forces, killing any he cannot bypass, in order to locate and capture the terrorist leader, who may have the information that he needs to prevent a Blacklist attack from taking place in the USA in less than four hours.

As we watch the target marking system combined with bullet-time execution is again demonstrated, and then we see a new side of Sam -- a scale-the-walls, kill in the classic fashion, hard core warrior mode that is a fusion of new and old but that delivers every inch of the Sam Fisher we have come to know, and to love.

A few more classic Sam moves show us the warrior in fluid motion, but then we see something that is very new -- the integration of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing controller and its microphone, as Alex calls out "Hey, you!" and the terrorist on the terrace looks in the direction that Sam is concealed in, hanging off of the edge of that terrace. The terrorist comes to investigate and bam! Sam pulls him over for a traditional ledge kill! But wait, a ledge kill set up by the player's voice? And how cool that is!

The first official game play demo and introduction by Ubisoft's Maxime Beland, Creative Director at Ubisoft Toronto. This video is a pre-packaged version of the presentation that was offered today at Microsoft's Pre-E3 2012 Press Briefing.

At least part of the surprise today was that Ubisoft chose to reveal and introduce the next game in the celebrated Splinter Cell series -- Splinter Cell: Blacklist -- at the Microsoft Press Briefing rather than at its own briefing to the press that took place later in the day...

As Sam makes his way along the path we see examples of classic Splinter Cell play, with an electric disc attack that takes out a few terrorists standing in a puddle, and then an example of an execution kill before Alex uses his voice to call-in a missile attack that clears out the remaining defenders in the area, freeing the way for Sam to climb up and finally confront the terrorists guarding the leader, who we see quickly being taken out after Sam places a demo-charge on the door and then fluidly enters and kills in a single unbroken flow.