Spies vs. Mercs multiplayer was first introduced to Splinter Cell fans with Pandora Tomorrow and has evolved with the series other than when it was omitted from Splinter Cell: Conviction. Fans of the series cried foul when they couldn’t get their multiplayer fix in Conviction and the team at Ubisoft Montreal set out to set things right in their next installment Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Not only did they do that but the team took it a step further by introducing two versions of Spies vs. Mercs. The interesting thing will be how fans react to the two versions. Both versions do share some similarities but believe it or not actually have quite a different feel.
Classic Spies vs. Mercs plays exactly as you remember. A two-man team of agents scope out a location to best figure out how to infiltrate it. The goal is to hack data terminals and retrieve the vital information. You’d do well to avoid roaming heavily armed soldiers just itching to fill any trespassers full of lead. A smart Merc with know his surroundings but an efficient Spy can always find a way.
As a Spy you’re not only tasked with what seems like an impossible mission but you’ve got to do it equipped only with non-lethal equipment. Mercs loaded up to the gills with weapons and armor won’t be able to get to many of the areas that a Spy can but you can damn well bet that their bullets will. Matches are played in two ten-minute matches giving you a shot at both offense and defense so to speak. Spies have three terminals to hack while the Mercs do their best to defend them. Your goal as the Spy is to slip out of the shadows just long enough to get the hack started and then return to the shadows and hide. This is where it really starts to get tense. Spies will hide and watch their hack’s progress bar percentage climb to 100% while hoping to remain undetected. If the Spy that initiated the hack is taken out, his partner has to step in and reinitiate the hack before the counter resets to zero eliminating any progress completed. If you and your partner can run successful interference you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in hacking all three terminals.
In Blacklist Spies vs. Mercs the player count is doubled to four vs. four and adds three elements not offered in Classic: there are now character classes, tons of customizations for those classes and lethal loadouts for the Spies. The only thing that wasn’t changed from Classic mode are the basic principles and objectives.
Where Classic Spies vs. Mercs is all about patience and the tension of making the right moves at precisely the right time, Blacklist Spies vs. Mercs allows players to play more aggressively knowing that you have a substantial amount of backup in case you make a mistake. On the Spies team I was more willing to take a chance at taking down a loan Merc from the shadows as my fellow Spies were tagging them, making them easier to locate and get behind for a silent but deadly stealth kill. The Spies weapons don’t seem to pack as much punch as the Merc weapons so you can forget about trying to take them out one-on-one, you’ll just end up as a bullet sponge!
Mercs no longer feel as cumbersome either. They also have new bells and whistles to make taking down Spies just as much fun. New gadgets like drones and sensors allow for very balanced gameplay. It was a blast to set up mines near terminals and watch unsuspecting Spies get taken out all the while thinking they had nothing to fear. Eventually they caught on to our setup and figured out they were easily disabled with an EMP blast.
The maps we played, Silo and Cartel worked well in both Classic and Blacklist modes. There was great balance in terms of areas for Spies to hide but also a great level of complexity to slow the Spies from getting to the terminals so quickly. It also gives the Mercs a great sense of space to camp and blast away at an unsuspecting Spy that wanders into view. As in previous Splinter Cell games the lighting enhances the gameplay like no other. Light sources reveal just enough without eliminating plenty of shadowy positions to blend into.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist looks to continue the franchises consistent level of quality we’ve come to know in the series. Classic Spies vs. Mercs will bring back all those familiar feelings from previous installments. Blacklist brings a few new welcome twists to the Classic mode with additional team members and a more run-and-gun feel. Ubisoft has yet to confirm if Splinter Cell: Blacklist will make an appearance on next gen consoles. As fantastic as the game is shaping up I’d hate to see it not do well at retail as gamers make that transition from current to next gen hardware this Fall. With E3 just around the corner hopefully Ubisoft will shed some light on what they have planned for the Splinter Cell franchise.