One of the ares that Ubisoft decided to focus on promoting the upcoming Splinter Cell Blacklist is the multi-player. It’s no surprise given how popular it is amongst fans of video-games like it. If anything, Spies vs Mercs is a mode that certainly brings back memories of attempts at online gaming in older Splinter titles.
Mercenaries are powerful individuals that are tasked with protecting terminals. They have a rather impressive arsenal of weapons and gadgets at their disposal. One of the first game mechanics that players will notice is the use of first person view. It actually works really well since it means players are able to shoot and aim more accurately.
The limited view also means that it’s easier for spies to sneak up on mercenaries. There is a radar that starts beeping when a spy is nearby. However, the range is limited so that it doesn’t make it too easy to track down spies.
Spies on the other hand are incredibly agile, but lack the strength that makes the mercenaries a powerful foe to go up against. Instead it is best to rely on the third person view to get a better look at the surroundings. Spies are able to climb various platforms so that they can hide from mercenaries. There were times when it was a difficult task to find a spy. This is because only players that take the time to explore each map thoroughly will know where to find the best hiding spots.
A spy attempting to directly kill a mercenary is most likely going to end up constantly dying over and over again. Instead, it’s best to stalk mercenaries and assassinate them quickly when the moment is right. Learning how to make use of the spy’s stealth abilities made it much more enjoyable to hack terminals and survive the mercenary threat. It did feel tougher to get a better understanding of how the spy abilities worked. However, it just makes it more interesting to try different strategies and see what works best.
Not that playing as a mercenary is easier either because it consists of trying to lure out the prey without ending up with a slit throat. It’s all about making proper use of the various weapons to quickly kill spies. It truly felt satisfying to play as either of the two teams. Perhaps this was due to the fact that each team switched switched roles when a new round started.
The whole point of this mode is to see which team is able to both defend and capture the terminals. During a round, the spies must capture three terminals within a time limit. There are some interesting rules put in motion to ensure that it isn’t this simple.
It’s necessary for at least one spy to stay within an area so the hacking process is completed. If the spy who started hacking dies then another spy must hack it and take its place. The hacking process is reset if the killer spy isn’t replaced within a short period of time. This interesting twist means mercenaries stand a better chance of tracking down the spy that hacked a terminal.
It does take a while before a terminal is fully hacked. This gives mercenaries time to track down the spies and hopefully reset the hacking process before completion. This is where the stealth abilities come in handy since spies that know the map can hide in the best of spots within the hacking area.
But this doesn’t mean that it is over for mercenaries once a terminal is being hacked. The emphasis on teamwork comes to mind time and time again. It’s more like a motto to live by in the world of Spies versus Mercenaries – after playing through a couple of matches. It’s possible for spies to work together to distract Mercenaries. Mercenaries can also work as a team to efficiently sweep a hacking radius and use the radar to find and eliminate al targets. Victory is never guaranteed and that is what makes this mode so exciting.
Even the maps are designed so that both factions can make the best of their abilities. The Silo map has plenty of passages to explore. It’s a bit like a maze where spies have decent hiding spots to hide whilst waiting for the hacking process t finish. But terminals are also located in areas where mercenaries can easily find spies. Another map, Particle Accelerator, has bigger rooms that makes it tougher for mercenaries to track down spies. It also contains dark sections where spies could easily hide.
Anyone new to the mode will simply try to take advantage of these factors. But it never felt like a map’s layout made it harder to play as each of the factions. It felt like getting to know each section made it possible to make the best of the abilities.
There are various classes for each side that are unlocked by earning points upon completing a match. These helped a lot since it was even possible to have custom classes. Only standard classes were used though. Each seemed to suit a particular situation because of the unique weapons and gadgets assigned to it.
For example, one mercenary class made it possible to deploy mines. This was very useful to keep spies away from terminals in a map with bigger rooms. But this class also has comes with a weapon that isn’t as easy to use when compared to other weapons. It’s another example of how the developers have managed to create a balanced mode without restricting how it is played.
The Classic mode also made an appearance and it was certainly more of an intense experience. It’s the same goal as Spies versus Mercenaries, but it is limited to two teams of two players. This means that players have to fully rely on each other given the nature of the mode.
The map played consisted of a Lebanese hospital where spies would use ropes to descend from the roof.. It truly felt like a game of cat and mouse where it was never clear who the hunter was. Specially as it offered a great deal of spots to hide in the dark.
The matches played left a good impression of both modes. There is no denying that Spies vs Mercs is on a whole different level when playing with experienced players. Even players who aren’t serious about online gaming could get some enjoyment out of learning to play as both sides. It’s possible that Splinter Cell Blacklist’s online portion could become popular, if Ubisoft is able to provide more matches like this whilst playing under different conditions(other maps, unlocked classes, etc).