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I remember the original Splinter Cell game on the Gamecube and absolutely loving it. If you've played any of the Splinter Cell games before then you understand exactly how exciting the games are. The multiplayer in this series of games is immense. I can remember many a death match where we played hours into the night mixed in with some Timesplitters 2, This series of games is totally nostalgic. Spies vs. Mercs was doing the whole asymmetrical thing before Nintendo took hold of the concept, and it did it amazingly well.
There's two flavours of Spies vs. Mercs. The first is Classic Mode - a relatively untouched version of the popular adversarial mode that originally appeared in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. It was a much requested feature from fans after its absence in Conviction, and Ubisoft has duly obliged. The second - Blacklist - is a variant of the original. Blacklist brings a fruitful amount of changes to Spies vs. Mercs. Blacklist doubles the player count, placing four mercs against four spies, and weaves in the customization that's a central part of Ubisoft Toronto's take on the series. There are still the three terminals placed around the map to be hacked or protected, and it is still got an exciting play style that always keeps you on edge, but it is a noticeably more pacey and involves great tactical thinking. As Blacklist's multiplayer game director, Gunther Galipot, said in an interview: "This one we left it pretty much untouched... Those fans from Pandora, I really wanted to make sure that they had their Spies vs. Mercs back." It is great to see they've kept the methodology behind the franchise that made it so successful.
Loadouts can be created from the start of the game and there are a number of presets spread across recognizable classes. The spies have to hand a saboteur who can disrupt enemy equipment, an intel scout who can tag enemy's whereabouts and a predator who, much like their can disappear out of sight thanks to a digital ghillie suit, kind of like the invisible suit from the Crysis series. Mercs, however, have a hunter who's access to a UAV drone that's got the nasty ability to detonate on demand, a powerful peacemaker who's in the tank role and a disruptor who can deactivate the spy's own electronic devices.
The great part of Spies vs. Mercs Blacklist is working together as a team to work through the environment and its totally satisfying working as a unit of mercs whilst hunting out a hunter and scouting down an area before a disruptor neuters the enemy threat. It is a tangle that's also disarmingly complex at first, though when it finally all clicks in place there are contests that come close to replicating the joy of a classic Spies vs. Mercs match with that Splinter Cell edge that makes it stand out so much.
Blacklist also adds a mode that doesn't just come close to replicating a classic Spies vs. Mercs match. It removes all customization introduced in its partner mode and bringing the player count down to two on two encounters. The maps on which Classic mode games take place cast in a thick dark that's only occasionally lighted, or enlightened by the fire on the end of the merc's rifles.
What follows is real survival horror, as two mercs go side by side into unlit and unexplored rooms waving their lights around in pursuit of spies who could be waiting in the shadows. The maps are great and really add to the theme of the game and the series and look great as well. There's the ever present rustic scenery like steel walkways, abandoned train yards, desert scenes that have an ambience in places of Assassin's Creed graphically. It has plenty of places for players to hide out in the midst of battle.
Fans of the original are going to be in for a treat. The campaign and co-op are ticking along nicely, and you'll be able to read more about those facets of the game on the site in the coming weeks, but it was Spies vs. Mercs that really caught our attention. We are all looking forward to getting our hands on the finished product when it is finally released in August and we will keep you up to date as soon as any news is released.