Today, during my Ubisoft booth tour I had the opportunity to get my hands on the Spy vs Mercs mode for Splinter Cell: Blacklist.  I sat down with two other Pure Nintendo writers to play some 2v2, and since we needed one more player the Ubisoft booth staff grabbed whomever was handy to take the extra spot.  Our fourth player turned out to be one of the game designers.  It wasn’t pretty.  I have played many hours of the Spy vs Mercs mode in Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, but that was on PC, not Xbox 360, so we got handily worked over by the veteran game designer.  Despite getting demolished, I was able to gather some impressions of the multiplayer mode for Blacklist.

The game developers tried very hard to preserve the feel of the prior renditions of Spy vs. Mercs and I think they did a very good job.  The “cat and mouse” emotion is still very intense as you try to sneak around as a Spy or hunter them down as a Merc.  There are several changes I noticed, but these could be either because it is an early build or because it is an intentional change.  Each team only had one optical mode.  For Spies it was night vision and Mercs it was the flashlight.  Missing are the motion-sensor visor, heat signature vision, and infrared vision.  This made it really difficult as a spy to notice a Merc’s mines and it makes it really difficult for a Merc to keep chasing a spy.

Another change which I greatly missed was the ability to dodge roll as a spy.  In Chaos Theory, spies were able to ninja-roll, making it easier to get behind cover when you started getting shot at. In Blacklist, there are much more limited options for escape.  Your choices are either to flashbang and try not to die in the following hail of blind fire or feebly attempt to walk around a corner, since you usually don’t have enough time to get sprinting before you die.  This adds to the motivation to never get caught in the first place, but still, I was definitely missing it as I got gunned down repeatedly.

Something else I noticed was that fact that in the game creation screen, it appeared that there was enough room to have two teams of four, four Spies and four Mercs.  This is new and would definitely make the games much more hectic by doubling the amount of people running around in each match.

Overall I really enjoyed my time with Blacklist, even though I got worked over.  I am looking forward to it’s release and to get better at playing as a Spy.  With a little bit of time, I think it has the possibility to be an amazing multiplayer experience.