OK... given my playtime now, I think it's finally time for my review. No plot spoilers. A proper review would take a look at all aspects, but I don't have much time so I'll be brief.
The Good - Singleplayer
The game itself is surprisingly good. Of course... it's no Chaos Theory, but regardless, the game is actually fun
. By playing on perfectionist, the game's hardest difficulty, you'll find yourself hiding and waiting a lot; examining the guards' patrol routes (which by the way change every few deaths to keep you on your toes). Also you won't be able to use your vision through walls, giving (albeit briefly) you that similar experience in Chaos Theory when you find yourself constantly wondering what's around the corner.
So what else is there? A diverse array of gadgets, guns and accompanying upgrades for starters. I loved being able to use the money earned from missions to upgrades and improve my loadouts. There was a chain of progression, and I could feel my character becoming a 'stronger' spy, equipped with more stuff as the game continued.
The environments are pretty damn awesome. Exploration is the key to achieving your preferred playstyle. There are neat cinematic scenes and unique parts of the story which require you to play out these almost 'mini-game'-like bits; but they're so well integrated into the story and allows you to take a break from all the running, jumping and stabbing.
The Good - Multiplayer - Coop/SvM
Now let's switch over to the multiplayer. There's not much to say about coop. It's essentially singleplayer but with a partner. There is a fairly wide variety of missions to choose from. Each of the main characters have varying game modes depending on what you're up for. Nearly all of them can be played solo if you don't have anyone to trust your life with.
Grab a mic, join your friend, and off you go. That's right. A mic. Whilst not completely essential- it will drastically reduce the number of times you die because of silly mistakes. Bouncing information between you and your partner will really help. But... if you're with a random person you might not be able to do that. In which case, you'll just have to grit your teeth and go with the flow.
Spies. Versus. Mercs. It's fun. Believe it or not, it's actually fun. With friends. By yourself... yeah, I'll admit, you can have some pretty decent matches. But seriously, for some laughs and a better chance at winning- play with friends you can talk to. Skype, TeamSpeak- it's all about information exchange. You can better anticipate that ambush if your buddy just saw a spy heading your way. You can let your friends know where the hacker is by utilising the merc cameras whilst your dead.
The SVM loadouts are different to the singleplayer loadouts, so be prepared to start paying up the big bucks again. This time you'll also need SVM tokens, which allow you to purchase weapons and stuff. You only get a few when you start levelling up and then one token each level after that, so spend wisely. There should be enough to unlock everything, but it's the order you choose that matters. I'll be writing or recording an updated SVM tutorial sometime in the future, to help the new players with how everything works. You'll have fun creating custom loadouts with a combination of gadgets, gear and weapons to your liking and playstyle. The torso abilities are pretty cool. Each side (mercs, spies) get three choices of abilities to aid your plight. Used wisely, you can be a valuable asset to your team.
Since Blacklist is 4 vs 4, it's the perfect number. Every player counts, and when your team mates goes down, you best be prepared for what happens next.
On the face of it though, SVM is fun to dive into for a quick match (I say quick match, it's about 25 - 30 minutes per match). You can just join and start playing straight away. It's fast paced and will require some level of awareness and reflex reactions in order for you to survive. Playing smart is a key skill. Anticipating enemies, knowing your way around the map, always paying attention to the little things that might give away the position of a spy. Classic, Blacklist and Team Deathmatch are probably the only active game modes at the moment. The others could do with a reboot, as they're fun to play... when there's enough players.
The Bad - Singleplayer
I honestly can't really fault the singleplayer. There is one thing though. It can be very easy to speedrun. Grab one of the sniper rifles and just headshoot everyone. Job done. Of course, some armored enemies require a little melee time, but with two or three shots you can drop them just as easily. It can ruin the fun, but it's completely feasible.
Oh, there's also the whole Michael Ironside thing. Yes, Fisher does appear younger. No, it won't stop you from enjoying the game. You'll get used to it. Or perhaps not. It's really up to you.
My negative points reside mostly with the game launcher rather the game itself. Ubisoft only had to go and slap Uplay on its products AGAIN. Why even bother releasing this on Steam if it was going to need Uplay anyway?! For example. I load Uplay (ugh, I know) and click 'Play' on Blacklist. It then says... 'loading Steam. Please wait for your game to load from there'. Like... wut. Then Steam launches Blacklist, then it goes BACK to Uplay and Blacklist opens up. ???
Not only the Uplay interface a pain to reach on a laptop (since it's Shift + F2 and laptop users have to press FN as well...) but it's slow as hell and actually caused me to crash Blacklist once.
The Bad - SVM
Here we go. I'm leaving coop out of this by the way.
Spies vs. Mercs feels like another company developed it and just slapped it onto the main game. Seriously. The sonar vision is completely different to the sonar vision in singleplayer, the way the stun crossbow works is different, there's no crouch sprint... the list goes on. When I first started playing, I got bugs. I mean... BUGS. One particularly game breaking bug was the fact that every time I went into cover and left it, I'd stand up and start sprinting around. It was hella annoying. Ubisoft put out THREE patches and none of them fixed it. It was only after I'd posted a couple ideas and experiments of the forums that someone else picked it up and fixed it. A fix, from the community ._.
If you're buying Blacklist for the SVM, wait for a deal. SVM, in its current state, is just not worth it. Overrun with hackers and the likes, SVM has become a tense community, filled with paranoid players who don't trust each other. And why should they? With Ubisoft turning their back on the game, with no dedicated servers (Host changed. Migrating match.) and no anti-cheat system, you have no idea who could be hacking, or who's just damn lucky. Tired of the hackers? Want to quit the match? Tough. Ubisoft removed the Quit Match button to 'reduce the number of unfair rage quitters'. Uhm, wut.
Seriously, all the more reason to team up with people you trust and can communicate with. You can still beat hackers, because they're dumb. They can whiz around and kill you with one bullet, but they're idiots who can still be killed with Death From Above and unexpected melees. Even hackers bleed.
Conviction was fun, but Blacklist brings more to the table. With new ways to play, and new gadgets to play with, the singeplayer and coop are definitely a must. Just watch out for the SVM, it might not be what you were completely expecting. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist is a 9 / 10