Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist will re-introduce the competitive multiplayer mode Spies vs. Mercs to the series through a Classic mode and a Blacklist mode, according to producer Sébastien Ebacher.
Spies vs. Mercs was a popular multiplayer mode that was noticeably absent from Splinter Cell: Conviction. The two-on-two competitive multiplayer mode assigns two players as spies and two players as mercenaries — the spies used stealth to infiltrate and hack, while the mercenaries used brute force and light to hunt down the spies. Ebacher told Polygon the mode was so popular that, when Conviction released without it, it was the most in-demand feature from fans.
"We didn't have a choice [but to include it this time] — it was the number one feature requested after Conviction, so we had to do it," Ebacher said. "With Blacklist, we wanted to stay true to the Spies vs. Mercs gameplay because it's a great concept at its roots. But we wanted to play around to see what would happen if we put more players into it and what would happen if we brought in customization."
"It's still got that hide and seek and cat and mouse gameplay rather than attack and defend."
The result is two different modes of Spies vs. Mercs. The first is named Classic mode, which is relatively unchanged from its original form. It's still two-on-two, and Ebacher describes it as "stealth gameplay at its purest form, where you really have to play with the shadow as a spy, and as a merc you really have to use your flashlight as the main tool."
The second is Blacklist mode, which is four-on-four and introduces an arsenal of tools, gadgets and customization. Ebacher says having eight players in an environment instead of four completely changes the dynamic, but it doesn't make the mode any less strategic.
"With eight players in an environment, we didn't want it to jump into a frantic kind of pace — we wanted to keep it strategic, because that's what makes Spies. vs. Mercs so unique," he said. "It's still stealth gameplay. It's still got that hide and seek and cat and mouse gameplay rather than attack and defend."
According to Ebacher, Blacklist mode also expands the definition of stealth gameplay. Where Classic mode focuses on light and shadow, Blacklist mode considers the player's level of awareness. It's not just about hiding and not being seen — it's also important to know where your enemies are, what gadgets they have and how their signals can be jammed without the need for a confrontation.
"In the Blacklist version, we give players more tools on both sides," he said. "More tools for awareness, more tools for mercs to track and spot the spies. At the same time, we give the spies more tools to vanish."
There are three types of spies and mercs, each with unique abilities that have advantages and disadvantages. Among the spies there's the Intel Scout (reveals and tracks enemies on the field), the Predator (specializes in close quarters combat; has a suit that makes him invisible) and the Saboteur (destroys gadgets and counters enemy abilities). On the mercs side, there's the Disruptor (disrupts and blinds enemies), the Hunter (deploys drones and tags enemies) and the Peacemaker (uses adrenaline to boost stats; has heavy armor).
Splinter Cell: Blacklist will release with both co-op and Spies vs. Mercs in North America on Aug. 20 on Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.