Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the upcoming entry in the long-loved series that once focused on stealth so much that it drove fans absolutely mad. This is the first Splinter Cell title to release in four years; the last was the fanbase splitting Conviction.

We were fortunate enough to be invited behind closed tours to get a more detailed preview of the same demo Ubisoft was showing off on the show floor at PAX East. Scott Lee, Art Director on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, was our guide.

Before we get too much further, and I don’t mean to derail this entirely, but Lee was easily one of the funniest developers I’ve ever had a chance to sit down with. That made this appointment hilarious.

Good News: We Saw Several Versions of Splinter Cell

One of the big outcries during all the E3 press for Blacklist last year was that it wasn’t, well, Splinter Cell. It was all action and explosions, where Splinter Cell should be all about precision, planning and execution.

When Lee talked to us about his experience with the Splinter Cell franchise, noting that he was a massive fan before joining the team, he explained that Splinter Cell: Conviction was easily the most approachable game in the series. He’s right; Ubisoft ditched a lot of the hallmark hardcore Splinter Cell elements in favor of a more streamlined game that would, we assume, perform better commercially.

With Splinter Cell: Blacklist, it looks like the team is trying to fall somewhere in between Conviction and the rest of the series. Blacklist will feature cover-to-cover snapping and an evolved version of Mark and Execute… if you want it to. The basic deal here is that this game appears to be as open and accessible as the player wants it to be.

Splinter Cell - Blacklist

If you want to turn the difficulty up and remove all of the non-stealthy stuff, you can. They have a “Perfectionist” difficulty that will make stealth the only option to play. Use loud guns and you’ll die quickly, and enemies can only be taken down from behind with hand-to-hand maneuvers.

Alternatively, turning the difficulty down to normal will allow you to be far more aggressive. You’ll use your guns when you want, and you’ll be able to treat Splinter Cell: Blacklist more like an action game than a stealth game.

And the title will reward your play style choice, as well. If you go lethal, all-out, guns blazing, you’ll earn far less money during missions than if you were to approach the game with stealth and non-lethal takedowns in mind. All that cash goes to upgrading and unlocking equipment, and that stuff makes you a more efficient Sam Fisher.

As a fan of the franchise, it’s awesome to hear that they’ve elected to cater to both gaming crowds with Blacklist. I liked Conviction, but not as a Splinter Cell game. Blacklist looks set to satiate my tastes for a more stealth and thought out approach to upper echelon activity.

We’ll have more on Splinter Cell: Blacklist as it comes. The title is currently set to release on August 20th, 2013 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U.

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