During E3 2012, Ubisoft showed the world a demo of Splinter Cell: Blacklist in which Sam Fisher sprints through a Middle Eastern city, shooting, stabbing, and neck-snapping all who stand in his way. While this display of fluid murder is impressive, Sam’s expertise usually lies in stealth. During a PAX Prime 2012 presentation Ubisoft showed off the same section of the game but with Sam’s sneakier touch, including an encounter with a vicious canine and an ingenious breaching tactic.

For those needing a refresher, Sam is sent to the Iran/Iraq border under the President’s orders to apprehend a terror network boss. The mission begins with Sam undercover, wearing flowing garb and a head wrap to blend in with the local soldiers. Sam steps into a medical tent with a wounded man in his arms, who he places on the operating table. With the enemies’ backs facing him, Sam marks his targets, indicated by red markers above their heads. In a sequence resembling Red Dead Redemptions quick draw shooting, Sam takes out the terrorists in a matter of seconds and apprehends one unfortunate soul for an impromptu interrogation. Sam jams a knife into his shoulder, which the player can twist for more information by twirling an analog stick. Players can choose whether to spare or kill the informant when they’re through.

Sam continues through the camp after removing his disguise, dressed in his classic black sneaking suit. He approaches the back of a tent and slits an entrance in the thin material with his knife. Sneaking through, he creeps up behind an unaware soldier guarding the entrance of the tent. Sam lurches out from cover, pulls the enemy into the tent, and slits his throat in one fluid motion. During this takedown Sam keeps his eyes on the other soldiers patrolling outside, cutting his victim’s neck without so much as a glance. This is the most brutal, efficient Sam Fisher I’ve ever seen.

After the execution, Sam marks his next targets like before, but this time he dispatches his enemies while sprinting down the dusty road. This may seem like a risky move, but he kills these soldiers so quickly that nobody has time to react or raise alarm. A few clean headshots later and he sprints up to a rock cliff. Sam quickly scales the rock face in a fashion similar to Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games. The spy is more agile than ever in Blacklist.

The side of the cliff turns into the wall of a house as Sam climbs, and he hangs from the edge of the roof as a guard patrols above. Sam whistles softly, luring the curious guard to the roof’s edge. Sam once again emulates Ubisoft’s master assassins and pulls the guard off the roof, sending him plummeting to a quick death. Sam watches two guards walk through the streets below from the relative safety of the roof. He readies his compact crossbow as the two men near a big puddle. Sam fires an electrified bolt into the puddle, discreetly frying the two terrorists standing in the water. 

Sam leaps off the roof and sneaks up to a pile of sandbags. A soldier walks by with a pair of ravenous guard dogs. One of the canines picks up Sam’s scent and starts barking wildly. Left with no option, Sam springs from cover and pops the guard in the face with a headshot. The dog is loosed and sprints towards Sam, who is forced to take out the animal with a quick, brutal neck snap.

Next Sam comes upon a big, important-looking door. He uses his fancy goggles to see through the door, which reveals his terrorist boss target. In the E3 demo, Sam blasts open the doors and runs into the room guns-a-blazing. This time, he plants a timed explosive charge and quietly climbs the building. He crosses the roof to the back of the building and rappels down its side. Sam once again scans the building with his goggles, revealing his target and three guards. He marks the three guards, waits for the charge to detonate, and bursts through a huge stained-glass window. A flurry of quick headshots leave the target’s distracted men on the floor. He maims the terrorist mastermind’s arm with a well-placed bullet and begins interrogating him like only Sam Fisher can. As seen in the E3 presentation, the terrorist boss claims to work for MI6, saying he’s been deep undercover for three years. Sam’s contact back at base confirms that the man used to work for MI6, but was discharged. Sam shoves the barrel of his gun against the man’s head to extract some more information. Realizing the jig is up, Sam’s target pulls the gun’s trigger, committing suicide via Sam Fisher before the agent gets any intel.

The agent’s explosive tactics have attracted a crowd at this point. Sam sprints out of the building and he’s greeted with an all-out battle. The player’s perspective shifts to that of an aerial gunship. Much like the gunship sequences of Call of Duty, players rain down machine gun fire and missiles, thinning out the turrets and soldiers slowing Sam’s escape. The presentation concludes with Sam running through the flaming ruins of the city.

Sam Fisher returns in Blacklist with plenty of gadgets, tactical options, and flashy executions. I was surprised to see how closely the game resembles Assassin’s Creed, which is a huge compliment. I love the idea of Sam Fisher taking cues from Ubisoft’s other great agents of stealth, Ezio and Altier. Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a far cry from the series’ early, slow-paced entries, but it appears to be making the changes necessary to stay relevant in today’s gaming market.