Splinter Cell: Blacklist's co-op consists of narrative missions, pulled directly from Sam's subordinates on board the Paladin – a massive plane and base of operations for Fourth Echelon in Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Missions will run the gamut from stealthy to more action-focused affairs and in-between, forcing coordination and cooperation in order to reach the next objective.
Or, in my case, simply survive. I'll be honest: me and my partner died a bunch of times while playing co-op. We couldn't sync up like other teams could, mostly due to the fact that my partner wasn't entirely well-versed in the series. But the experience was able to teach me a very clear lesson about Splinter Cell: Blacklist's co-op: one player simply cannot carry the other. Both need to be capable.
"One of the biggest things we tried to stay away from was follow the leader – one player was better, so he kind of led and the other followed," Richard Carrillo, lead game designer on co-op and online systems, told Joystiq. Being a fan of the series didn't give me the ability to drag my partner forward with me past two-man patrol groups, stacks of automated drones and array of cameras.
"It's all about the set-ups with co-op," Carillor said. "You can't take a single-player game and make it co-op, but you can take a co-op game and make it single-player, if you want, because really it's all about the complexity of the set-ups. In a lot of older Splinter Cell games, you might see enemies that always have their back to windows – obvious stuff. In Blacklist, we made sure that was no longer the case; we didn't want to make it feel like a video game. So especially in the co-op set-ups, you're going to see guys watching each others' backs, you're gonna see us use all of the enemy archetypes that are new to the series, you're going to see us use those together and you're going to see the enemies actually cooperate themselves and try to out-cooperate you and your partner."
The mission I played was strictly stealth, adding another wrinkle on top of the task of surviving. Carillo assures the co-op missions will dance between the Ghost, Panther, Assault pillars of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, so fans of all play styles can wet their beak.
"The co-op narrative campaign, the Briggs missions, will be a lot more of that variety, so you'll feel all three different play styles through that. Sometimes, narratively, we'll reduce one or make you kind of focus on another, just to build that tension and keep those two players together and keep that variety going. But the three other characters that give you missions, they focus on one pillar to build unique gameplay – but we always make sure there's a minimum of two play styles available. We reduce one just to give you some variance and make sure you aren't just playing the same missions over and over again. You have to make sure that variety is there to keep players interested. That was definitely a big focus – player choice, allowing them to have tons of options."
Splinter Cell: Blacklist will launch with 14 unique co-op maps when it hits Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U and PC on August 20.