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Port Report: Splinter Cell: Blacklist


Dillonator
  • Port Reports are a series of quick first impressions of the technical aspects of a PC game. For an up to date account of Splinter Cell: Blacklist’s fixes and improvements, please visit its respective PCGamingWiki article.

     

    Now I'm sure no one here needs a background check on Ubisoft, as that alone could take up several pages. We'll just look at Blacklist's predecessor, Conviction for a little foreshadowing and a bit of history (as Ubi's games swing wildly in technological capacity, the previous game would be the best indicator). Conviction was incredibly frustrating, to say the least. It ticked enough boxes to trick you into thinking it was a good port but as soon as you got in game, 98% (not a hyperbole) of people would tank down to 30FPS regardless of everything and anything. And that was the problem. The 2% that did get 60FPS spurred the rest to start committing acts of voodoo on their machines to try and find the secret recipe. Worst part is, the framerate just felt terrible, not like normal 30FPS and I can't put my finger on why. It's not like 30 in other slow paced games, like Hitman: Absolution or ARMA. The question remains, where did it all go wrong?

     

    First, it starts of with little things.

    https://community.pcgamingwiki.com/uploads/

Minimum

  • OS:Windows® XP (SP3) / Windows Vista® (SP2) / Windows® 7 (SP1) / Windows® 8
  • Processor:2.53 GHz Intel® Coreâ„¢2 Duo E6400 or 2.80 GHz AMD Athlonâ„¢ 64 X2 5600+ or better
  • Memory:2 GB RAM
  • Graphics:512 MB DirectX® 10–compliant with Shader Model 4.0 or higher
  • DirectX®:9
  • Hard Drive:25 GB HD space
  • Sound:DirectX 10–compliant DirectX 9.0c–compliant

Recommended

  • Processor:2.66 GHz Intel® Coreâ„¢2 Quad Q8400 or 3.00 GHz AMD Phenomâ„¢ II X4 940 or better
  • Memory:4 GB RAM
  • DirectX®:11
  • Hard Drive:25 GB HD space
  • Sound:(5.1 surround sound recommended)

Personal computer specs

  • Processor: Phenom II 965 @3.8GHz
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia GTX 660

Blacklist uplay

 

Ubisoft is still plugging its meaningless, drab and useless Uplay, to make their products feel more like onions than video games. The one time cd key activation that Ubi promised would be the only hoop required to jump HAS to be done through Uplay. It's such a shame there isn't any other way to authenticate a user's install, like within the application or within the launcher directly before it. /dry sarcasm

 

A side effect of using Uplay means that the Steam overlay won't work for me in game which is a massive shame, I adore the Steam overlay as it negates the need to alt+tab 95% of the time. On the subject of alt+tabbing, Blacklist handles it terribly, forcing the game into windowed and doesn't automatically go back into fullscreen when refocused.

 

So, if you alt+tab to any degree, you're going to be trudging through the pause menu every 3 minutes so I'm gonna take this moment to show you around!

 

Blacklist graphics options

 

This is the graphics menu which, as you can see, has a surprisingly impressive roster of variables and supported features. But the real problem here is, like Assassin's Creed 3, Ubi have just thrown in all these DirectX11 features (for an Nvidia sponsorship, of course) which have no tangible benefit and just kills performance. Now, where do I get off making such sensationalist claims?

 

[compimg]http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/uploads/gallery/album_6/med_gallery_255_6_242738.jpg|http://community.pcgamingwiki.com/uploads/gallery/album_6/med_gallery_255_6_541700.jpg|960|540|DX11 Low (minus texture+AF)|DX11 Ultra[/compimg]

 

In the comparison above, I changed all but two settings, texture quality and anisotropic filtering. The only difference is that with ultra, you get a massive saturation of ambient occlusion (they obviously missed the memo which said you're meant to us AO to add depth and finish off the lighting, not change the entire brightness of a scene). It just goes to show the slap-dash Nvidia-approved checklist approach they took to making the PC version. Not only that but performance is sub-par with lower than expected FPS and personally experienced stuttering.

 

Continuing with the problems of the graphics options, I've had so many issues trying to get the game to run in DirectX 9 mode. If I select 9 from the menu, it prompts you to restart the game. So after I quit to desktop and relaunch the game, Blacklist boots into DirectX 11. It's like they didn't even test it, the variable for the graphics API can easily be found in a nearby .ini file and the ingame setting does nothing to change it.

 

[uPDATE: To change to DirectX 9 you have to exit and restart Uplay as well; if you restart the game with Uplay still open the change won't take effect.]

 

Sigh. Right. We're gonna move on now. Let bygones be bygones, okay?

 

Blacklist keybindings

 

Blacklist does earn itself some brownie points on the input arena, allowing remapping of everything in-game and supports side mouse buttons. Mouse sensitivity is a numbered slider (thumbs up) and allows you to invert third person or first person (for spies vs mercs). Along with the separate inversion for 3rd and 1st person, it also has separate sensitivity sliders. Again, thumbs up.

 

It even has good controller support, continuing with the separate sliders and inversion options. The preset actually looks really nice, building upon Conviction's fluidity with a controller.

 

blacklist controller

 

Audio seems quite good, with manual speaker setup selection and two sliders. Subtitles are included, just tucked away under a different UI menu. Overall, par for the course, not much to say.

 

Blacklist audio

 

Now, I feel like I've been nice to Blacklist for too long. Do we all remember the "no online DRM, just a one time activation" claim made by Ubisoft no so long ago?

 

"We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game," she said.

 

The Steam version of the game requires Steam to be running. Which sounds kind of stupid when you say it like that but considering the activation is done in Uplay and the overlay doesn't even work, it seems a bit unnecessary. I mean, it's not like Steam doesn't have DRM free games which can be played from anywhere after the initial setup, I just don't see why I have to have it running.

 

Overall, I can't recommend Blacklist on PC, the Steam discussions page is full of people complaining about one problem or another. I had issues with performance, a lot of people on the Steam forums can't even launch it. 98% of people (slight hyperbole) are having issues and 2% are a-okay and it's so frustrating. It could all be fixed in a couple of patches but I'm not one to endorse gambling. If you really want to play Blacklist, I really recommend saving yourself the trouble and getting it on a console.

 

A little bit of me died then.

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I actually don't mind Uplay that much, sure it's unnecessary but the UI is clean and sleek and it's not too much hassle to get into and boot a game. It's one of the lesser more intrusive DRM out there. Aside from issues in the past I think they've improved the client a lot and personally I prefer it over Origin. I actually have no issue with the Steam overlay, maybe this is a game-by-game basis but I've played several Ubisoft games that require Uplay to launch it without any issue, specifically the Assassin's Creed series.

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The low performance on Phenom II 965 @3.8GHz + GeForce 660 is quite depressing to be honest. It can only get worse on even less powerful AMD Athlon II X4 640 and I don't expect my low budget Radeon HD 7770 OC to do wonder here, either. Yes, I've seen my rig render quite detailed scenes at decent framerates in Medal of Honor Warfighter, Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, Skyrim etc. But, seeing how badly Conviction ran, even if it was improved - I can't really expect it to run anywhere near "smooth" levels... not with such CPU. Then again - I never really was a huge fan of Splinter Cell series, but I liked Michael Ironside... so with him gone and that performance - there is no reason for me to buy it. Well... unless I upgrade my PC and the game goes on some serious sale.

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The low performance on Phenom II 965 @3.8GHz + GeForce 660 is quite depressing to be honest. It can only get worse on even less powerful AMD Athlon II X4 640 and I don't expect my low budget Radeon HD 7770 OC to do wonder here, either. Yes, I've seen my rig render quite detailed scenes at decent framerates in Medal of Honor Warfighter, Battlefield 3, Crysis 2, Skyrim etc. But, seeing how badly Conviction ran, even if it was improved - I can't really expect it to run anywhere near "smooth" levels... not with such CPU. Then again - I never really was a huge fan of Splinter Cell series, but I liked Michael Ironside... so with him gone and that performance - there is no reason for me to buy it. Well... unless I upgrade my PC and the game goes on some serious sale.

Performance is terrible, I worked my way around it by adding the game's executable to the Nvidia inspector profile (the new drivers released on the day of Blacklist got the exe name wrong), capping to 30 fps and playing with a controller. 

 

And I have never missed a voice actor so much. Ironside made Fisher who he was, with the dry wit while interrogating guards and the touching father side in Conviction. Sure, the new guy's not bad but he's not Fisher. 

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I was suprised to see this run good on my low-end PC (on 640x480 and lowest settings of course).

 

2GB RAM

Intel Pentium Dual CPU E2200 @ 2.20GHz

NVIDIA GeForce G100

 

Interesting, maybe you could post a screenshot to see how it looks on low at 640x480? Probably not that great right?

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Interesting, maybe you could post a screenshot to see how it looks on low at 640x480? Probably not that great right?

 

QM7aQId.png

 

This is the best screenshot I could take at the point that I'm at to also show off the shadows on the minimum settings.

Also, it's not even 640x480, it's 640x360 because it forces black bars on aspect ratios other than 16:9.

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QM7aQId.png

 

This is the best screenshot I could take at the point that I'm at to also show off the shadows on the minimum settings.

Also, it's not even 640x480, it's 640x360 because it forces black bars on aspect ratios other than 16:9.

 

Dude you are a hero just for forcing yourself to play this game on such low specs.

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Anyways the game is a horrendous mess and aside from Far Cry 3 which was already based on a well optimized engine Ubisoft has let itself go completely and is probably competing with EA for Worst Port Of The Year awards however it should end with a tie for Ubisoft cause guess what's coming next.....(drum roll).......ASSASSIN'S CREED IV on PC!!!!

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