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StriderHoang avatar 1:49 AM on 08.31.2013  (server time)
A beginner's primer to Spies vs Mercs

Just like Mass Effect 3, Splinter Cell: Blacklist's multiplayer is a surprising highlight for most people. Though Spies vs Mercs has a successful past, it still rings that I-can't-believe-the-singleplayer-has-good-multiplayer-too bell; it takes ideas that are familiar in that universe and establishes them on their own in a different gaming environment.

Unlike ME3's Galaxy at War mode though, things are less transparent. Actually, very few things are ever explained to you, which makes things increasingly difficult on top of learning strategies and meta-game. Outside of classic mode, the various customization options can be difficult to understand since so little is explained. Little things like the difference in the stats between accuracy and control aren't explained, so should I slap items that increase one stat or the other on my gun? How exactly does the Merc's ATS visor when I can't notice what it defines for me?

Well luckily, I'm here to help you along. Like some older fighting games, a lot of knowledge is gleaned from good old fashion trial and error along with some friendly input from the community. The customizable playlists of Spies vs Mercs can be difficult for the first few levels and even leveling up can be arduous if you can't eke out a few wins to level up faster. Here are some beginning tips to help you get out of the hell that is level 1 to 10 so you can be on your way to blasting spooks and stabbing mercs.

Spies Vs Mercs - general tips
In nearly every mode, in most scenarios, spies simply can't fight mercs head on. Their SMGs are passable at best at medium range and simply cannot compete at long range where mercs simply need to aim down their sights to accurately perforate you. 90% of your offense as a spy will be coming from blindsiding mercs with your knife.

The spies main weapon isn't either of the weapons they can equip but rather their goggles, spatial awareness, and the environment. Never walk on the ground floor like the mercs. Always take the spy exclusive routes like air vents, ledges, and crawl spaces.

Never get close to a spy as a merc. Spy grabs are surprisingly easy and merc melees can't compete, especially if the spies are using specific gloves that extend their melee range. Always keep them at arms' length and if you see a spy at range, don't be afraid to shoot. They can't do much, even with their SMGs.

Environmental knowledge is important to mercs too. Knowing where there are high ledges can help you stay alive, keeping out of reach of spies trying to ledge pull or death from above.

Lone wolves won't succeed, even in TDM. There is strength in numbers, even if there's no communication or teamwork there can still be avengers.

Patience is key no matter the game type. Spies need to be absolutely sure of their plan since they die so easily and mercs have to pick their route carefully lest they walk into a trap. Even in something as simple as TDM, you can never be sure how much the enemy knows with their goggles and visors scouting the environment. Waiting a few more seconds can pay off more compared to rushing into a situation rashly.

Spy tips
Your choice in goggles can determine how you play:

Sonar goggles can detect people at range intermittently but it can be a liability at close range when you need real-time feedback against aggressive enemies.

Thermal goggles give you an accurate, live image but at the cost of short range. Everything past a few meters won't render in your goggles and you'll have to turn them off to see further.

The EMF gives you a mix between the two, with medium range and real-time imaging but there can be a lot of visual noise as it also picks up on other ambient electronics.

Good spies need to balance their goggle usage. Too much time with them on can cause you to lose important visual information like brightness and cover, not to mention detection from merc RFD visors. Not using them enough can lead to you getting blindsided unexpectantly.

Be careful about how you use your SMG. You can kill mercs if you get the drop on them and they're not too armored. Too much armor though and you'll be completely outclassed. Spy vs spy, SMGs are a great equalizer when you both have so much awareness. You'll be able to gun down a lot of spies who reckless try to charge you for a melee kill.

In case you don't know, the accuracy rating refers to how tight your bullet grouping is. Control refers to how well the gun deals with recoil. Considering that SMGs are fired from an awkward third-person view unlike the merc's first-person view, accuracy and control are important factors while power should be a secondary concern. Most spies don't take any armor anyways and shooting mercs is usually a bad idea so damage per bullet doesn't matter in the long run.

The stun crossbow is a high skill curve weapon. It's a one shot, silent crossbow that fires a bolt that stuns enemies for a decent amount of time. Usually enough time to run up and score a much easier melee kill. You need to be sure of your aim though because a miss in a face-to-face confrontation is usually death. At least you can use it while hanging off a ledge though, unlike the SMGs.

The spies only offensive gadget is the sticky camera. These things are essentially C4 as you can throw them and detonate their impressive explosive ordinance after they've landed. Goggles make using the actual remote camera function redundant but it packs enough explosives to kill even the most heavily armored merc. Unlike C4 from Call of Duty, you'll be stuck standing still momentarily as you shift to the camera view and detonate it but the blast radius is deadly.

The intel suit is an important asset to any team. Spies utilizing it best move slow and stay alive because the ability to see enemies through walls without losing peripheral awareness is so good. Not to mention you won't have to risk RFD mercs from detecting you if you keep them off thanks to the tagging.

The digital ghillie suit doesn't provide perfect invisibility but it's useful enough to cross open spaces and hide on open ledges with some peace of mind. Scoring kills with it on also nets you an extra 100 points for a ghost kill.

The overcharge suit not only shuts down enemy tech and equipment, but it resets the cooldown on their suits' powers as well. It's also a full proof method of countering annoying enemy drones. I've scored hilarious mine kills with this suit too.

Most spy equipment is easy enough to understand but remember that if you're playing Blacklist mode, it is highly recommended that the hacker equip the EM Fuzzer pants. The hacker cannot afford to expose himself, even when faced with opportunistic kills and removing your enemy ID tag goes a long way in helping you hide. If you don't have EM Fuzzers, leave the job to someone who does and run interference.

If you're wondering why you're losing in a spy vs spy melee collusion, chances are they're using takedown gloves to extend their melee range.

Armor for a spy is great if you want to play aggressively. Especially in playlists like TDM where armor will make the difference in spy versus spy situations. You can easily win most SMG fights with extra armor against most spies who run armorless.

Want to try for a stupid melee kill? If you press the cover button while running, you'll slide, preserving your momentum while dramatically lowering your profile. Useful for avoid gunfire and ducking into cover but also great for sliding under bullets while getting into range for a melee kill. You're sure to piss off your fair share of players with this useful tactic.

Merc tips
You can equip extra armor but keep in mind that most spies would rather swing around and try to instant kill you with their melee. That's not to say armor isn't useful though as it will discourage spies who get cheeky with their SMGs and it is important against other mercs in mixed games.

The motion tracker is by far the easiest merc visor available plus it's available by default! Put simply, a cone detects fast moving targets in a 90 degree wedge in front of you every second or so. In other words, tracking isn't in real-time but on rapidly refreshing radar. Each refresh also beeps, which is useful for alerting you to sudden movement. The beep is actually what makes the motion tracker the easiest to use as it audibly warns you of hostile movement, which can bring your attention quickly. It's completely blind to crouch walking and climbing movement so you'll have to look up and check your corners to be safe. The motion tracker is the only visor guaranteed to work too, since there isn't any equipment that outright blocks it except for player discretion. This makes the enhanced detection helmet a good choice, extending the reach of your motion tracker before enemies begin to to assume they're in range of your detection device.

The ATS (acoustic tracking system) is the least explained visor in the game and partially what inspired this guide. While it describes it tracks gunfire at long range and footsteps at close range, it fails to explain that it provides a reticule over loud gunfire while the bottom of your hud displays a sound graph. The sound graph moves in the direction it detects footsteps and other ambient sounds like explosions and it even tells you if it's in front or behind you! If the graph spikes upward, it's in front while downward spikes tell you the sound is coming from behind. The ATS is fundamentally similar to the motion tracker, giving you directional information of hostile movement but the ATS provides information in real-time but lacks any audio assistance. It's possible to sweep your field of view back and forth and miss very minute footsteps come from one direction. Still, the ATS rewards vigilant mercs with very accurate information since it is possible to pick up on the sounds of spies crouch walking and climbing. Beware of spies wearing silenced boots though. Of course, silenced weapons won't be highlighted with reticules.

The RFD (radio frequency detector) is the most specialized of the three merc visors. It specifically detects enemy equipment, including spy goggle usage. The good news is that when spies use their goggles, it practically advertises their location, plus you`can see annoying traps like proxy mines. The bad news is that you can't tell if a spy is using the RFD blocker or if they're just sitngy with their goggles. A good tip is to check if your opponent can be tagged by UAV or intel devices. If you can tag them, its safe to assume they're using the RFD blocker. If a blocked notification appears telling you that you can't tag them, they're probably using the RFD blocker. I personally use it in tandem with an intel device to cover my bases and always detect someone regardless of equipment.

Taking mines can be useful if you run the UAV suit. Place them at choke points where you want to deploy to protect you while you're vulnerable controlling your drone.

The adrenaline suit is really useful when dealing with gun fights, as the increased health and mobility makes all the difference in taking heavy fire. The speed boost is also useful to combine with sprint boots for crazy marathon dashes.

The disruptor suit pairs well with RFD to disable equipment. You can also pester people through walls and cover and keep their equipment usage down.

The rest of your experience will boil down having a good team to back you up. You may experience stacked teams and rage quitting on the majority of Spies vs Merc's objective gametypes but TDM is a good place to start off by yourself since you're more likely to play against other individuals and the pace of TDM means people are more likely to finish complete games. Keep in mind that in gametypes like TDM, the teams will be mixed so you may do spy vs spy or merc vs merc but overall, these tips will work in general.

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