5 Things That Need To Be in the Next Splinter Cell
Is Sam Fisher's return imminent? Here are the the key features a new Splinter Cell game must have.
Ubisoft Forward is just hours away and hardcore Splinter Cell fans like myself are asking, will Sam Fisher make an appearance? Let’s dissect what has made the series great and speculate about key features a new entry could include when it finally lunges out of the shadows. Fingers crossed that Sam finally makes his triumphant return today in a full single player adventure all his own.
Pure Stealth Sandbox
The series needs to go back to its roots, relying once again on the key pillar that made it stand-out from the rest: a pure stealth experience. We all love our modern action shooters with explosions and massive high-octane set pieces, but Splinter Cell needs to avoid these tropes. It shouldn’t be devoid of action but depend on methodical, espionage techniques to meet your objectives.
"It shouldn’t be devoid of action but depend on methodical, espionage techniques to meet your objectives."
A perfect example is 2005’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, it was a game that really made you feel like a spy, giving you multiple options to tackle missions. Hopefully, the next game in the series will have multiple points of entry and ways to complete each mission, giving players a choice on how to meet their objectives.
The Splinter Cell series needs the gritty, hard-edge voice acting of Michael Ironside to return. He filled the super-spy’s shoes for nearly a decade until Eric Johnson assumed the role for Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Ubisoft made the decision because they needed the actor for Fisher to match his physical build for the newly incorporated motion capture technology. The decision didn’t sit well with Splinter Cell faithful, but Blacklist moved forward with Ironside in a supporting role. Johnson did a great job with the material, and I really enjoyed the Blacklist experience, but it just wasn’t the same without Ironside as Fisher.
Above (From Left to Right) Micheal Ironside, Larry Hyrb and Graeme Boyd discussion the legacy of Sam Fisher
The next chapter needs to include Ironside’s voice, it’s the most iconic thing about Fisher, besides the three green lights on his night vision goggles. The chances of this happening are looking good as the Ghost Recon Wildlands Year 2 content featured a cameo from Sam Fisher himself. The big twist, Ironside returned as the voice of Sam Fisher. When Ironside was interviewed on Inside Xbox in 2018, he talked about building Fisher as a character, proclaiming;
“I Never Left. I Am Sam Fisher.”
Strong words that hopefully ring true when the curtain is pulled back on the next chapter of the Splinter Cell experience.
A Technical Marvel
When Splinter Cell made its debut on the original Xbox in 2002 it was a showcase for what the system could do. The game did an amazing job implementing lighting and shadows, making them part of the gameplay experience. You could be creeping silently through a dark room and one wrong step into the light would cast your shadow against a wall and alert a nearby enemy. The shadows were a work of art that helped to immerse you in Fisher’s world, I’m hoping the series moves back to this dependence on the environment for objective success or, failure.
"The shadows were a work of art that helped to immerse you in Fisher’s world, I’m hoping the series moves back to this dependence on the environment..."
Early entries in the series had you carefully shooting out light bulbs or mentally mapping out shadows in order to figure out your best path. You could monitor how hidden you remained with light and sound meters, giving you an extra layer to deadly games of hide and seek. I remember needing to shoot out a light bulb to stay hidden from an enemy, but once the broken bulb was out of commission I ran over the glass shards too quickly and the enemy caught me because of the crunch of the broken glass. These are the elements the series needs to make you feel like a spy once more, make the environment and its resources work for or against you for an added challenge.
Expand the Multiplayer Experience
The series has done a great job of including multiplayer experiences that still remain unique to this day. Namely, Spies vs Mercenaries, which pits a team of third-person spies vs. first-person mercenaries. The general idea is the two-person spy team sticks to stealth tactics to complete their objectives while two heavily armed mercs try to eliminate them. The mode has really withstood the test of time, introduced for the first time in Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. It would be great to see this mode balanced further, much like Rainbow 6 Siege’s team-based tactics. You never know, there could be an esports niche for Spies vs. Mercs just waiting to be unleashed!
Improve on Mark and Execute
There was no better way to feel like an elite assassin in Splinter Cell than using Mark and Execute. The mechanic allowed you to fill a meter via Close Quarters Combat (CQC) actions and once maxed, you could take down scores of enemies with a single button push. You were limited to banking one Mark and Execute at a time, to prevent making things too easy against your opponents. The feature was the ultimate “ace up your sleeve” in tough situations and it also added some stunning cinematic moments to each playthrough.
It would be great to see this feature return, this time with more player control during these segments. Offering a Max Payne-style “bullet time” segment to take out targets in slow-motion would give players more of a unique challenge. Instead of Mark and Execute being completely “on-rails” the player would still have some control in exactly how certain critical engagements would playout.
There is no doubt in my mind, that somewhere, a team from Ubisoft is toiling away at the next Splinter Cell entry. How far along it is at this point? No one really knows, but I hope it steps out of the shadows soon (hopefully today). With Hideo Kojima no longer part of Konami, we won’t see Solid Snake make a triumphant return anytime soon.
This leaves Sam Fisher as the last of his kind, and a solitary figure that can deliver a true stealth-game experience. I have a feeling Mr.Fisher will deliver, let’s hope his debut on the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 is just around the corner.