What we want from the next Splinter Cell

It’s hard to believe that we have gone an entire console generation without a new Splinter Cell. The last one, Blacklist, launched at the back end of the previous generation and despite trying to bring the series back to its former glory, it failed to do so. Since then it’s just been a ton of teasing with nothing to show for it.

However it’s pretty much confirmed that Splinter Cell will be returning with Ubisoft constantly teasing and promising a return of one of their most important franchises. It would be too easy for us to say “just do Chaos Theory again” and call it a day. So here is how we would evolve the franchise whilst keeping it true to its roots.

Sam Fisher’s return

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Old man Sam.

Sam Fisher is the face of the Splinter Cell series and Michael Ironside is the iconic voice.  He has brought a sense of charisma to the character that makes him such an icon, despite being a kind of blank slate at first. His conversations with his team brought moments of levity whilst his interrogations could get darkly humorous. Splinter Cell Blacklist attempted to re-cast Sam Fisher with it’s mo-cap actor Eric Johnson, and whilst he gave an admirable performance, it was missing the charm that Fisher needs. Despite being easily in his late 50’s, Sam sounded like he was much younger, which was weird enough in and of itself. It gets even weirder though when he talks to his daughter that now sounds the same age. If Sam is to return, it has to be with Michael Ironside. Thankfully, his Wildlands appearance shows Ironside is keen to return.

But what will Sam’s role actually be in the new Splinter Cell? With the timeline presented in Ghost Recon Wildlands Sam will be in his 60’s and might be getting a tad too old for the spy life. Is it time for Sam to pass on the trifocal goggles to a new splinter cell and become the new Lambert? This would be an interesting move for the series and something we would love to see. If not now, maybe in a future entry.

Stealth should be at the centre of the experience

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Newer Splinter Cells have been more about playing on the offensive; sprinting between cover in this nurtured stealth system that feels too easy to get through. Whilst Conviction was a fun game in it’s own right, it didn’t feel like a Splinter Cell game at all. It had so many action sequences and not many opportunities to truly ghost your way through the game. It made sense narrative-wise, with a more personal journey for Sam, but we are past that now.

Thankfully Blacklist was a huge step forward, bringing back the ability to ghost through each level without being seen. However, it wasn’t perfect and even on the game’s Perfectionist difficulty, it was just too easy. If the series continues with Blacklist‘s gameplay we would be happy, but would prefer a much heavier emphasis on the stealth; bring back the importance of planning moves. The series is at its best when you are stalking guards from the shadows, learning their patrols, and looking for openings. Bringing back the light and sound meters would go a long way to bringing the series back to its roots for a deeper and more rewarding gameplay experience.

That’s not saying we shouldn’t be allowed to go loud and kill everyone on the map, just make it more challenging and actually punish getting caught. The latest Hitman game did this perfectly. Drop things like Mark and Execute and the overpowered gadgets that have you dispatching waves of enemies in seconds. If you get caught your first move should be to hide again and there should be some punishment for being sloppy.

Open ended level design

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Can we agree that Sea of Okhotsk is the worst mission in Splinter Cell history?

Let’s start with eliminating all (if not most) of the daytime missions in the Splinter Cell games. These have often been the weakest parts of each of the games and I can’t think of a single highlight at all. Just look at Double Agent (360 version); that has some of the weakest missions in series history from the awful Kinshasha and Sea of Okhotsk missions.

With that out of the way, levels shouldn’t just hold your hand like they do in the recent games. Let players figure things out on their own by simply giving them an objective and nothing else. You should be able to interrogate enemies, listen in on conversations, hack computers, and just about anything else to get the intel you need to complete the mission.

There should be some changes though. Make the levels bigger and more open. Not to the extent of making the game open world, but with a similar scope to Metal Gear Solid V Ground Zeroes. With multiple entry points and the freedom of choice in what order to approach your objectives. Getting into a building should be just as much a part of the puzzle as what you do inside. This is where things could be a bit more traditional in terms of level design. We would like to see them try and outdo the perfectly designed Bank level in Chaos Theory with a bigger exterior and even more routes.

To keep things diverse, the more open ended missions should be mixed in with the more traditional linear Splinter Cell missions. Keep things varied and interesting blending new gameplay styles with the older.

More customisation, less overpowered gadgets

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Blacklist had the strongest sense of progression and customisation in the series.

Earlier games in the series were admittedly really limiting when it comes to choosing your loadout, only letting you pick out of a very small handful of presets. To give credit to Blacklist; the customisation was top tier and I would love to see that expanded. We had a base of operations in the form of Paladin that could be upgraded as the game went along. Then as we completed missions we would have access to weapon and gadget upgrades. A new base of operations with even more gear would be greatly appreciated.

Things have become a bit easier recently with gadgets that can be best described as overpowered. The sleeping gas for instance was bizarrely powerful and allowed us to breeze through the game on Perfectionist difficulty, acting as a get out of jail free card. Instead, focus should be put into implementing gadgets that are plausible, useful but not overpowered. The classic attachment to Sam’s signature pistol that let him temporarily disrupt electronics was one of the best features that has since disappeared. New gadgets such as tranquillisers should be added to give Sam some ranged non-lethal options.

Multiplayer

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Blacklists SvM simultaneously fun and frustrating.

Aside from the amazing single player offerings, Splinter Cell has always had some great multiplayer support. From the revolutionary Spies vs Mercs introduced in Pandora Tomorrow that pitted two teams against each other, all the way to the amazingly fun co-operative modes that have become standard in the series. With the current obsession with asymetrical multiplayer in the current generation of multiplayer, Spies vs Mercs could make an amazing comeback.

Co-operative play has been a standard in the series since Pandora Tomorrow, but it’s true potential started to show in Conviction and Blacklist, which was directly tied to the narrative. Bringing together a story with its own characters that directly impact the events of the main game. Blacklist took this even further with Sam being one of the cooperative characters for the first time in the series. Co-op should be expanded even further in Splinter Cell 7 with the possibility of some main story missions to be completed with a friend.

Spies vs Mercs should go back to basics. Blacklist suffered from a wildly unbalanced experience that was a frustrating mess at the worst of times, which resulted in people rage quitting. Part of this was due to some of the worst server lag I’ve seen. Instead of fixing the issue, Ubisoft hilariously just removed the ability to leave the game. It was a real shame since despite its issues, Blacklist‘s SvM was still a breath of fresh air and tried something a bit different in a time where every game was trying to give the same multiplayer experience.

 

So do you agree with our take on what future Splinter Cell installments should feature? Feel free to tell us your thoughts on the matter in the comments!

 

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