It’s been eight long years since the last main line Splinter Cell game came out, and in that time a lot’s changed: we have the PS5 and Xbox Series X; Xbox Game Pass is a ridiculous bargain; Fable 4 is real; Skyrim has been released on pretty much everything; and I'm considerably chunkier.
And across that time, stealth game and Tom Clancy fans have been clamoring for a new Splinter Cell game. But in return all they got were spin-offs, with Ubisoft seemingly mothballing the franchise when it comes to full-fast console and PC games. But a new hope has risen: according to VGC’s development sources, Ubisoft is working on a proper Splinter Cell game that could be revealed in 2022.
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That's music to my ears. The original Splinter Cell was one of the first games I played on the original Xbox, and while it was tough, it was also a stellar serious third-person stealth game framed in a gritty spy story.
Unlike Bond or Bourne, player character Sam Fisher is all about creeping around and avoiding people rather than dispatching them. Sure, when sneaking failed you could ‘go loud’ with guns, but that was far from easy and could lead to alarms ringing and an instant game over. Silence and sneaking was very much emphasized.
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the third entry in the series after Pandora Tomorrow, built upon this formula. It added more tools for Fisher to have some flexibility in getting around guards and other obstacles. And there were no game overs if a single alarm went off; enemies just went on a higher alert. So stealth was very much the main focus.
That changed with Splinter Cell: Conviction and 2013’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and as a result the games didn’t get swamped with praise.
With Far Cry 6 basically being a refinement of the Far Cry formula and not much else, and Assassin's Creed seemingly running out of new things to do or say, I feel the time is ripe for Ubisoft to revisit Splinter Cell.
Born in the dark
While there’s no shortage of games with major stealth elements, I feel there’s not been a mainstream third-person game that’s done near-pure stealth like the first three Splinter Cell games. Ubisoft’s early Assassin's Creed games were more about traversing buildings to avoid guards than sneaking, and Assassin's Creed Valhalla very much embraces combat over stealth.
Games like Dishonored have leaned heavily on stealth, but are more about exploiting systems and tools than lurking in the shadows and making use of a night vision headset. Arguably, the fantastic Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is the closest to a spiritual successor to Splinter Cell, but it was also very systems led, had an open world setting, and could be easily played with all guns blazing.
As much as I love the bouquet of options these games give me, as well as the stealth elements of PS5 exclusive Deathloop — my contender for game of the year— I, like other Splinter Cell fans, would love a pure stealth game to sink my teeth into.
Sometimes being given a restrictive environment to navigate with just a few tools is just as fun as tackling a large hub area with an arsenal of gadgets, guns and powers; both scratch that problem-solving itch.
And following the release of the latest Bond movie No Time To Die, I’m more than ready for some spy-centric gaming. So the rumor that a new Splinter Cell game is in the works has got me quietly excited.
Head way from the light
But some caution is needed here. Last year Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told IGN that the Splinter Cell franchise needs to evolve before a new game is greenlit.
“When you create a game, you have to make sure you will come with something that will be different enough from what you did before,” said Guillemot. “The last time we did a Splinter Cell, we had lots of pressure from all the fans actually saying, ‘Don’t change it, don’t do this, don’t do that,’ so some of the teams were more anxious to work on the brand.”
That makes me a tad uneasy. Sure, Splinter Cell needs to be different from the last few games, as they arguably lost the essence of the first three titles. Equally, I don’t want to see Ubisoft do what it’s done with the Assassin's Creed series, which is almost unrecognizable from the first two titles; Valhalla is really good, but its DNA is much-altered from Assassin's Creed 2, a game I really enjoyed.
Ideally, I’d like to see Ubisoft go back to the older Splinter Cell games for inspiration and make a proper pure-stealth game where sneaking and not shooting is key. An open-world or immersive sim take on Splinter Cell wouldn’t float my boat, as I think other studios (Arkane and Bethesda) are better at those.
Nevertheless, I’m just happy that there’s some compelling evidence that a new Splinter Cell game is in the works. The wait for it could be long, and by then I may have changed my mind.
But with this fall and holiday season set to be dominated by big and loud first-person shooters like Call of Duty Vanguard, Battlefield 2042 and Halo Infinite, the promise of a new stealth game could be a great palette cleanser.