A huge swathe of gamers experienced the real highs and lows of being a fan earlier this week. When Julian Gerighty, creative director at Ubisoft, tweeted that he was working with Dan Hay (executive producer at Ubisoft Montreal) and Roman Campos Oriola (creative director at Ubisoft Montreal) on the ‘next Splinter Cell’, fans of the series were elated. Ubisoft representatives have since walked this Tweet back saying that “Julian was obviously joking as Julian likes to do”. And with that one statement, Ubisoft managed to disappoint thousands of gamers all over the world. Why, though, Ubisoft? Why not give us a new Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell?
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell was released as an Xbox exclusive in 2002. It received rave reviews with particular praise poured on its lighting, stealth gameplay, and Michael Ironside’s performance as Sam Fisher. The game has a Metacritic score of 93. It was an amazing game and created a franchise. Two years later there was Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow. A year after that we got Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory. A year later there was Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Double Agent which launched on both Xbox and Xbox 360. It then took four years for us to get Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction. Three years later, we got Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. This was the last game in the franchise. At least, so far.
In fact, we haven’t had a single game in the Splinter Cell franchise this generation. Ubisoft has had a few issues with their Tom Clancy titles at the start of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4’s life-cycle. The Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six franchise had a game cancelled and Ubisoft ended up completely rebooting the series with Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. One of their other classic franchises, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon finally arrived on Xbox One in 2017 but a lot of fans weren’t happy. Ghost Recon Wildlands is undeniably a good game, but it doesn’t feel like a Ghost Recon title. The open world and squad nature of Wildlands are nothing like anything else in the franchise.
Ubisoft seems to be trying to change up their Tom Clancy franchises this generation. Rainbow Six has gone to a multiplayer-only title. This is despite it becoming known for its gripping single-player campaigns. Ghost Recon has gone from a highly scripted linear title to an open-world, anything goes, squad shooter. Perhaps the delay in bringing Splinter Cell back is that they’re trying to change this franchise up as well. Could they be trying to force Sam Fisher into an open-world environment? While I’m not completely sold on the idea of changing Splinter Cell up that much, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain showed that you can make a stealthy open-world game.
Unlike the Rainbow Six or Ghost Recon franchises, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell has a figurehead. Sam Fisher is the heart of the franchise. This gives them a lot more leeway to change things up with the series but still make it feel like Splinter Cell. Obviously, there are some limitations, for instance, I don’t think a kart racer would work. I’m also not entirely sure how a multiplayer-only title would work. However, if they wanted to move away from a linear, singleplayer focus, there’s scope to make it work. Sam Fisher is such an iconic character. His inclusion will grant a load of goodwill from fans of the franchise. Even if they transferred Sam to a more supervisory role to allow a new agent(s). After all, Michael Ironside is Sam Fisher and he is almost 70 years old.
There’s clearly still a public appetite for more Sam Fisher. When Ubisoft added ‘Operation Watchman’ to Ghost Recon Wildlands, the biggest news was that it featured Sam Fisher. They also saw fit to bring back Michael Ironside to voice the character after replacing him with Eric Johnson for Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Whether this was just testing the waters or a tease for something else, it proved that people want more Sam Fisher. It’s not like we’re inundated with stealth games. There’s clearly space in the market for another. I can guarantee that if the Ubisoft E3 Press Conference ended with those three green lights appearing and that electronic start-up sound, the crowd would erupt. So, stop joking around Ubisoft and give us a new Splinter Cell!