E3 Speculation: Splinter Cell's grand return


Kept you waiting, huh?

Picture this: Ubisoft’s E3 2018 presentation is cruising along with few surprises. Games are shown we already know to exist and some celebrity personality is making tired jokes. We all laugh, mostly out of respect, but pine for the days when Aisha Tyler was towering over everyone. Just Dance gets a “reveal” for the god damned Wii and the Rabbids make an appearance to act all wild and zany.

Suddenly, the arena goes dark and the floor draws silent. We hear a low rumbling of thunder and the clash of some water onto a beach. Rain starts to hit the ground and a man’s grunting grows louder as a shadowy figure emerges from the edge of a rock face. The camera pans to reveal the iconic tri-focal gogglesSplinter Cell made famous before the man shifts them over his eyes and that familiar noise rings out.

“It’s good to be back,” Sam Fisher says as the logo for a brand new Splinter Cell emerges on screen. Fisher is fresh off of his mission with Ghost squad and is looking into a loose nuclear warhead Karen Bowman tipped him off about. Sam has to reconcile with what he just discovered, which is the mole that leaked information into the CIA. The mole will, potentially, be a long lost friend of his and that could be coloring Sam’s perception of the mission ahead.

This is mostly speculation on specifics of the story, but there is no way Ubisoft is not going to tease something Splinter Cell related this E3. While I didn’t expect a game so early after the announcement of the Ghost Recon Wildlands event, the ending of that special mission leaves too much in the air. Ubisoft managed to get Michael Ironside back to voice the classic character, so why would they simply leave him to a bit role and cast the series aside? This has to be a build-up for something bigger.

What that could be is anyone’s guess. I doubt Ubisoft is looking to repeat Blacklist, which wasn’t a bad game, but one that left fans a bit empty. That game replaced Ironside with Eric Johnson in the role and essentially morphed Sam’s character into a selfish jackass with a short-sighted goal. The one thing it did incredibly well was incorporate the co-op campaign into the main story, which is something I could potentially see happening with this latest entry.

Seeing as how Ubisoft decided to plop Fisher into Ghost Recon, of all franchises, it could be a hint that the next Splinter Cell will have a focus on cooperative play between Sam and a small squad of Splinter Cell operatives. It could also mean that the next game will be open-world, which is not something I would be looking forward to.

What we can reasonably expect is that the next game will, in fact, emphasize non-lethal playstyles. While the mission in Wildlands does devolve into a massive gunfight with a high-speed getaway, the intro sees you stealthing past guards and actively avoiding confrontation. You can’t so much as grab a guard without failing the mission, so clearly, Ubisoft wants to make it clear that its next Splinter Cell will not be as gung-ho as Conviction or Blacklist.

The mission in Bolivia is also set entirely at night, forcing players to wait for nightfall to even attempt it. While I didn’t have a problem with Double Agent featuring daytime scenes, Splinter Cell is typically known for Sam’s midnight infiltrations to better hide in the shadows. Having the Wildlands missions stick to that time of day means Ubisoft is also keenly aware of what players would want out of mission structure.

With the series having been gone for so long, I honestly can’t expect much else. All I will say is we will see Splinter Cell, it will feature Michael Ironside and it will be some kind of return to form. This isn’t going to be the last two entries in the series, but more something like Chaos Theory or even the original title. This will be pure stealth with a focus on non-lethality and a darker atmosphere (in terms of actual light composition). Co-op will likely remain (as it has since Chaos Theory) and I could see an open-world happening.

Sure, that is vague, but even Sam Fisher doesn’t know all of the details about his missions.