– By Ben L.
Update: The first screenshots of Splinter Cell 6 have been leaked! Check them out here!
Last week, rumours about a possible announcement of the new Splinter Cell game by Ubisoft went viral on the Internet. While Splinter Cell 6 has never been officially confirmed, Ubisoft Toronto head Jade Raymond had previously revealed a year ago that development on the game had already begun following the establishment of the new studio.
The game is thought to be named Blacklist, which would see protagonist Sam Fisher going after a list of high-level targets in terrorist cum global manipulation organisation Meggido after the events in the previous game Conviction.
The storyline isn’t too surprising, since the ending of Conviction had pretty much set it up, but what fans of the 10-year-old series are anticipating is a return to the game’s stealth roots. The 2010 game was a big departure from the slow, patient stealth gameplay where players were forced to hide in the shadows and monitor patrol movements, only to strike at the precise moment. Instead Sam Fisher had evolved from spy to action hero, running at blazing speed and performing as many as four head-shots in one fluid sequence that could only exist in a Hollywood movie. Granted, it was still decent overall but the Splinter Cell name on the cover seemed more like a marketing gimmick for an entirely different game.
Suppose the rumours are true and Sam Fisher would be making his return this year, here is a list of what we hope to see in the new game:
1. ‘Light and shadow’ gameplay
Lurking in the shadows and avoiding brightly-lit areas has been the unofficial number one rule in achieving mission success as a Splinter Cell. Conviction did not remove it entirely, but neither did it place the primary gameplay focus on it. With a lack of proper stealth games on the market in recent years (even Metal Gear has taken a detour to the hack-and-slash route), this is the perfect opportunity for Ubisoft to cement its place once again as the stealth-action game, where stealth actually comes before action (unlike Ubisoft’s other successful franchise Assassin’s Creed). Which means we need those tri-focal night-vision goggles back.
And since both the Xbox 360 and PS3 are reaching the end of their lifespan, this is the last chance for Ubisoft to leave behind a legacy for both the franchise and the company by showcasing a powerful engine that provides detailed and variable lighting and shadows. Upcoming games Hitman: Absolution and Alien: Colonial Marines have demonstrated their own tech which look to set the standard for in-game lighting, so it would be a shame if Splinter Cell could not keep up having set the industry standards when it was first launched.
2. Realistic movement
Sam was definitely on steroids and adrenaline boosts in Conviction – he could climb pipes and shimmy along edges at impossibly quick speeds. Even Assassin’s Creed characters had to summon their strength and fight to maintain balance when scaling the highest towers. With the excuse of Sam being a ‘father on fire’ no longer valid, the development team needs to slow their character down to a more realistic pace in order to fit the stealth gameplay mentioned above.
3. Close-quarters combat system and shooting mechanics
One of the few things that Conviction actually did right was the improvement in Sam’s fighting abilities, but that was mostly due to the fact that the game actually wanted the player to engage in more fights than sneaking around. This should remain in the new game, along with Conviction‘s excellent cover system, but the Mark and Execute system that allows Sam to perform head-shots should be made less easy to be abused. Players should also not be forced in a situation where M&E had to be used – if SC6 were to return to its roots then players should be given the freedom to play the game entirely in a non-lethal manner.
4. A better story please
Even the cover system which is possibly the best around could not patch up the gaping holes in Conviction‘s plot. As a Tom Clancy game, Splinter Cell should redirect its focus to technological warfare, global espionage and political power plays. Most modern combat games out there have underwhelming plots, so SC6 could revive the genre by presenting a well-written and developed story which would be fitting of the Tom Clancy brand. This is even more important after the criticism which the recently released Ghost Recon: Future Soldier received for its lacklustre and nearly ridiculous plot.
Prediction: The gaming community has changed in the last five years where Call of Duty dominated and other games strove to emulate its success, with little success. Ubisoft would definitely want to strengthen its position in the mainstream market and would not be willing to forgo the action gameplay which would appeal to a wider audience. However, given the backlash from fans for the disappointing Conviction and the fact that the action genre is overly saturated, it would be more wise for Ubisoft to return Splinter Cell to its roots and design it like the award-winning 2005’s Chaos Theory, but incorporate the best action features from Conviction. The team at Ubisoft Toronto should be wary, seeing how Hitman: Absolution has discovered that magic formula of blending stealth with action.
Will our wishes be fulfilled and prediction be correct? Stay tuned for Ubisoft’s E3 Conference at 6am Singapore time.