Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell has proven itself to be tone of the most polished and exciting stealth franchises of the 21st century, but even the most hardcore Splinter Cell fans would probably agree that there’s always room for improvement. This is especially true now that a new console generation is upon us and the next Splinter Cell game is at the very beginning of its development cycle.
The most recent entry in the series, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, introduced a greater amount of variety to the approaches that players could take to each mission. Stealth purists could remain unseen and unheard with ‘Ghost;’ players who prefer to strike from the shadows could play as a ‘Panther;’ meanwhile, players who don’t want to waste time with sneaking and scurrying could hit their enemies right in the face with the ‘Assault’ approach.
Although Splinter Cell: Blacklist was generally well-received by critics, some fans have voiced their concern that the direction the series was taking would lead it down the path to becoming another Call of Duty clone, in which stealth was left behind in favor of more action-oriented gameplay. In an interview with OXM, animation director Kristjan Zadziuk insists that change and evolution or essential in helping Splinter Cell to find its own feet, but that doesn’t mean trying to imitate other games.
“We haven’t got the luxury of Assassin’s Creed where we know our formula; we’re still evolving… If you look at them, there’s no two Splinter Cells that are the same. They’ve all evolved and adapted. That, to me, is what makes it really exciting. We’re getting closer to what that game is, and maybe it isn’t necessarily about Splinter Cell being a 15-16 million Call of Duty-type best-seller. Maybe it’s just about it being the best Splinter Cell that it can be.”
The question of whether or not Ubisoft games will begin to borrow ideas and gameplay elements from elsewhere has come up before, specifically with regards to open-world vigilante game Watch Dogs. Creative director Jonathan Morin said that he felt it was important to avoid copying ideas and gameplay elements from other games, such as Grand Theft Auto V, and Zadziuk echoes the sentiment.
“It’s not like we sit around and go ‘I’m having that'; it’s what works for each game. Far Cry 3 is such an expansive game, so they’re trying to find you an organic way of giving you a map. That wouldn’t work for Splinter Cell – there’d be no point in Sam climbing to the top of a tower and pressing a button. But then again, we have our version of active sprint. It’s not a way of copying Assassin’s Creed, it’s our way of making Sam more fluid.”
One of the worst things that a franchise can do is fall into the trap of making the same game over and over again, so it’s refreshing to hear Zadziuk say that Ubisoft Toronto intends to keep evolving Splinter Cell with falling into the other trap of playing the imitation game. Let’s just hope that the series never evolves completely out of its stealth origins.