Strat Packer's blog
Creative and intellectual output beyond the realm of my day job
Classic Splinter Cell is back after a 15-year hiatus!
Ubisoft has announced that it’s working on a Splinter Cell remake! This Christmas miracle landed on my desk just in time for the last article of the year, so join me one last time in 2021 as we run through what we know (and what we don’t) about this long-awaited revival of a beloved series.
It’s been a long time coming. There hasn’t been a Splinter Cell game at all since 2013’s Blacklist, and many fans (myself included) feel there hasn’t been an entry that has respected the series’ stealth ethos in more than 15 years. After all that time, many thought that Sam Fisher might never return to the shadows, and so many rumours circulated over the years that it became easy to dismiss any talk of a new game instantly. But here we are.
If you believe the people in the promotional YouTube video, Splinter Cell is valued as the series that defined what Ubisoft could make - and could be - at a time when it was largely known for Rayman. Fast forward to 2021 and you might be a little nervous, as the company is now known for churning out regular Assassin’s Creed games and its recent player-angering announcement that it would be introducing NFTs to some of its upcoming titles.
Still, all the noises coming from the developers in the video make it sound like they understand and cherish what made Splinter Cell special. All the key elements - the importance of light and shadow, the little details like realistic bullet holes in fish tanks, and of course Sam’s signature night vision and infrared goggles - are discussed. The team also note the cinematic nature of the game and its story (although there’s been no word yet on whether fan favourite Michael Ironside will reprise the lead role or not).
What do we know?
But really, we currently know very little about the new Splinter Cell remake. After dissecting the video and the accompanying Ubisoft press release, I can say only the following for certain (as far as anything is certain in gaming):
- The remake is being developed by Ubisoft Toronto and is in “the earliest stages of development”, so don’t expect it any time soon
- The game is being rebuilt using the Snowdrop engine, which is the same one used by Ubisoft’s upcoming Avatar and Star Wars games
- Many of the team are “stealth purists” who worked on earlier Splinter Cell games and want to their “spirit” to “remain intact”
- The game will remain linear, which hopefully means Splinter Cell will avoid the curse of Ubisoft’s frequently bland open-world collectathons
- Unlike more recent games in the series, the remake will reward players who play tactically with the objective to “be a ghost”
- The remake will receive a visual upgrade with possible innovation in animation, AI, and audio - Ubisoft says this will deliver “the spirit of the old with the comfort of the new”
So in summary: not much. We can essentially say that Ubisoft is working on a Splinter Cell remake that will be available at some point in the distant future and will bear some level of resemblance to the older games in the series, but details are certainly very thin on the ground.
It’s probably too early to get excited, but as somebody who’s been waiting for a “real” Splinter Cell game since 2006’s Double Agent (or 2005’s Chaos Theory, if we’re being less generous) it’s very difficult not to.
But the unease underlying any optimism about the Splinter Cell remake is necessary because of how much the games industry has changed since the first game’s release in 2002. New entries in beloved series are launched as £60 microtransaction shopfronts, single player campaigns bizarrely require internet connections, and companies that always have their sights set on the next trendy buzzword now see NFTs as their next big moneymaker.
A recent example of a rerelease gone wrong was Grand Theft Auto Trilogy - The Definitive Edition, which initially looked like some easy fan service to restore some old favourites but turned awry when Rockstar delivered an often ugly, glitchy mess for the full retail price of a brand new game.
Will the Splinter Cell remake falter in a similar way? For now I can take some comfort in the developers’ words and the fact that this appears to be a full remake (unlike GTA, which was only a remaster), but we’ll only find out for sure as we get more details, gameplay videos, and eventually get our hands on the full game. It’s going to be a long wait for sure.