Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell was first pitched as a science fiction James Bond-style spy game with inspiration taken from the Metal Gear Solid franchise. This changed, however, with Ubisoft’s acquisition of the Tom Clancy name and what was originally a sci-fi stealth game called Drift became Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – a more grounded stealth game set in the real world.
The series was a huge success with six mainline titles and a PSP spin-off. Unfortunately, the last entry Splinter Cell: Blacklist underperformed in terms of sales on the Xbox 360, and the series was shelved without any sign of a new entry since 2013. It is possible that Ubisoft is waiting to tie-in a new entry with the planned movie adaption but there has been no confirmation from the studio. Thankfully, Fisher hasn’t left the minds of the developers at Ubisoft and he has shown up in a variety of games worth noting.
Updated January 28th, 2021 by Michael Llewellyn: Even though it’s not the news that longtime fans have been waiting for, Sam Fisher and the Splinter Cell the series is set to return on mobile devices sometime in the future. However, in more interesting news, the Splinter Cell series seems set to make a return on VR systems and there’s an animated Netflix series on its way.
It’s likely a way for Ubisoft to test the waters to see if there’s a renewed interest in the series. However, if the recent success of Hitman 3 is anything to go by it shows fans are once again willing to dive into hardcore stealth games. In meantime, this list has been updated with some of Sam Fisher’s most recent adventures to see how they stack up to the rest of the series.
11 Splinter Cell: Essentials
Splinter Cell: Essentials was released on the PSP in 2006. Chronologically, the game takes place after Splinter Cell: Double Agent but the missions are flashbacks providing some back story for Sam Fisher.
The flashback missions were interesting and Splinter Cell: Essentials would have benefited from a remaster on a more capable console. Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that the PSP was too underpowered and the lack of a second analog stick ruined Fisher’s trademark flexibility and freedom of movement.
10 Splinter Cell 3D
Released in 2011 for the Nintendo 3DS, Splinter Cell 3D is a port of the critically acclaimed Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory that released in 2005. In terms of visuals, the 3DS handled the port of a great looking game very well. All the missions were intact and the Sam Fisher’s tools of espionage and surprisingly open levels seemed to look at homes on Nintendo’s handheld.
Unfortunately, just like Splinter Cell: Essentials on the PSP the game’s control system was several hampered by the system’s limitations of having only one analog stick. Sam Fisher is supposed to control and feel like a super-spy stealth ninja but instead, he bumbles around awkwardly like a Dalek from the Doctor Who series.
9 Splinter Cell: Operation Watchman
Splinter Cell: Operation Watchman is a DLC episode for Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Unfortunately, players won’t get the chance to play as Sam Fisher in this episode but they do get to team up with him on a covert mission.
The DLC episode also marks the return of the original Sam Fisher voice actor Michael Ironside after he was replaced by a different actor in Splinter Cell: Blacklist. It’s easily one of the best missions in Ghost Recon but obviously, the stealth mechanics aren’t quite as polished as they are in the Splinter Cell series. That said, it’s still very cool to use Fisher’s iconic weaponry and goggles in the game.
8 Splinter Cell: Deep State
Sam Fisher is once again the guest star in Deep State a special 8-hour mission DLC episode for Ghost Recon: Breakpoint. In this mission, the Ghosts are tasked with helping Fisher take on swarms of drones that are blockading the island of Aurora.
He’s also tracking down a new villain called The Strategist and will remain in constant contact with Ghost Recon’s protagonist, Nomad. The mechanics are still very much a Ghost Recon game but the mission’s depth, variety of ways to tackle missions, and scope were definitely designed to please fans of the Splinter Cell series. It also marked a turning point for the game as it came several noteworthy improvements after a somewhat lackluster launch.
7 Splinter Cell: Conviction
Splinter Cell: Conviction was released in 2010 after a troubled development cycle. It was a total departure from the series hardcore approach to stealth by opting for more action shooter mechanics. The game took some inspiration from the Bourne Identity movie series by having Sam operate as a lone-wolf on a revenge mission investigating the suspicious circumstances surrounding his daughter’s death.
The game did, however, introduce the mark and execute mechanic which would later find its way on to Splinter Cell: Blacklist’s easier difficulty levels. In addition, the Bourne Identity–Esque environmental attacks were fun to pull off. Despite being a solid action title the stripped-down stealth mechanics divided long-time fans.
6 Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow was released in 2004 and was the first sequel in the series. There were a few minor improvements to the game’s mechanics such as laser sights and quality-of-life inventory changes. The voice acting was incredible and fans of the series 24 – an obvious influence on the series – will recognize Dennis Haysbert as Irving Lambert.
In addition, the already impressive graphical effects like shadows and lighting effects also received an upgrade. It did, however, feel more linear than its predecessor and many of the missions lacked diversity in their approach.
5 Splinter Cell
The first entry in the Splinter Cell series was released in 2002. The developers cited Metal Gear Solid and Thief as major influences in the game’s development. The game was a more grounded and pure stealth experience than the Metal Gear Solid franchise it also boasted some of the best visuals on the original Xbox.
Fisher’s movement and the ability to use the environment to his advantage by hanging from pipes for stealth takedowns. Additionally, Sam Fisher’s displays of athleticism like the Jean-Claude Van Damme-style splits jump between two walls gave the player a sense of empowerment not seen in the Metal Gear series.
4 Splinter Cell: Double Agent (Xbox 360/PS3)
Splinter Cell: Double Agent was released in 2006. It featured multiple endings depending on Sam Fisher’s success rate and standing with the NSA while he’s undercover. The branching objectives have an impact on the story and the player is faced with several moral dilemmas in Fisher’s shoes.
There are actually two versions of Double Agent. The Xbox 360 version was developed by Ubisoft Shanghai and the original Xbox version was developed by Ubisoft Montreal. Fans are divided on which version is the best but both are worth playing for their differences in the story.
3 Splinter Cell: Double Agent (Xbox/Ps2)
The Xbox and PlayStation 2 version of Splinter Cell: Double: Agent was released at the same time as the graphically superior versions on the PS3 and Xbox 360. However, it was developed by the same team that worked on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and is widely considered to be the best of the two by the series’ fans.
Often referred to as Double Agent Version 2, it is now considered non-canon because of the events that led to Fisher going on a revenge mission in the follow-up Splinter Cell: Conviction was only included in Version 1. However, the level design in this version is far superior and the plot twists are far more effective. Additionally, the atmospheric visuals, use of shadows, character animation still hold up well today.
2 Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Splinter Cell: Blacklist was released in 2013 on the Xbox 360. The game divided fans because Ubisoft replaced the voice of Sam Fisher’s Michael Ironside with a younger actor Eric Johnson. Despite this, Johnson did an admirable job with both the voice and the motion capture and mechanically, Blacklist is the most polished game in the series.
Fans of the series could choose to play the game in its highest difficulty for a more pure Splinter Cell experience and the open-ended levels allowed freedom of choice when approaching missions. Furthermore, the game still holds up visually thanks to Xbox One X enhancement.
1 Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
In terms of mechanics, visuals and the open-ended nature of the games levels Blacklist takes the lead but when it comes down to its narrative, Chaos Theory takes the lead. The plot was full of twists and surprises and blended elements of 24 when it was at its peak and James Bond.
The game introduced many of its iconic gameplay mechanics like the ability to choke or break the necks of his enemies when hanging upside down. Additionally, Fisher can pull enemies over ledges, use a knife in close-quarters combat, and create distractions to lure enemies away to different locations for stealth takedowns.
- Splinter Cell
- Ghost Recon
- Ghost Recon: Wildlands
- Ghost Recon Breakpoint
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