The Splinter Cell series has been dormant for quite some time now. Ubisoft has done little with its signature stealth-action game franchise for half a decade, but there have been enough shreds of potential information to think a new Splinter Cell game might finally be happening. With Metal Gear Solid in a weird place after Hideo Kojima's departure from Konami, the time is certainly right. Here's what we know about the status of Splinter Cell, as well as what we'd hope to see at E3 2018 if Ubisoft does decide to surprise us.
What We Know So Far
Being unannounced, we can't say we know anything for sure about a new Splinter Cell game. The franchise's most recent entry was 2013's Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and there's been no official word on what might come next. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot did provide fans with some hope last year when he participated in a Reddit AMA. Asked about the series, he said, "Splinter Cell is a brand we talk about a lot. It's also personally one of my favorite series. We don't have anything specific to share at the moment but teams are working on different things, so stay tuned for more."
He then shared a bit more in a subsequent Ubisoft blog post that made it even clearer that a new Splinter Cell is more a question of when than if. "We are receiving lots of sketches and proposals around the brand, and we're going to pick one up," he said. "I think you will be able to see something, but you will have to wait for that."
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Most recently, there was Ghost Recon Wildlands. Out of the blue, Ubisoft launched a Splinter Cell-themed update for the open-world action game, even including a mission where you encounter Splinter Cell protagonist Sam Fisher. Notably, he was voiced by Michael Ironside, the longtime Fisher voice actor who was replaced for Blacklist. It seemed a bit odd to bring back Ironside for what was ultimately a minor appearance, unless that was meant to tease what's to come. Indeed, the conclusion of his story in Wildlands sets up the possible plot for a new Splinter Cell, as Fisher is notified that a nuclear weapon has been lost or stolen.
What's Confirmed For E3?
As noted above, a new Splinter Cell hasn't even been announced; as such, there's nothing confirmed for E3. That said, a recent Walmart leak saw numerous unannounced games listed on the retailer's Canadian website, including something simply called "Splinter Cell." Another of these was Rage 2, and Bethesda has seemingly tried to capitalize on the buzz rather than deny it as you'd expect. That's not to say there's any truth to that listing or any other, but it's possible the Splinter Cell listing was something that was only intended to go up after E3.
What We Hope To See At E3
Mere confirmation that a new Splinter Cell game is in development would be a great way to cap off Ubisoft's E3 press conference, but let's think bigger. If Ubisoft properly reveals the game, the first thing we'd love to see is a renewed focus on stealth. Blacklist is a terrific game, and its action was very good. But with Metal Gear at least temporarily moving away from stealth, Ubisoft has an opportunity to fill that void and establish Splinter Cell as the preeminent stealth-action franchise. It could even look to draw on the open-world elements of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, even if it maintains its more distinct mission structure (maybe something along the lines of Dishonored?).
However missions are structured, the game will ideally provide replayability. Hitman did an incredible job of offering numerous different approaches and different challenges to tackle within each of its levels. Splinter Cell could use something similar, as well as different consequences depending on how you decide to approach a given situation.
Michael Ironside's return is also all but mandatory. It was hard for many fans to come to grips with his absence in Blacklist, but after he came back for an appearance in Wildlands, it would be both frustrating and disappointing if he weren't back as Fisher for an actual game. It's the sort of detail that Ubisoft could have decided to share for a post-E3 reveal, but after Wildlands, we want to know right away if Ironside is truly back.
Another name fans are familiar with that should make a comeback: Amon Tobin. The composer of the excellent Chaos Theory soundtrack brought a distinct techno-thriller flavor to that game that we want back.
And while single-player is generally the focus of Splinter Cell, we want multiplayer to return as well. That means both co-op support and the return of Spies vs. Mercs, the unique, asymmetric PvP multiplayer mode. Ubisoft has increasingly shifted its efforts toward extended post-launch support of games; part of that could come in the form of a Hitman-inspired, replay-friendly campaign. But it could also use its learnings from Rainbow Six Siege--with its varied Operators and gadgets, as well as destructible environments--to make something truly exciting on the multiplayer side.