The first Splinter Cell game was released in 2002, and although it wasn’t written by the man himself, the series takes place in the same timeline of Tom Clancy universe. The game was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, and began life as a science fiction third-person action-stealth game known as Drift. However, after Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty was a huge success, and knowing that Hideo Kojima was already working on the next instalment of the Metal Gear franchise, Ubisoft HQ requested that they “make a Metal Gear Solid 2 killer.” So all the resources and development went into the new Splinter Cell franchise instead.
Instead of channeling the Metal Gear series for inspiration the team at Ubisoft Montreal focused on making a more hardcore stealth experience like the Thief series but in modern times. The game’s direction was a huge success, and the inevitable sequels followed were even stronger than the original. Despite being mechanically different and a far more pure stealth experience than is found in Kojima’s series, the inevitable comparisons between the two super spies are still discussed today. So here are 15 reasons why Splinter Cell is a better espionage series than Metal Gear Solid.
15 No Needlessly Long Cutscenes
There’s no getting around the fact that majority of Metal Gear Solid games from the PlayStation onwards have overly long cutscenes. You’ll spend more time watching the cutscenes in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of Patriots than playing the game. Waiting an hour sitting through the game’s preposterously complicated storyline is a lot to ask no matter how impressive and cinematic the visuals are.
The cutscenes can be especially frustrating when the story waffles on about the game’s historical backgrounds. The Splinter Cell series keeps the cutscenes to a minimum merely acting as story markers between mission, but they put the gamer straight into the action, and as a result, have more impact when we do see them. How much you enjoy Metal Gear Solid cutscenes depends on one's taste too, but for those who don’t appreciate anime movies disguised as Hollywood blockbusters, Metal Gear Solid gets old fast.
14 No Intrusive Codec Messages
The Codec messages in the Metal Gear Solid can be some of the most annoying and intrusive aspects in the series. They can be even more annoying when you’re finally playing the game after being forced to sit through an overly long cutscene only to be constantly interrupted by boring 5 minute conversations, and you can’t skip them because they often contain important plot points.
The Splinter Cell series has always used the radio conversations to help support the action on screen, and it has never interrupted the action to do so. In fact, the naturalistic banter between Michael Ironside’s Sam Fisher, and David Haysbert’s Lambert was one of the highlights of Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, instead of a hindrance.
13 Grounded In Reality
The narrative and the world that the Splinter Cell games reside are grounded in reality; there’s no “breaking the fourth wall” S & M bosses, no science fiction based giant robots, robot dogs, or naked voiceless superwomen. The Splinter Cell series simply focus on espionage and counterterrorism style plots that make the gamer feel like they’re the protagonist in a mashup between 24 and James Bond.
Despite the nature of the story, there’s a lot of focus on Sam’s juggling act as both a father and an international super-spy working for the NSA in the Third and Fourth Echelon. In addition to the relationships with his daughter, the series story arc has focused heavily on his friendships with his colleagues and teammates — helping the series feel more grown up and relatable than Metal Gear’s narrative.
12 It's Not Metal Gear Pacman
It wasn’t until Metal Gear Solid 5 that the series felt truly open and able to provide a truly solid stealth experience. Prior to this, however, the series' gameplay mechanics required Snake to move around maze-like levels killing, avoiding or hiding from your enemies – a glance at Snakes radar reveals an almost identical mechanic to that found in the Pacman series.
The enemy A.I in Metal Gear move around in predictable patterns, giving chase if or when they see you just like the ghosts do in Pacman. It’s a simple yet effective mechanic, but the system hasn’t aged well when compared to the semi-open and multi-layered levels in the Splinter Cell series.
11 MGS5 Uses Gameplay Mechanics From Splinter Cell
Metal Gear Solid 5 is one of the best stealth games released in the current console generation. It left behind the aging Pacman-style levels in favor of an open-world that allowed to you approach enemy bases in a variety of ways using different strategies and tactics.
Metal Gear Solid’s more modern approach using an improved approach to stealth, infiltration, navigation, and interrogation mechanics were met with a great deal of praise from fans and critics alike. Particularly useful was the ability to tag enemy targets, as was the ability to perform John Woo-like slow-motion executions. However, these are features that have been featured in the Splinter Cell series since 2010’s Conviction. It’s somehow ironic that the gaming mechanics that would finally push the Metal Gear series into the next level came from the very same series that MGS fans like to claim wouldn’t exist without it.
10 Better Stealth Mechanics
The open-world in MGS5 is far more advanced than any of the Splinter Cell games. Still, despite the technological advantage MGS5 has over the more recent Blacklist, the stealth mechanics are still better implemented in the Tom Clancy’s most recent offering.
The Splinter Cell series has always made better use of light and shadows to not only give the series some extra visual flair, but to provide the series with a unique stealth mechanic that still works just as well today as it did back in 2002. The stealth in Blacklist is extremely rewarding, and it also encourages gamers to play how they want, having a more natural and adaptable learning curve. Sam’s best weapon is the environment and it gives a certain amount of freedom to tackle seemingly linear objectives, no other series has come close to this kind of flexible stealth mechanic with the exception of Dishonored or the Thief series.
9 Voice Acting
As much as fans are attached to David Hayter as Snake, there’s no getting away from the fact that he sounds silly almost to the point of sounding cheesy. The distinctive voice he gave Snake had no real range and was —at times— unintentionally funny.
It’s also quite clear that Kojima wasn’t all that keen on David Hayter in the role either because according to Hayter, Kojima asked the game’s producers to replace him with Kurt Russell (he turned the role down). Eventually, Hayter was replaced with Kiefer Sutherland for MGS5, and despite being a great actor he provided a bit of a flat performance in the role of Snake.
Michael Ironside’s performance in the role of Sam Fisher, however, was perfect. Unlike Hayter, he had a naturally gravelly yet empathetic voice that helped give that edge to Fisher’s character that fans came to love. Ironside’s level of experience and professionalism definitely has the edge over in the acting department, as was his replacement for Blacklist Eric Johnson.
8 Cohesive And Straightforward Plot
Fans of the Metal Gear Solid series have come to love narrative in the series, but the convoluted story isn’t very welcoming to newcomers. Although fans will argue that it’s a fantasy that plays out more like an anime, the story still doesn’t make a lot of sense. With Metal Gear Solid 2 having the dubious honor of having one of the most stupid and nonsensical endings ever seen in an AAA game. The rest of the series is just as bad as it doesn’t seem to be able to keep track of its own continuity becoming ever more muddled with every entry and incomplete after MGS5.
The Splinter Cell games aren’t masterpieces in the story department either, but at least they’re straightforward, make sense and actually make the player feel like they’re in a globe-trotting espionage thriller worthy of the Tom Clancy books the games take their inspiration from.
7 Consistently Better Enemy A.I
The improved enemy A.I in Splinter Cell: Blacklist took the series to new heights (as is also in the case in Metal Gear Solid 5). But, if you want to catch up on the Metal Gear Solid series before starting 5, you will have to endure some of the stupidest artificial intelligence —or rather the lack of it— in the first four games.
Once the enemies in Blacklist get wise to your presence, they really seem like they’re working together to flank your perceived positions, and attempt to flush you out of potential hiding spots. The enemies never truly forget about your presence and are noticeably more sensitive and totally unpredictable on higher difficulty levels, creating far dynamic scenarios for Sam to overcome.
6 No Tedious Boss Battles
The Metal Gear Solid series has some memorable boss battles which fall into the context of a fantasy or a science fiction. Sometimes, in an effort to create memorable boss battles, players have also had to endure really terrible ones too.
Some of the tedious fights like Olga (the female soldier with hairy armpits in Metal Gear Solid 2) not only manages to be a bullet sponge without any armor, but her main offense is shining a light in your face. Or the fight against The Fury which can be incredibly frustrating when being played on the game's hardest difficulty. Some fights require no skill at all and get drawn out for far too long, deviating away from what attracted fans of stealth to the series in the first place. Splinter Cell opts to do away with boss battles, by having the primary targets being taken out through the use of skill, realism, and true stealth mechanics.
5 Better Online Multiplayer
Splinter Cell’s Spies Vs. Mercs mode is still one of the best online multiplayer modes Ubisoft has created, and Blacklist implemented a four vs four mode as well as the classic two vs two. Both were supported by excellent daily challenges. Players can also play cooperatively either online or through a two-player split screen mode. Blacklist also innovated by making the multiplayer and single player modes seamlessly accessible from the Paladin (base of operations).
Sadly, while ambitious, Metal Gear Solid's online offerings were next quite as engaging or worthwhile. Where Splinter Cell pushed their hardware and ideas in the multiplayer space, Metal Gear Solid took a more obvious (and ultimately disappointing) route.
4 Environment Variety
The open-world maps in Metal Gear Solid 5 were stunning, but despite this, they felt limited because you only had access to two huge but empty areas, which slowly became repetitive as the game progressed. Splinter Cell has always been a series that takes its super spy on a globe-trotting adventure very seriously — providing varied and diverse locales to sneak around in. The missions take place in huge mansions, government facilities, the streets of London, military compounds, and much more, with a myriad of paths to achieve your objectives.
This approach to the mission structure is the reason why the Hitman series is so successful, because the variety allows for more unconventional situations, helping each level feel different from the last.
3 Perfectionist Mode
Getting an S-Rank in Metal Gear Solid 5 is a great concept for perfectionists. However, it doesn’t quite match the Perfectionist difficulty in Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which is a true and pure stealth experience.
The Perfectionist Mode is a brutally tough approach to the game that rewards player based on pure stealth and brilliance, but it also punishes even the most minor of mistakes. This is a mode that suited for true stealth game purists, and it removes the ability to ‘Execute,’ makes Sonar Goggles unable to see targets through walls, and eliminates Weapon Stashes, forcing the player to almost completely rely on their wits and skills.
2 Better Gadgets And Customization
Perhaps with the exception of Conviction, every Splinter Cell Sam comes equipped with a near infinite number of gadgets and devices. Gadgets like the Tri-Rotor, Sleeping Gas Grenades, Sticky Noise Makers, and the Proximity Shocker provide an infinite number of ways to incapacitate your enemies without ever being detected – which is far better than having an endless number of upgradable cardboard boxes to hide in.
Your equipment depends on your playstyle. Be it Ghost, Panther, or Assault, Sam will gain attribute points which can be used to purchase equipment like Enhanced Night Vision Goggles and stealth-based or heavy armo. This allows the player to change-up their play styles or replay the game using different tactics.
1 Sam Is More Physical
Since we were first introduced to Sam Fisher in the very first Splinter Cell back in 2002, he’s had an impressive set of moves skills to help him physically adapt to any situation. This was a huge contrast to Snake who moved around hunched over looking like he had a herniated disc in the first three Metal Gear Solid games.
Sam's movement is far more fluid, he's able to climb and maneuver himself into the tightest of spaces to avoid detection. He can also use a 'splits' move that would make Jean-Claude Van Damme proud. He could realistically climb up shafts and piping to reach new vantage points. Sam Fisher is clearly the more physically capable character, and all without the use of nano-machines to give him an edge.