Ubisoft has announced the return of Sam Fisher and the next chapter of the Splinter Cell franchise. The chapter is, however, a world away from the stealth and espionage that has long inspired the classic third-person shooter. Alongside other characters from the Tom Clancy universe, Fisher will feature in Ubisoft's forthcoming mobile game Tom Clancy's Elite Squad.
The announcement will almost certainly be a let-down to those who had their fingers crossed for a long-awaited standalone Splinter Cell game. In May, speculation about a Splinter Cell E3 announcement reached full tilt after Julian Gerighty, creative director for The Division 2, tweeted that work was underway on a new game in the franchise. Though Ubisoft brushed the apparent reveal off as a joke, energy around a new release has been steadily building since.
Alongside Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six, Splinter Cell is at the foundation of the Tom Clancy catalog and is in many ways the most nostalgic of the bunch. Between 2002 and 2006, Ubisoft released five Splinter Cell games to widespread acclaim among early fans of the Clancy gaming series. The initial releases traded running and gunning for a fresh take on the genre, one that was focused on stealth and, of course, night vision goggles. Since 2006, however, only a pair of Splinter Cell releases have emerged.
Reading between the lines of Ubisoft's recent Tom Clancy outputs shows a distinct focus on gaming trends that feel hard to mesh with the gameplay that made early Splinter Cell games a hit. From the loot-based direction of The Division to the open world adventure of Ghost Recon Wildlands to the competitive, esport community of Rainbow Six Siege, it's hard to see where Splinter Cell fits into Ubisoft's direction and the company seems equally unsure.
Fisher's inclusion in Elite Squad points to the publisher misunderstanding what Splinter Cell fans want out of the franchise. Described as a lone wolf who now "hunts with the pack," suturing the series that was once fundamental to the Tom Clancy brand, let alone to a mobile game, feels like a serious step in a direction away from a community still vibrantly following the franchise, despite a lack of releases.
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