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Splinter Cell is a stealth based game produced by Ubisoft, which follows the story of American NSA Black Ops agent Sam Fisher. The character of Sam Fisher is voiced by actor Michael Ironside. His boss, Irving Lambert, is voiced by actor Don Jordan.
Sam Fisher's trifocal goggles are considered the "signature" symbol of the Splinter Cell series, as was intended by the character designer, according to the special features of the first Splinter Cell for Xbox. Originally, Tom Clancy rejected the idea of Fisher having them, stating that goggles with both thermal vision and night vision are impossible to make. The creators argued that having two separate sets of goggles would make for awkward gameplay and convinced Clancy to allow it.
Splinter Cell's stealth-based gameplay, although frequently compared to the Metal Gear series, has more in common with that of the cult PC series Thief, which pre-dates it by several years. Most of the game is spent sneaking around, using darkness and shadows to hide from patrolling guards, much like the Metal Gear games. The player is equipped with a "light meter" that indicates how visible they are to enemies, as well as night vision and thermal vision goggles to help the player navigate in darkness and spot enemies. For combat, Fisher is equipped with a suppressed pistol as well as a suppressed assault rifle that can be used for combat, sniping, and even for launching various non-lethal devices such as "sticky shockers" and "gas grenades." Fisher can also sneak up on enemies from behind to knock them unconscious or grab and interrogate them. This technique was introduced into the Metal Gear saga in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, as CQC. Fisher is also extremely acrobatic, and has a variety of maneuvers including the ability to mantle onto and climb along ledges, hang from pipes, and perform a "split jump" in narrow spaces to mantle up a steep wall.
Splinter Cell, like Metal Gear, heavily encourages stealth over brute force. Although Fisher is equipped with a firearm, he only carries at most 60 rounds of ammunition and rarely is able to obtain more during a mission. He also can only survive about 6 bullet hits before dying, and since most enemies are equipped with fast-firing automatic weapons they have the ability to cut Fisher down in a second or two. Additionally, Fisher must go in "aim mode" before firing his weapon, during which his movement speed is significantly slowed down. Moving while firing also makes Fisher's weapon highly inaccurate, as does firing more than one bullet at a time. It is also critical to hide bodies after killing or knocking them out. If another patrolling guard finds the body, he can alert other enemies and an alarm is heard. If the body is unconscious, the guards can revive him. Sometimes the only option is knock them unconscious, as lethal force is not permitted.
The first two games, Splinter Cell and Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow were quite linear, with only 1 route and a few side-paths to get there. The third game, however, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory features multiple routes, entrances, and ways to infiltrate locations. For example, you can either access the Server Room in the Displace level by going down the stairs near the start of the mission, or completing various side-objectives by taking another route. The game also features new "Secondary Missions," which are optional side missions that you can complete for a higher mission score. There are also multiple outcomes to Sam's actions. For example, in the Cargo Ship level, if you choose to kill Captain Diego, then you have to locate Hugo Lacerda by yourself.
The storyline is similar in most of the games. Terrorists are planning an attack by weapons of mass destruction, usually by use of information warfare, and Sam Fisher needs to prevent this. The missions range from gathering intelligence to capturing and/or eliminating terrorist operatives. Stealth is a critical aspect of gameplay; shooting and killing any civilians or enemy units may result in mission failure or increased difficulty (as guards may arm themselves to better prepare for an attack). An alarm usually occurs if a non-player character spots a casualty, an unconscious person, or Sam Fisher himself. In the first two games, the mission is aborted after a set number of alarms have been triggered; sometimes only one will end a mission prematurely, depending on the mission. The third game features a new system, in which enemies move up to a new level of awareness for every alarm triggered. For example, after the fourth alarm is set off, enemies will fortify positions around the map and wait for you.
The smoothest way forward in the game is to remain invisible, select non-obvious routes, and utilize diversions to pass guards. The game is a combination of problem solving and quick action. Attacks must be swift, silent, and decisive to ensure success. Pandora Tomorrow introduced a two-on-two multiplayer mode, pitting two very differently equipped teams against each other. Chaos Theory further evolved that mode and introduced a co-operative mode. This mode plays out very much like the single player mode, yet features myriad moves that may only be performed by both players acting as a team. The co-op storyline in Chaos Theory and the Xbox version of Double Agent parallels that of Sam's in single-player mode, acting on information he obtained or providing support in the field. To ensure that the trident-goggles remain unique to Fisher, the co-op spies have only two lenses that are red or blue.
Double Agent introduces a new morality factor. As the subtitle implies, Fisher becomes a double agent, assuming the identity of a wanted criminal and is recruited by a terrorist ring. The new mechanic is that Fisher may now encounter conflicting objectives between his superiors and the terrorists. For example, the terrorists may assign you to assassinate a person, while you may be instructed by the NSA to prevent the assassination. This creates a delicate balancing act between gaining the trust of the terrorists and fulfilling your mission assignments. In addition, Fisher must not do anything to reveal to the terrorists that he is a double agent.
References in the Metal Gear series
Sam Fisher, the main character of Splinter Cell, is directly mentioned in Snake vs. Monkey, the Ape Escape minigame of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Solid Snake asks Colonel Campbell if "Sam or Gabe" can catch the monkeys instead - Sam and Gabe being Sam Fisher and Gabe Logan of Splinter Cell and Syphon Filter - Metal Gear's two biggest stealth/military competitors.
In a teaser trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots during E3 2005, parodied Splinter Cell was parodied when Solid Snake wore Fisher's trademark trident night vision goggles in a dark room, which gave the audience the impression that Fisher was on the screen before the lights were turned on. It should be noted that Ubisoft and Konami maintain a friendly relationship. So much so that the the robe worn by Assassin's Creed protagonist Altaïr is included in Metal Gear Solid 4 as a costume Old Snake, Raiden's Metal Gear Solid 4 cyborg outfit is in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, and an assassin's straw box is included in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker.
In Peace Walker, the male POW's facial features bear a resemblance to Fisher.