Is The Splinter Cell Trilogy Hiding?

The Playstation store has recently seen a new initiative to push HD remakes of ‘classic’ (what does that even mean?) PS2 titles into PS3 owners hands via purchasable download. Things like the God Of War Collection going up on the PSN store has been getting  people excited, and most recently the first Prince Of Persia game, along with the insanely fun Crazy Taxi from ye old PS2 days *reminiscent face* are set to win our hearts and money all over again.

With the Sly Collection getting trailers plastered over any place that is happy to house them (mostly YouTube then) and a firm release date of the 3rd of December (UK)/1st December (Europe), I’m waiting for the announcement of the Splinter Cell Trilogy. Various websites are listing it for release sometime later in November but seeing as we have had little to no word on it from Ubisoft, we very much doubt it will be coming to us this month. Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot has talked about the Splinter Cell Trilogy being in the works with the standard HD up scaling and the like, but we have seen virtually no screenshots or teaser trailers anywhere and it’s making us feel sad.

Many fans like me are perhaps hoping in vain that Chaos Theory will still have its online multiplayer enabled and upgraded onto the PSN, but whether Ubi and Sony think it worth investing in or not it, is yet to be seen. Whether you get it by disc or download, the HD remake, the genre defining first three Splinter Cell games, would be an essential purchase for anyone who enjoyed the stealthy element in Arkham Asylum or any of the Assassins Creed games. Obviously if you like Splinter Cell you will be getting this in all likelihood.

For me, Splinter Cell and the original Metal Gear Solid are the  fathers of the stealth genre. After Conviction and say…Snake Eater, sneaking and lurking took a back seat for the new obsession with run n’ gun gameplay, and the purity of the genre has been dissolving ever since. I’m not criticising more contemporary titles for what they are, just observing how the game experience has morphed and changed.

Those of you who managed to hook your console up to the online world back in the Xbox and PS2 days might have spent some time on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory’s Multiplayer. If you were lucky enough to, then you will understand why many SCCT fans want it to make the leap to PSN and Xbox live.

When online, you could choose one of three simple but cleverly designed modes: Neutralisation, Sabotage, or Extraction, each based around deadly containers of chemical weapons set to release a cloud of unholy-ness. The matches were played with a two man team of Spy’s and Mercenaries with only 4 and 3 precious lives for each player respectively. Spies were equipped with non-lethal rifles with long range tazer-stunners and a selection of high tech equipment and military diversion grenades (e.g. sticky camera, spy tracking bullet, flash/smoke/chaff grenades). They were very agile and athletic, being able to back flip off walls, use zip-lines, and dive in to vents.

To make things even tenser the only way they could kill a Merc was to grab them from behind and break their necks, or land on top of them from a big height. But the skilled player could turn the Mercenaries grenades and mines to their own advantage…or could  knock the Mercs unconscious for 20 seconds or so.

The Mercenaries played from a FPS perspective with a sniper-assault rifle combo, and had a range of admittedly more aggressive gear including frag grenades and proximity mines. Now the best bit is when you pit them up against each other in breathtaking versus games.  Matches turn into exhilarating and tense games of cat and mouse-like chases, with heaps of hide and seek fun to be had.

The formula was simple and genius, and when you completed an objective, managed to trick past a Merc without him seeing you, or get a kill, it actually meant something. With only four lives max in ranked matches, every death you got would be painful and cost you a huge chunk of your chances of winning, teamwork actually existed and was essential for victory.

None of this nearly instant and infinite respawning you see on most multiplayer games at the moment. With current titles like Black Ops or Resistance giving you virtually no downtime in most of the game modes (hence Search and Destroy = win). A large proportion of the kills and achievements feel like dumb luck and simply a product of big scale probabilities. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these trigger happy and gun twitching crazes, but sometimes I miss the slower and dare I say it…more intelligent multiplayer games. I mean sure, you can implement tactics to some extent into most games, but the way they’re designed doesn’t make it the easiest thing to motivate yourself into doing. Pandora Tommorow and Chaos Theory encouraged and rewarded less up-front gameplay.

Before you say it, I know there are new instalments of Splinter Cell and Metal Gear, but they are far closer to third person action shooters like Uncharted or Gears than they are to their previous games. The only one that seemed to have some stealthy spark was Splinter Cell: Double Agent but  a few hours of gameplay revealed it was just a scruffy and clipped approximation of that glorious and different Chaos Theory experience. It has one mode on the PS3 version, no leaderboards at all, Merc’s don’t even get a full sized HUD, and Spies can no longer punch or carry more than ONE thing at a time. Blarg! It could have been so good but they rushed it out and as a consequence sacrificed the magic of the shadows….without trying to sound too romantic.

As for Conviction, it just feels too removed from the Splinter Cell framework for me, and with Assassins Creed: Brotherhood boasting a crowd surfing and roof hopping multiplayer, maybe Ubisoft really should consider adding in the multiplayer to the Splinter Cell HD remakes. An offering of a different style of competitive multiplayer is needed at the moment, as too many developers are going in the same direction. Turn on the night vision goggles (don’t pretend you haven’t got some) and keep your eyes peeled, with any luck Ubisoft might just deliver what fans so badly want, and what the industry needs.