The more venerable and successful a video-game series, the trickier it must be to make sequels. Fans who have been around since the beginning likely start feeling a bit put-out about changes made over the years, changes that welcomed the very newcomers who might balk at an old-school return to form. That conundrum certainly seems true of Splinter Cell, which will get its sixth major release this summer with Splinter Cell: Blacklist.
Last week I headed down Ubisoft's press HQ in San Francisco to play through a couple hours' worth of the game and speak with the people making it. What I saw was a game aiming to be all things to all Splinter Cell fans, but that may have lost some undefinable something along the way.
For those who haven't played a Splinter Cell game, it's a series that revolves around high tech covert operations all around the world. The protagonist, Sam Fisher, is essentially a more-grizzled version of 24's Jack Bauer. He's a badass who's seen it all, and his constant off-the-records fights to keep America safe have cost him no small amount. He is, in the parlance of our times, a man who's not afraid to Do Whatever It Takes. Usually Whatever It Takes involves sneaking through the shadows and silently taking out a whole bunch of dudes.
In addition to an hour or two playing the game, I had a fun, lengthy chat with creative director Maxime Béland about design, the Splinter Cell series, stealth games, and all sorts of other things. I'll be publishing that interview later today or tomorrow on Kotaku. For now, I thought I'd share my take on what I saw. If you just want to see the game in action, check out the video up top, which I edited together from some footage Ubisoft sent over.
I kept notes of the preview session similarly to how I approached SimCity, but with less of a journaled approach. Before we go into that, here are the things that stuck out to me as the most important.