The Splinter Cell games have primarily been linear experiences since their inception. The protagonist Sam Fisher is an experienced covert operative, and it makes sense for him to sneak about in tight corners. The meticulously constructed levels featuring multiple paths to success are part of the reason why Splinter Cell games are some of the best stealth games of all time.
The Splinter Cell franchise has remained dormant for quite some time now, with the last entry in the form of Splinter Cell: Blacklist in 2011. With the recently announced Star Wars open-world game, Ubisoft seems more focused than ever to keep making its games open world. In the same spirit, it'd be particularly interesting to imagine the Splinter Cell games set in an open-world backdrop regardless of whether it happens or not.
An open-world Splinter Cell game would probably work in a similar fashion to Metal Gear Solid 5 for the most part. Released in 2015, this entry in the long-running tactical espionage series transformed what was once a linear, story-driven experience into a richly realized world. The convoluted and fantastical storylines took a backseat to a fun and engaging open-world experience. It may be hard to understand how it manages to make its stealth and open-world elements work in a cohesive manner, but it does all of that quite beautifully.
The open-world structure provides a lot of different paths to success, and experimenting with these tactics is encouraged in subtle ways to keep the gameplay fresh and ever-exciting. An open-world Splinter Cell game would need to nail these aspects in a similar fashion in order to make its otherwise slow-paced and methodical mechanics feel at home in a huge open-world space. In addition to this, the game could also include clever co-op missions for a unique feature. Ubisoft already has experimented with this in its Assassin's Creed and Watch Dogs series of games, among others, so it isn't entirely new territory for the developer. However, there are a couple of problems that could occur when transferring over these mechanics to an open-world Splinter Cell game.
Contrary to something like Metal Gear Solid 5, the narrative and gameplay are grounded in reality which makes the prospect of turning similar mechanics and tools cumbersome. While something like Fulton extracting soldiers and summoning gunships feels at home for Metal Gear Solid 5, it wouldn't so in a game like Splinter Cell which relies too heavily on strict-stealth and realism. That being said, Splinter Cell: Conviction's PEV(Point, Execute, Vanish) system could do wonders if the series goes open world. It would require a bit of refinement to suit the newer structure, but it would make for a highly customizable set of playstyles where players get to choose the pace at which they would like to take enemy encounters.
As much as the thought of seeing such a transformation seems tantalizing, Splinter Cell doesn't really need to venture into the open-world territory. For starters, it would be tough for such a game to survive in today's market, where its biggest competitors are being developed by the same company. Again, any Splinter Cell game, whether it stars Sam Fisher or someone else, is best suited to threat-filled mansions, lighthouses, and banks.
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