Splinter Cell's popularity is held back by its complexity, says Blacklist studio head
Splinter Cell: Conviction may have starred a more action-heavy version of Sam Fisher than was seen in his Third Echelon days, but - even with its lighter, more fluid stealth systems - Ubisoft's Jade Raymond thinks its complexity has still had an effect on the series' appeal. Speaking to Eurogamer, the Ubisoft Toronto managing director said the games' comparative difficulty has made them less popular to modern audiences.
"One of the things that held it back is despite all of the changes that have happened over the years, it's still one of the more complex and difficult games to play," Raymond said. "Even though we do have core fans who are like, 'Oh, I want to have more of this experience,' when you play any other game that has stealth elements, they're all a lot more forgiving than Splinter Cell.
"I guess Splinter Cell stayed with the most pure approach to that stealth experience."
Raymond points to the "planning" phase of the game - the moment before entering a room where you're forced to assess the situation. "You've got to spend some time thinking, right, so where are the guys positioned? How will I get through here? Where's cover? How do I hide? Okay, I'm going to shoot out those lights. 'This is my strategy' is an important first phase.
"By default there aren't many games where that's the phase. Most games you can walk in and you start shooting right away, or you just walk in and you improvise as you go along."
Despite this, Raymond isn't advocating any further simplification with the upcoming Blacklist. Instead, Ubisoft Toronto are focusing on choice. "In this game we do have a broader range of play styles possible than ever before," she said.
"We brought back the purest hardcore version, which is, you want to ghost through the level and get through it without killing a single person. Every single thing you want to do you can do in a non-lethal way. That requires the most planning and being the most strategic."
For further challenge, you can even ghost through levels in Perfectionist mode - which removes features like Mark and Execute. "That's for those who want to plan it out and feel really smart, and, 'I'm going to use the Sticky Cam with the Sleeping Gas and them I'm going to whistle and the guy's going to come,' and do the full set-up."
Jon Blyth came away from his hands-on time with Blacklist's Perfectionist mode convinced of it's Splinter Cell heritage, saying: "This isn't a dumbing down of Splinter Cell – it’s taking the slick style of Conviction and bringing it back into official ghost ops." You can read his full preview here.
For more from Raymond, check out Eurogamer's full interview.