Splinter Cell. Ghost Recon. Rainbow Six. All three of the critically acclaimed series used to be practically perfect, and as time progressed and consoles became more powerful the games became... well, a bit rubbish.
Unfortunately, Tom was talking to himself, here's what the reply was.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell was the game to get on Xbox for Christmas, if Halo wasn't enough to persuade you, a bit of main character Sam Fisher and his awesome voice (the mighty Michael Ironside) would. The premise - grizzled war veteran Fisher is invited to join a super secret unit called third echelon, basically a Black Ops unit. The whole concept was based around going in and out without anybody knowing you're there, with the whole 'disavow' caveat, hence the name 'Splinter Cell' roughly translating to mean an agent operating under no government, though in reality they obviously are. Gameplay focused on stealth, utilising the shadows, outwitting and avoiding the guards with gadgetry. It was a brilliant spy game.
The subsequent games Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory (the best splinter cell game, maybe even stealth game ever) further refined the gameplay and always kept the core mechanics at the heart, they even made shooting your way out a little easier. Chaos Theory punished you for being seen, it punished you for killing people, the guards would don riot gear, they'd be drinking red bull and freaking out over any small movements. The game was always driving you to be a shadow, but kept the option to go batshit mental a viable one. Gameplay additions added depth, it was development perfection.
So where did it go wrong? Instead of improving on the formula they decided to throw the development book out the window. Or maybe they didn't have a development book, maybe that's where they went wrong? They had a fun weekend but had so many drinks that they forgot how to make the game. Write it down next time. Double Agent was a game that limited all your options, got rid of the co-op mode and made it a linear trundle through set pieces. It was odd, basically, but to be fair it was created by another studio as the A team created a good version for Xbox and PS2. Then came Conviction. You couldn't be further away from the core of Splinter Cell if you tried. The focus was on a new mechanic that lets you shoot people in the head in a cool animation, which you could only attain by beating people up, which you did a lot in a Jack Bauer interrogation sort of way. It was 24 meets Bourne, which is an amazing game in its own right, but not Splinter Cell.
...They had a fun weekend but had so many drinks that they forgot how to make the game
The most recent release is Blacklist, and credit where it's due, they did very well. It plays with the fluidity of Conviction in the action stakes but it also has a great stealth system. It's just a shame then that the game seems to be built for action fans first, even the story which used to be like a spy novel - like it was Tom Clancy inspired or something - had from double agent gone into an odd revenge tale to blacklists terrorists going to blow stuff up 'because' garbage interspersed with quick time events. They even made Sam Fisher 30 years younger and changed the voice actor to some Canadian douchebag, look, just call it a new IP and give stealth fans a traditional spy game in Chaos Theory's example of how to perfect a stealth game.
The Rainbow Six games have arguably all been brilliant in their own unique ways, despite the odd misstep (Lockdown), they've been highly regarded games. But before they came onto consoles they were something more, something a bit special. Rainbow Six 3 and Black Arrow were the first console ports, they were excellent in their own right allowing a punishing campaign to unfold with your squad as you take on a series of rooms barking orders for enhanced tactics such as flashbang and clearing and even arresting people, all with hostages at stake (they would be killed if you didn't plan it correctly).
Lockdown continued the gameplay but added some crazy features like sniping galleries. Even Rainbow Six Vegas followed the same vein of gameplay that gave the series success, you could even play in split-screen and online co-operatively, they actually added features and made it better.
It's to a much lesser extent that these games are included, but looking at the earlier PC games where planning is the key to survival and also at Siege, it's worrying. They admittedly have the core pillars in place, and even have planning stages, but it's the concept that irks. Siege looks to be focusing primarily on multiplayer scenarios, whilst it's still about trying to save hostages from terrorists, it's hard not to be disappointed that your carefully planned attacks be reduced to some trolling nutjob killing your team with lag and 700 more hours playtime than you or whatever, not that anybody's bitter or anything.
So what about Ghost Recon, it used to be that urban army game instead of the high tech overload Future Soldier, right? No, wait, it used to be a third person army tactics game where you blew everything up? Advanced Warfighter? You're all on crack. Ghost Recon has had more wardrobe changes than Ikea. It started off quite brilliantly, and as enjoyable as its successors are, well, Advanced Warfighter at least, they were further from the core values of the series than drunk people are from ordering a salad.
Ghost Recon and Island Thunder were two first person shooters set in open world areas where you were tasked in undertaking the governments most high value jobs, you were basically the SAS 2.0. You could argue that the other games are like that too, but they didn't have realism and stealth as core pillars, you had to plan or you would die. A mission involved you in control of two teams of soldiers, you could choose their loadouts and they had skills, ie sniper, medic. The kicker? You could be any one of them. At any time. So could your friend in split screen. You'd spend 50% of your time looking at the map, you could map out routes for the AI in such detail you were basically writing satellite navigation instructions for them - you could even tell them to shoot on sight, or never fire, or just return fire only, 'turn left at the rotary, open fire at the next exit'. And they could die, and all the skills you had built up, gone. Plans of attack involved placing one team at the front, another flanking and then synchronising 'go loud' orders to watch the unfolding chaos whilst hoping for the best. It was bliss.
None of the other games allow this, you can tell your men to follow and where to stand, but they never had the depth of a 13 year old game. They lost the magic, you couldn't even play co-op in split screen, there was no switching characters. What happened to you Ghost Recon? You could be XCOM levels of awesome but you're just a sad bag of money.
I mean, what if you turn into some open world mercenaries type game, you know, nothing like you were when you were younger? Oh..
Please UBISoft, all that is being asked is that you make games that require brains, that rewards players for investing time and patience, that don't reduce themselves to action film plots, that do concentrate on the spy aspects, on being a Ghost. Basically, go back ten or so years and make games like those, but with todays graphical quality. All your fancy new games look great, but they're new IPs. Make it so, sincerely, Tom.