Another year, another new Splinter Cell rumor: This one comes to us from VGC, which says “development sources” have told it that Ubisoft has finally thrown a thumbs-up to a new “mainline” game in the series. The new project is currently in the early stages of production and so still a long way off, but could be officially revealed sometime in 2022.
Interestingly, two people familiar with the situation told the site that the new project is not being headed by Ubisoft Montreal, which developed the original Splinter Cell as well as Chaos Theory, Essentials, and Conviction. The most recent game in the series, Blacklist, was developed by Ubisoft Toronto, but “recent” in this case is relative: It came out in 2013 and so that studio connection probably doesn’t have any real bearing on the current situation.
It’s all very vague, but the rumor is strengthened somewhat by a separate VentureBeat report saying that Ubisoft was testing a potential new Splinter Cell game earlier this year, ahead of E3. The game in question was only a “basic tutorial section,” according to the site, and somehow incorporated “elements of the 2016 Hitman reboot,” although it’s not clear what that means. Maybe it’s a more open-world design? Or maybe Sam Fisher uses rubber duck bombs now.
It’s worth remembering (as if Splinter Cell fans could forget) that rumors of new games in the series have been floating to the surface for years. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said in 2017, four years after Blacklist, that the publisher was pursuing a new game in the series; a year later, chief creative officer Serge Hascoet said studios were “fighting for resources” to make a new Splinter Cell game. And a year after that, creative director Julian Gerighty said he was working on a new Splinter Cell game, only to retract the statement later as just a joke.
All fans have seen over that stretch, though, are Ghost Recon crossovers, a mobile tactics game, a VR game, and an anime—but nothing in the way of a full new release. The whole thing made Fraser really mad for awhile.
In April 2019, Guillemot said that “at some point, you will see something” new in the Splinter Cell series, and my inclination is to believe that’s true. Despite its age and dormancy, Splinter Cell is a recognizable property and that gives it value, especially in an industry that relies so heavily on series and sequels. It’s also understandable that Ubisoft would be very cautious with it: Rainbow Six Siege aside, the Tom Clancy games have had a rough go recently—Ubisoft recently pulled the plug on a closed beta test for Ghost Recon Frontline, possibly because the reception to the game’s announcement was so negative.
A successful Splinter Cell comeback could be the winner that Ubisoft needs to restore the luster to the Tom Clancy name, and that timing makes it all feel a little more likely—or at least possible. For myself, I remain deeply skeptical, yet eternally hopeful; for Ubisoft’s part, a representative said the company does not comment on rumor or speculation.