Five Things We Learned From Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

By Aaron Matteson in Five Things, Humor, Lists!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm
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Splinter Cell -- it's about to get subtle up in here.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six
is a classic game that we covered a few weeks back, concerned primarily with an elite government squad that operates with total subtlety and efficiency. The existence of Rainbow is known only to the highest ranks of officials, and in carrying out their orders they act with both decisiveness and a high degree of caution.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is about a dude who is so fucking subtle that he makes the highly-trained, low-profile operatives of Rainbow Six look like drunk cowboys with six-shooters. His name is Sam Fisher, and he is stealthy from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep. And we're not sure if he ever sleeps.

Splinter Cell is about an international crisis sparked by a coup in the Russian border state of Georgia, and the new head of state's nefarious plans. Figuring out what this shady figure wants and defusing the plot before something awful happens is going to take an operative who is so subtle that when he makes a joke, you don't laugh at it until days later. So sneaky that he makes the best cat burglar in the world look like a loud trombonist in a shitty high school marching band. So awesome that he's voiced by Michael Ironside.

Sam Fisher is the perfect man for the job, and sneaking a mile in his shoes teaches us many things about life, love and silent takedowns.

1.) Sometimes it's not as simple as good vs. bad.

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Splinter Cell is all about teamwork. PSYCH

In Splinter Cell, while we can't remember tapping any domestic phone lines in our play-through, we're pretty sure that protagonist Sam Fisher works for the NSA. And as such, you work in concert with the CIA, FBI, ATF, DOJ, OHS, DOD and probably the MLB when possible (Sam Fisher's morale goes way up when he can get the playoffs wired directly into his ear while snapping necks in Eastern Europe). In this age of complex intelligence agencies, it's all about sharing resources and information, right?

On the contrary, Splinter Cell emphasizes that interdepartmental cooperation doesn't always occur. Throughout the game the CIA is less than forthcoming with Sam Fisher and his boss Lambert, and so the NSA is sometimes left to put together crucial pieces of intelligence themselves. At one point, Fisher barely escapes an oil rig when NATO bombs the place. They're all on the same side, but damned if they'll actually talk to each other.


2.) Even dedicated bad guys are people too.

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Hey! I was talking about ordering a pizza with Nikolai!

One of the perks of being essentially a ghost is that you can listen in on private conversations. Sam Fisher overhears the conversations of many terrorists throughout his missions, and it actually humanizes them a little bit.

For instance, several Georgian guards who will try to kill you on sight and are standing in the way of your objective can be heard chatting about the mess their guard dogs are making:

"Why don't you clean up after your dog?"
"Get that spotlight out of my eyes, you filthy sniper."

This little interaction about a guard dog taking a dump makes us realize that these guys are people too, with their own petty squabbles and pet peeves. It makes us feel moderately bad about having to crack their skulls open.

3.) Becoming a master of your profession allows you access to certain tricks of the trade.

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All those years of ballet training pay off every day for Sam Fisher.

Sam Fisher's moves are impressive. He's got the pretty standard stuff like somersaults and ladder-slides, but he's also got less conventional attacks like his patented choke-hold-plus-palm-in-your-face move.

The best, though, is when you maneuver Fisher into place directly above a guard and he, with a takedown that should be messy and inefficient, manages to actually silently neutralize the enemy with what is pretty much a glorified Mario move. You just jumped on their head. But somehow, it works. Must be all that NSA training at work.

4.) Courage doesn't always win glory.

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Sam Fisher knows that the president is full of shit.

At the end of Splinter Cell, after Fisher has assassinated a score of enemies of state and zip-lined down a multitude of dark alleyways, he finally gets a chance to sit back and watch the President of the United States give a speech honoring the efforts of those like him. The president promises that the actions of those who risked their lives for the safety of the US would never be forgotten.

And Fisher laughs, something, according to his daughter, that he hasn't done since the Reagan administration (ah, those happy, carefree days! Sam Fisher longs for Morning in America again, apparently).

It's because Fisher knows that he won't be remembered. He has no glory to lay claim to. No one will ever know his name. Sometimes that's the way history works.

5.) Unlikely people can become fashion icons.

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I AM BECOME THREE EYES, DESTROYER OF LAMENESS

After playing Splinter Cell, we all wondered how we could get the three-eyed headgear.  Hell, if I could find it I'd wear it to my office job every day. It's too cool not to.
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