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Splinter Cell : Behind The Masks

Despite my pitiful whinging, there is actually one truly exciting title being released this summer: Splinter Cell Blacklist.

Next month will see the return of one of the industry’s most enigmatic anti-heroes, in another substantial re-imagining of the core franchise. After a sensational reveal at E3 2012 – and the news that Michael Ironside will no longer grace us with his murderous tones – expectations and worries are running in equally high measure.

But before we concern ourselves too greatly with the final product, it’s worth taking time to reflect on what the Splinter Cell franchise truly represents; what it has truly achieved.

We perhaps take it for granted how close the games industry has moved towards the film industry over recent years. AAA game development environments are truly multi-disciplined environments, tapping into expertise in all manner of creative fields from writers to artists, animators, programmers, sound-engineers, actors, directors and more. The Halo franchise made a name for itself early on as one that recognised and outwardly promoted this synergy, with development videos offering tantalising insights into everything from level-design to orchestral manoeuvres. Indeed, key figures known for their work on the series are not merely the programmers, but perhaps most notably the musical directors, voice actors and directors.

But there were games before Halo that truly captured this ‘DVD-bonus-feature’ culture – and Splinter Cell was arguably one of the first.

Although the likes of Nolan North has made a name for himself in the games industry, Michael Ironside was an established, top-flight Hollywood actor long before he was involved with Splinter Cell. An archetypal villain / bad-ass General from films of my youth, his voice caries menace and power like few can. A self-professed pacifist, Ironside has found himself gifted with talents that portray the villain and anti-hero to perfection, and was therefore a natural choice to represent and embody Fisher:

“The first time the script came, I found it very .. shallow. I felt the action was there. I felt the story-line was there but the development of the character … he was almost humanoid instead of being human. And they said, well, talk to us – and we basically rebuilt a bit of Sam’s character”

In short: never underestimate the powers of creative collaboration. Experts in one field bring a sense of perspective and experience that elevates work in another, and vice versa. For a medium such as games, arguably the most complex and multi-faceted there is, it’s a marriage that ‘s made in heaven.

But it’s not just Ironside’s tones that set the fledgling series apart from other of its time.

Tom Clancy’s name had been closely associated with games since 1998 and the first Rainbow Six title – and this on the back on a long and lustrous careers in writing, with many of his works being translated into successful Hollywood blockbusters. Although some have questioned the degree to which Clancy has a hand in the making of games that bear his name, his contribution to the industry is not to be underestimated. In 1996, he co-founded Red Storm Entertainment, the development studio that focused on developing the Rainbox Six, Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell franchises, amongst others. All of the franchises have delivered huge innovations to the industry and stand-out as a sign of quality and refinement from title to title and generation to generation. Even if Clancy merely had the inclination to broaden his financial horizons, the degree to which these works have built upon his narratives and themes is a testament to the man’s vision and talent. If there was ever a silent benefactor to the games industry, it’s Tom Clancy.

And so as we sit here, baking in the heat, waiting for Fisher to sneak up on us one more time, spare a thought for those behind the masks; the non-gamers who have made the world of games just that bit more amazing than it could have ever been without them.

Check out all of our Splinter Cell Blacklist coverage at our Splinter Cell Blacklist Central.

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