As the certified king of stealth (not that we'd say that in front of Solid Snake), you'd expect Sam Fisher to be on top of the world, what with the frantic clamour each new entry in the Splinter Cell series brings. As is the way in the life of a top-secret Third Echelon operative though, it's not all pink bananas and cocktail umbrellas in Fisher's latest impending escapade, Splinter Cell: Double Agent.
With the death of his daughter, Sarah Fisher, still fresh in Sam's mind, he's summoned by the Third Echelon to infiltrate the ranks of fledgling terrorist organisation, John Brown's Army, and bring their reign to an end.
To find out more about Splinter Cell: Double Agent and what's in store for Sam this time around, our comrades over at Official Xbox 360 Magazine recently sat down with series producer at Ubisoft, Julian Gerighty. Here's what they uncovered:
Now that there are loads of other stealth games on the market, what do you have to do to make Splinter Cell Double Agent stand out from the crowd?
Gerighty: The original Splinter Cell certainly redefined the genre and set the standard in terms of tension and realism. Ultimately, that's really what we have to measure up to. After Chaos Theory, we knew we couldn't simply go on and produce traditional stealth and continue to innovate at the same time. So we decided to add the double agent concept. It's something that hasn't been done as extensively in the genre before, and it allows us to create a truly immersive and innovative game experience once again.
How did Sam Fisher end up in prison?
Gerighty: Following the death of his daughter Sarah, Sam falls into a severe depression for a few months, before accepting an undercover assignment from his friend Lambert. His mission is to infiltrate the JBA, an American terrorist organisation operating on American soil, and take them out from the inside. Third Echelon 'plants' Sam in Ellsworth Federal Penitentiary as an ex-Navy SEAL turned- bank robber. His mission is to befriend Jamie Washington, a convicted felon working for the JBA, then break out of jail with him.
Sam looks so different now - are you worried that he won't be as instantly recognisable without the night-vision goggles?
Gerighty: Prior to Splinter Cell Double Agent, Sam's goggles were definitely his most recognisable feature, along with his voice, of course. This time around, we wanted to expand his visual identity, and taking away the goggles under certain circumstances was the daring move we chose to make. We spent a great amount of time refining and defining his look, and if you compare him to previous instalments you'll see how much his look has evolved.
Do the trademark goggles appear in the game at all? If not, how will Fisher cope without his usual vision modes?
Gerighty: The goggles do appear in the game, yes, and with new vision modes to boot! Under circumstances where Sam is goggle-free, we approached the design of his surroundings to take this lack of vision modes into account. For instance, in jail, Sam has to use chaos and fire to remain unseen, instead of simply hiding in the dark. Sam also explores environments in full daylight this time around.
Was it a hard decision to kill Sarah Fisher and make Sam into a more menacing figure?
Gerighty: It was difficult because she's a well-loved character for many of the fans. We needed to make Sam a character with nothing to lose, and that meant hitting him hard where it hurt the most. We just knew killing Sam's beloved daughter was our only logical choice. Don't you know that storytellers are all sadistic bastards?