He's the king of stealth and he'd easily have Solid Snake in a pub fight - at least, that's what Ubisoft's Mathieu Ferland, senior producer on Splinter Cell: Double Agent reckons of Sam Fisher.
With Double Agent promising a whole new take on the stealth genre - and indeed Fisher himself - the team at Ubisoft is busy putting the finishing touches to the game, set for release on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2 and GameCube this spring.
Despite the late nights and permanently creased brow, we recently caught up with Ferland to chat about Sam Fisher's shadowy past, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's digs at the series and what's in store for Splinter Cell come Double Agent's release.
How did the Splinter Cell concept come about?
Mathieu Ferland: When Splinter Cell was being conceived, it was sort of a sci-fi game. We had a main character doing all these new and innovative moves, and using futuristic gadgets - it had some potential. It was a shooter with some interesting twists. I got involved with the concept when Ubisoft acquired the Tom Clancy brand from Red Storm. We reckoned it was a good opportunity to integrate the Tom Clancy universe into this game concept, so that's what we tried to accomplish. It turned out that as we adapted all these futuristic gadgets to Clancy's realistic universe - and then when you become a real spy instead of this guy from space - it suddenly made more sense.
Splinter Cell used shadows really well - was that planned from the start?
Mathieu Ferland: It was a big revelation with our technology when we developed the light and shadow system. Originally the game was more action-oriented, it was just a shooter, so when we implemented the light and shadow technology we knew we wanted it to be a stealth game. It was just a rough prototype, but we knew it would work at the time. That really focused us and gave us a common vision.
Did you draw inspiration from other games?
Mathieu Ferland: We drew inspiration from movies as well as other games. We were big Thief fans in the office, particularly of the visibility gauges. But when Metal Gear Solid 2 came out, we were in the middle of production and thought: 'Oh wow, that looks good, what are we going to do?'. At one point we wanted to create something similar to that, but then we decided against it. We're not here to follow what others are doing, we're here to do something different and hopefully something better than what others are doing.
What do you make of Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima and his light-hearted digs at the Splinter Cell games?
Mathieu Ferland: (Laughs) I have a lot of respect for Kojima. He has a brilliant ability to surprise his fans, like with Raiden in MGS2. I thought that was brilliant - having the guts to kill off your main character, even temporarily, that was great. People disliked it because they were attached to Snake, but now it turns out that they have two important characters that they can use and make fun of, like in the E3 trailer last year. When I saw that trailer, I thought it was really funny and very well done. We're flattered to be associated with Kojima's creation. We want to respond to that at some point, but we're just waiting for a good opportunity. (Laughs again, somewhat evilly.)
While we're on the subject, who'd win in a fight between Fisher and Snake?
Mathieu Ferland: (More laughter) That's funny. Umm, it depends on the context really. I mean, I think Fisher is well trained. They don't really live in the same worlds... I mean, Snake's in a jungle...