Arguably the greatest stealth action game of the 21st century, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell has taken gamers into the world of covert operations and other bullshit skills that they'll someday apply when they play manhunt in their neighbor's backyard.
Someone working for the National Secrity Agency had a really bight idea that instead of spending billions (that's billion, with a motherfuckin B) on satelites that can barely get a freakin liscence plate from orbit, that it was time to get back to the more "classical" methods of espionage.
The directive of Third Echelonn is, "Third Echelon was founded on the principles of covert information gathering through physical infiltration." Which is the more classical way of saying "we gonna spy on yo stuff. Punk."
So, they formed Third Echelon and picked Army Colonel Irving Lambert to run it. A man who has a particularly grim sense of humor and stones capable of mooring a battleship.
Samuel L. Jackson was busy.
Instead of calling up a DC-based staffing company, Irving gets hold of Sam Fisher who apparantly he met during the Gulf War, probably when Sam was "lying in a ditch between Baghdad and Kuwait." Also when Anna Grimsdottir was in 10th grade. Yuck.
Google Image search result for "10th Grade"
In addition to Sam, Third Echelon is staffed with Field Runners; better known as interns who the NSA can't seem to find a use for. First was Vernon Wilkes, Jr. who couldnt seem to (unlike everybody else in the game) take a bullet so next came Frances Coen who couldn't seem to get on Fisher's good side (read the book) and then Will Redding shows up and Sam seems to tolerate him. Probably because he looks easier to kill.
He's one pro-socialist comment away from an epic pimp-smack.
Then comes Fisher. Sam Fisher. A man who has nothing but contempt for bueracrats, pencil pushers, self-serving dweebs who couldn't find the areas he's operated in on a goddamn map.
Heres a map. See... countries.
Sam Fisher (according to varrying sources) was born in either 1955, '57, or '57. So like dirt, you really dont know how old it is. But it's useful. Like Sam.
Sam was an only child until he father -also in the intelligence business- adopted the son of a Soviet defector (like defecator, only you're shitting on a country) who died when crossing the border. Apparantly not everybody leaving the Soviet Union is as bulletproof as Sean Connery.
"Ishnt it funny how I'm a Welshmen pretending it be a Rushhin who wantsh to be an Americansh?"
So yeah back to Bro Fisher. Actually named Peter. Thankfully Peter crosses over from Russian to English without any spelling changes. But he died. Yeah, radiation poisoning sucks. Never had it myself but I had sunburn so bad once that I began to see the appeals of a medically-induced coma.
So Sam joined the Navy when he graduated from a Military-type boarding school. Apparantly because the Circus wasn't in town that weekend and he was looking for a little adventure.
And seeing as how sitting on a boat that long in the ocean seemed a little boring, he got involved with the Special Forces, particularly the Navy SEALS.
The SEALS, for those who don't watch action movies, are the Navy's elite counter-terrorist/special-operations/unconventional-warfare/hostrage-rescue/kickin-ass-takin-motherfuckin-names-bitches... people.
So Sam fit right in.
One thing the writers for Splinter Cell got right is the rampant use of oddball names for not just the good guys, but the villians as well. Fisher even comments on one Abrahim Zherkezhi's last name as being "Sounds like some kind of dried meat."
Also, we've got Vyacheslav Grinko who thankfully gets blown-up (can't seem to be able to shoot this idiot so throwing grenades works just fine) in the first game.
Emile Dufraisne (pronounced like Andy Dufraisne. Yeah that helps right?) is by and large a first-class doushbag, differenciating only from the second-class doushbags we see in traffic every morning by the small fact that this guy is usally always armed. That's a doube posetive, which is like a double negative only... posetive.
It's also what Professor Charles Francis Xavier would look like sans wheels.
Another character trait -read: flaw- is their ability to talk a lot of bullshit. I mean alot of bullshit.
Emil Dufrainse, Suhadi Sadano, Kombayn Nikoladez, Doug Shetland, and any manner of NSA governement types can all spin a good yarn and talk tough about their cause and what they'll do to Fisher if they catch him. Take note that in the first three games, Fisher was caught only once (and that's only if you're stupid enough to get tazed, bro).
Actual quotes from this scene:
Shetland: I know you wont shoot an old friend.
Fisher: You're right Doug. I wouldn't shoot an old friend.
Bad guy tips:
Dont over estimate em. They're expendable for a reason.
Don't underestimate them. They dont have to be accurate, clever, or even tactical... but they got guns 'n shit. And though few are truly good shots, it doesn't take years of honing skill at a firing range to be lucky.
Oh yeah, one final bad guy trait:
Pictured: What the bad guys never seem to see.
The purpose of Third Echelon is to combat modern technology-based threats using a fine combonition of advanced technology and the "classic" knife-in-you-teeth-hope-this-asshole-doesn't-see-me-sneaking-around-his-bases infiltration and intelligence collecting methods.
"Hey Jerry what's that sound in the shadows over there? Jerry?"
The bad guys in the various games and novels have used everything from screwing with utilities, smallpox (which is sooooo 2004, just like Janet Jackson's boob), using mathematical algorithms to starting a world war-
Wait, mathematical what?
Chaos Theory, also known -kinda- as the Butterfly Effect which is that dynamic sustems being highly sensitive to initial conditions.... I'll just link the page to you.
And a whole flurry of other really advanced-shit-type weapons designed to plunge the world into chaos. Just like Janet Jackson's tit.
Pictured: the end of civilization as we know it.
Unlike most other intelligence acencies (like, every one of em) Third Echelon is allowed to operate on US soil. Either that or they simply don't give a shit. Seeing as how Irving Lambert was described as Samuel L. Jackson with a salt and pepper crew cut -i'm paraphrasing, cope- what would you think?
Several of Sam's missions over the years have included breaking into the CIA headquarters (good fucking luck there)
We got guns 'n shit. We'll pop one in yo ass.
Getting to and fro with relative stealth (not getting caught) requires an intimate knowledge of weapons, martial arts, and idealy, be in incredible shape.
In years of observation I have concluded that the average Splinter Cell player has an intimate knowledge of weapons, but being in shape and skilled at unarmed combat, not so much.
Fisher besides being strong enough to hang from a ledge by his goddamn fingers until we get back from refiling our glasses or drainin the main- well you get the idea.
His fitness routine consists of working out at a local gym in the first book until putting a weight set in his basement, being the recluse he is.
Fisher is also a student of the Isreali martial art of Krav Maga, which we suppose means "HOWS THAT FEEL, MOTHERFUCKER?" in Yiddish.
His face says it all.
For a good idea of what Krav Maga looks like in motion, lookie here.
Sam also gets with his apparantly insanely hot instructor in Operation Baracudda.
Think about this next time a Jew-joke comes to mind.
For a good idea on how Sam beats the ever loving Krishna out of the bad guys... just YouTube Krav Maga.
Now for the guns.
It seems that Third Echelon has a contract with the Fabrique National firearms people, as Sam is equiped with the SC-2000 with an underbarrel launcher that can fire cool stuff like gas grenades, ring-airfoil rounds, cameras, and seemingly everybody's favorite: the sticky shocker.
Dont tase me bro.
A supressed pistol also comes in handy, more often that not used to simply bash a bad guy into a restful night/morning/afternoon of sleep.
"Go ahead. Make my day."
Fisher also carries a Fairbain-Sykes fighting knife, the kind carried by OSS -guys during WWII. It comes in handy as both a wire stripper, fabric/paper wall cutter, lock breaker and oh yeah-
This'll pinch juuuuust a little bit.
Further note, Sam Fisher often likes attacking witless enemies from behind because, unlike your mother, they don't have eyes inthe back of their head.
"I saw that."
The first game threw a rediculous ammount of usally stupid, easily fooled, however very well armed, enemies. Chinese, Russian, Georgian troops, and a whole bunch of dimwitted rejects who someone threw an AK-47 at and said "See that area where the power mysteriously just went out? Go see what's going on. You dont need a flashlight right?"
Cant shoot what you cant see. Right?
However, the second game (Pandora Tomorrow) took the "okay now you figure out how this turns out" approach and gave the player the order of shooting the irritating, tercherous, unarmed she-spy as Lambert told you to do, or let her get away.
Apparantly Dhalia Tal was a spy for some bunch of jackasses who dont see eye to eye with freedom, democracy and apple-pie. She betrayed you to her bosses who sent about a half-dozen snipers to cover your extraction route and make sure that you don't pull out.
On a side note- I think most of us are perfect evidence that pulling out doesn't work.
But if you pop her, no snipers. So, take out the trash and make things easy (not getting shot) for yourself, or spare her and have a clean conscience but get a thorough tongue-lashing from Lambert and then get shot. Your call.
In Chaos Theory, you have the choice of either plowing through the missions guns-blazing and knife-sticking to complete your objective, or for higher ratings, simply subdue or avoid all the enemies you can. The second of the two options is harder, by the way.
The moral/immoral concept comes up again in Double Agent, where everything you do either earns you trust with the JBA (bad guys) and looses Third Echelon's trust in you, or vice versa.
Don't worry, the choices are clear and there's a handy dandy meter showing how much people on either side like you. Take note, Facebook Admins.
The choices aren't exactly easy ones, and for the more sadistic ones in the basement: even present the oppertunity to play the bad guy.
For example, in Double Agent you can either:
1. Make the bad guys happy and kill the guy who's trying to kill a guy you later end up killing.
B. Make Third Echelon happy and NOT kill the guy who's trying to kill a guy you later end up killing... because he's a federal witness.
The choices get more and more crazy as the missions progress until you get to (spoiler alert)-
Kill Irving Labert.
Emile Dufrainse hands you a 'gat and tells you to pop Irv' who's tied to a pipe on the wall, saying he's a government officer -which he is- and not an arms dealer -which he's not-.
You can either shoot Irving and protect your cover for another level... or spin to the right and shoot the aforementioned guy who you were going to kill anyway. And then get everybody all riled up in the bad-guy headquarters but at least you'll have your conscience intact. Especially since Lambert's an actually decent guy.
Oh yeah, in the books series that run in a somewhat broken parallel with the games, Lambert dies. No one knows how. Thanks, David Michaels.
The main theme of these games is that Sam Fisher, despite getting shot at, blown to bits, and generally treated poorly not just by the bad guys, but by the Nation he tries to protect.
According to Michael Ironside, the voice of Sam Fisher, he's not a gung-ho G.I. Joe kind of hero. He was even told by a bad guy that he's a tool that the Feds use. His best friend (see Conviction) tells the NSA when questioned that Sam's been pushed too far. Crossed one line too many. Etc.
But why does he still suit up, throw on those goggles and dive headfirst into danger?
Sam justifies his actions by what he calls the Fifth Freedom, which follows (shockingly enough) the Four Freedoms, outlined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
And now the Fifth Freedom: The right to spy, steal, destroy and assasinate to insure that those freedoms are protected. If caught, your existence will be denied no matter what.
So, the objective is, don't get caught. Duh.
So basically, Thanks Sam. You're SOLJWF. Shit outta luck and jolly well fucked.
Splinter Cell takes players (and readers) into worlds that they were probably better off not going into. The world of knife-in-teeth clock-and-dagger hush-hush what-was-that-noise-in-the-dark-over-there kind of spying that James Bond could never pull off.
Speaking of James Bond, lets review some basic differences between James Bond and Sam Fisher.
1. The Uniform
Note the tuxedo. Ever tried to kick ass in one? Course you havent. Come to think of it, neither have I.
Notice Sam's use of urban camoflage in order to better blend in with his surroundings. Complete with boots, holsters, pouches, and enough weaponry to take over Grenada.
And pockets. Look at em all. The average dinner jacket has three. That's about half of Fisher's belt's worth. Plus, he needs all those pockets. Especially for...
Pictured: Sam's wallet.
Notice how Bond takes a goddamn yellow cab to his target locations. Fisher will take the route less traveled by. Like an AC Vent..
James Bond likes fighting bad guys inside evil Island-type fortresses where they plot the end of the world and all sorts of fun stuff like that wearing helmets made of saran wrap. Sam Fisher fights bad guys who would like nothing more than to see the streets of America running red with blood (wow that was deep) and who actually shoot people. And shoot back. And are a huge pain in the ass to either kill or kidnap.
Bond's foes are (generally speaking) a collection of freaks, oddballs, side-show runaways with major inferiority complexes... whereas Fisher's enemies are all a bunch of somewhat realistic (as in, they're all bad, about 5'10") and all have concievable plans to plunge the United States into the 7th Circle of Hell.
Pictured: 7th Circle of Hell
Okay if you're keeping track of the ammount of tang that Bond's gotten over past twenty-something films (you perv) then it's a fair assumption that Sam hasn't nailed as many chicks in white swimsuits as Jimbo. Especially if you read the books where Sam makes the audacious claim to not have much of a drive until he goes after his Krav Maga instructor. However. However... David Michaels, whoever the heck he is, has left us a little bit in the dark with how well his date actually looked. Much like the 'wild thing' the asshole at work wont stop talking about. Remember: a 2 at 10 is a 10 at 2.
Bond's got a laser that'll cut through the floor of a choochoo train. A telephone built into a shoe. A car with GPS built into the dash (Forty goddamn years before Cadillac). A cell phone that'll zap the ever loving tarnation out of you. A jetpack. A suitcase containing pepperspray and fifty gold Sovereigns sewn into the liner (whatever the fuck a "fifty gold sovereigns" is). And a Norelco electric razor.
Sam Fisher has a Palm Pilot known as an OPSAT which means "Operational Satelite Uplink". It can-
1. See under doors.
2. Track enemies using their friggin heartbeat.
3. Provide crucial intelligence updates to Sam in the field.
4. Hack computers.
5. Control various video cameras that can monitor, distract, and incapacitate enemies dumb enough to get close to that funny noise coming from the film-canister sized box on the wall.
Tell Q-Branch to bugger themselves.
E. Realistic Factor
Splinter Cell has always been about having a somewhat realistic edge to the games. Information warfare is a serious threat to saftey of the United States, along with a humongous list of breaches of security that would make Steve Jobs explode with fustration.
Something like this.
From terrorists using smallpox to make us all into spotted freaks, to f-ing with the electricity, nuclear weapons... it's all out there and reasonably capable of being carried out.
Bond on the other hand...
Not pictured: realism
Not pictured: realism.
Not pictured: Realism
Not pictured: realism
Not Pictured: realism.
Christ I cant wait till those become an option.
So bringing it all together, If you ever see James Bond looking over his shoulder, sleeping with a gun under the pillow, and generally being suspicous... it's because he's looking for Sam Fisher. Who'll dispatch him quickly, quietly, relentlessly... and without so much as a really, really, horrible, one-liner.