to do what no one else can do
The protagonist is Sam Fisher, a former Navy SEAL who is being brought out of retirement by his old commander, Irving Lambert, to take part in a new NSA initiative called Third Echelon. Third Echelon is a black-ops program involving the insertion of a single operative — Sam — into sensitive, high-security situations to gather intel and, where necessary, neutralize targets, all without being seen or heard. To that end the players have to navigate creatively, time their movements with extreme caution and patience, and make use of Sam's high-tech gadgets, most notably his black tactical suit and trademark headset, which provides night vision and thermal vision, and his light meter, which allows the player to use light and shadow to utmost advantage.
To date, the series consists of:
Home Consoles and PC:
- Splinter Cell (2002)
- Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (2004)
- Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (2005)
- Splinter Cell: Double Agent (2006)
- Splinter Cell: Conviction (2010)
- Splinter Cell: Blacklist (2013)
- Splinter Cell (2002, Game Boy Advance)
- Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (2004, Game Boy Advance)
- Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (2005, Nintendo DS)
- Splinter Cell: Essentials (2006, Playstation Portable) note
- Splinter Cell 3D (2011, Nintendo 3DS) note
Due to the sudden Genre Shift of the series, Conviction naturally resulted in a Broken Base, with numerous fans crying that the series had become another generic shooter and was irrevocably ruined. Of course, things weren't helped when Michael Ironside, the voice of Sam who openly liked ''Splinter Cell'' for being a different, non-actiony series, promptly left the role at the time of Blacklist, due to having been diagnosed with cancer and choosing to take time away from acting to fight it, something he and Ubisoft only revealed years later when a DLC starring Sam and voiced by Ironside was announced for Ghost Recon Wildlands. Despite all of this and the fact that no new installment has been released since 2013, the series still has a strong following, and while it has changed significantly in gameplay, it maintains its defining themes and individuality, and stays the same at heart. A remake of the first game has been announced in December 2021.
There are also some spinoff novels that take the series in a different direction from the games.
Due to its high popularity, the original trilogy is available as an HD re-release available on PSN, and all of the main games (including both versions of Double Agent) are backwards compatible on the Xbox One. The main games (with the notable exception of Pandora Tomorrow) are available digitally on PC from the Ubisoft Connect and Steam platforms.
Now has a character sheet.
- Product Placement: A recurring element in all games, where placements for various real-world brands are sprinkled in some levels. Sam chews Airwaves gum and uses AXE body spray, Chrysler cars could be found parked in Double Agent, Norelco and Philips electric shavers are shilled in billboards and television ads, everyone's using either a Palm pilot, a Sony Ericsson or a Nokia, and the online meeting between Sam and Grim were carried out using Cisco Telepresence. Egregiously enough, some of the ads were in places where products from Western firms are unlikely to be marketed due to government sanctions or lack of market feasibility, such as in Congo or North Korea.
The stealth games contain the following examples:
- Abnormal Ammo: The under-mounted grenade launcher on the SC-20K has been modified to fire all sorts of non-lethal takedown ordinance, including airfoil rounds, taser darts, and mini-cameras that also release sleeping gas on command.
- A.K.A.-47: Sam's FN F2000 assault rifle and FN Five-seveN semi-automatic pistol are called the "SC-20K M.A.W.S."* and the "SC Pistol" due to early licensing disagreements between Ubisoft and FNnote . The first game was also inconsistent about this, where Lambert referred to the SC-20K as an F2000 during the first mission you received it, and the instruction manual also made mention of the F2000's name when talking about the underbarrel launcher. His "SC Protector" knife was modeled on the Gerber Guardian Back Up in Chaos Theory and Version Two of Double Agent, while the Double Agent Version One knife was based on the Masters of Defense Keating Hornet.
- Air-Vent Passageway: Very common, particularly in the first two games where you would often find at least one per level. Chaos Theory onward toned it down, particularly replacing the man-sized vents you could crouch-walk through with more reasonably-sized ones that could only be traversed via crawling.
- Alternate History: The older games now qualify as this, as their Next Sunday A.D. setting has long since passed without the sorts of events they predicted coming about.
- America Saves the Day: Goes through a full Decon-Recon Switch during the series. In Splinter Cell, Sam fights foreign enemies, except for a mole at the CIA, and even then this is due to hackers taking advantage of a compulsive employee hoarding data on an insecure computer rather than active sabotage on the mole's part. In Pandora Tomorrow a rogue CIA agent, turned down by his agency, remains as the final enemy. In Chaos Theory the Big Bad is North Korea, though the Greater-Scope Villain turns out to be an American mercenary army run by Sam's friend Shetland, and a rogue Japanese admiral; both being allies in the first mission. The terrorists of Double Agent are Americans, who attack targets on several continents. In Conviction, Sam is a rogue agent, while the NSA and the Vice President have gone corrupt. He is back with the NSA for Blacklist to save America from a mix of both foreign and American terrorists again.
- Authority Equals Asskicking:
- In Pandora Tomorrow Sadono can kill you with one shot (from a pistol, no less); however, since Sadono cannot be taken hostage if he spots you (a requirement to complete the mission), it's more of a Non Standard Game Over.
- Shetland in Chaos Theory also survives a fistfight with Fisher long enough for a Hannibal Lecture and Mexican Standoff.
- Emile and Carson in Double Agent are both able to actually break out of a hold when Sam goes to grab them. Carson even manages to force Fisher to drop his knife when he tries to use it. Downplayed in both instances, though, as Fisher still quickly and easily snaps both of their necks, Emile's with a simple punch to the jaw.
- Balcony Escape: Used several times throughout the series.
- Bald of Evil: All the games have bald villains: Grinko was The Dragon in the first one, Norman Soth was the Dragon in Pandora Tomorrow, Douglas Shetland was a villain in Chaos Theory, Double Agent had Emile Dufraisne, Conviction had Calvin Samson, Blacklist had Majid Sadiq.
- Sam himself also goes bald while undercover as a terrorist in the JBA.
- Bad Boss:
- The commander of the North Korean missile battery in Chaos Theory shoots one of his subordinate troops in the face for not being able to offer an explanation for the launching of the missile that sank the Walsh. Admittedly, said subordinate was the only other person in the missile battery who could have normally launched the missile without authorization.
- Domestic terrorist leader Emile Dufraisne, Big Bad of Double Agent, is most definitely one of these. Besides being a generally harsh and abusive boss overall, his actions including having Sam and Enrica tortured for "incompetence", likewise personally killing Enrica because he suspected a mole in the event that you prevent the destruction of the cruise ship, and trying to blow up his own base with a nuclear warhead (taking all his men down with him) when the FBI show up to arrest him. For that matter, it's also outright noted in Enrica's personnel files that the only reason she even stays with the organization is that Emile will turn her in to the police for a murder committed before joining the JBA if she tries to leave.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Typically, the games have two villains to take down: a foreign enemy and his American ally.
- Splinter Cell: Kombayn Nikoladze and Kong Feirong (the only game without an American enemy, although there is a high-level Canadian among the group, Philip Masse).
- Pandora Tomorrow: Suhadi Sadono and rogue CIA agent Norman Soth.
- Chaos Theory: Douglas Shetland and Admiral Toshiro Otomo, including the entire ISDF organization.
- Double Agent: Emile Dufraisne, Massoud Ibn-Yussif and Alejandro Takfir, making for a Big Bad Triumvirate.
- Blatant Item Placement:
- Sam regularly finds ammo for his rare handgun and grenade launcher's tools in the levels. This has been lampshaded on one occasion, see Unusable Enemy Equipment, below.
- Chaos Theory lampshades this in an email amongst North Korean soldiers asking how the hell they managed to get their hands on 5.56mm NATO ammo when none of their small arms chamber it. One level later, you can also interrogate a North Korean soldier in the middle of a war zone who will justify this: they've deliberately been stashing 5.56mm bullets just in case they needed to use enemy weapons.
- Blatant Lies:
Security guard: Who are you?
- When you grab Nikoladze in the first game and interrogate, he acts like he has no idea what the Ark is. He keeps the act going even when Cristavi's elite guard rush in and hold both him and Sam at gunpoint. He finally drops the act when one of the guards outright spells out for him they know what the Ark is (a nuclear suitcase bomb) and even continues lying to save himself by claiming Sam has the activation key for it.
- When Sam Fisher gets a guard into a chokehold or speaks to a noncombatant who isn't explicitly an ally, he tends to come up with elaborate cover stories to extract important information out of them. For example, when trying to recover a phone with a suspect's picture on it:
Fisher: I'm from the phone company, there's been a recall.
Fisher: I need information.
- Also, in Pandora Tomorrow:
Guard: I — I don't speak English!
Fisher: I'd be willing to bet your neck that you do.
Guard: I know a little English...
- Bulletproof Vest: Sam apparently has one built into his suit, and enemy soldiers also start wearing them if you trigger an alert. Reasonably, the only major effect is that they can survive one additional bullet before dying. In Chaos Theory, enemy bullet proof vests can stop pistol rounds fairly effectively, but not rifle rounds.
- Call-Back: Most of the levels in Essentials.
- Call-Forward: Essentials was released before Double Agent, but takes place after it and features a level from it as a callback.
- Captain Obvious: Lambert is prone to bouts of this. Sam reacts accordingly.
- Chevalier vs. Rogue: One Asymmetric Multiplayer mode in some of the games pits a team of agile, stealthy, but fragile agents against a team of heavily armored and armed but not particularly mobile mercenaries.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Every technical support team member when Sam works for Third Echelon. Vernon Wilkes Jr. had getting shot to death as an excuse. But D.P. Brunton, William Redding, and Hisham Hamza? Remember those guys? Of course not, because they disappeared after each of their respective games.
- Then there's Frances Coen. She showed up in the latter half of Splinter Cell to replace Wilkes, returned in Pandora Tomorrow to serve as Sam's main field transporter, then was mentioned in a single line of dialogue in Chaos Theory before vanishing off the face of the earth. Come to think of it, Sam's team keeps getting switched up in every game with the exception of Lambert & Grimsdottir. And we all know what happens to Lambert...
- Wilkes is brought up in Version Two of Double Agent, where Lambert uses his name as an alias when pretending to be a gun runner to get close to Sam. His cover is blown when an anonymous email to the JBA's leader tips him off to the fact that the real Wilkes had been dead for four years.
- Clear My Name: Sam in Essentials.
- Computer Equals Monitor:
- In Splinter Cell and Pandora Tomorrow, shooting at screens destroys the computers, though it is acknowledged as not true to life in the second Chinese Embassy mission: one mook destroys a monitor, convinced that is enough to destroy evidence, and is then told by another that their enemies can still recover usable data from what's left and that he has to wipe the hard drive too.
- Averted since Chaos Theory, which adds the ability to remotely hack computers and requires you to target the actual computer tower - turning off or even destroying the monitors won't affect your ability to hack them.
- Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: A staple of the series - when you dawdle too long when accomplishing your objective, Lambert and/or Grim will admonish you and tell you to get moving.
- Cool Old Guy: In the early games, Sam has the ability to do some limited acrobatics and scramble up the railing from a ledge with a little effort despite being 47 at the start of the series.
- Critical Existence Failure: The moment Fisher hits 0HP, he promptly crumples into a ragdoll heap.
- Darker and Edgier: Progressively with each installment. Pandora Tomorrow gave the player the option to shoot an unarmed woman with only a moment's notice. Chaos Theory had one of the main villains turn out to be Douglas Shetland, a man who was a hero in Pandora Tomorrow and also one of Sam's best friends, though the game in general is a bit Lighter and Softer than the previous two installments. Double Agent had Sam be falsely convicted of armed robbery in order to join up with a terrorist group after his daughter is killed by a drunk driver, and the player gets the option to shoot Lambert in the ending.
- Deadpan Snarker: Seems like a requirement to join the Third Echelon, since the majority of the black humor comes from the interaction between Fisher, his handlers, and the mooks unlucky enough to be interrogated by him.Fisher: I'm going inside to meet your friends. Anything I need to worry about?
Mook: They have guns.
Fisher: I'm shocked and amazed. What else?
- Decapitated Army:
- In the first game, the support team outright tells Sam that when he takes out Grinko, his mercenaries will give up and go home now that there's nobody to pay them. Sure enough, the mission immediately ends once you've hollowed out his skull.
- In Pandora Tomorrow, the capture of Suhadi Sadono causes the Darah Dan Doa to back down, effectively ending the conflict in East Timor.
- In Chaos Theory, the death of Doug Shetland puts Displace out of business permanently, and some of the remnants became part of the JBA, as heard in a conversation in Double Agent. Now that the government knows what they've been up to, those who remained standing surely had a lot more explaining to do.
- The capture of Admiral Otomo also cripples the Japanese I-SDF, as he eventually makes a full confession for his part in the conspiracy in Asia.
- Determinator: Sam, full stop. What would cause most people to shy away is just another day at the office for him.
- Developers' Foresight:
- In the first game's training level, the assault course ends with Fisher acquiring a lockpick at a locked door. Should a player then perform the assault course backwards and return to the beginning, they can now access the locked observation room, and have a conversation with Grim. Or smack her in the head and have to start entirely over.
- It's possible across most of the games to figure out the code to a keypad by looking at the keypad with thermal goggles shortly after someone else enters the code, rather than having to find a data stick somewhere in the level that has the code. This doesn't become mandatory until the abattoir level (two levels away from the end), in which you can read an email from Grinko admonishing his men for the various security holes the player has been able to take advantage of because of sending door codes through unencrypted mail, but as long as you can stay close to someone as they're passing through a coded door without being spotted, you can use this trick from the instant you get the thermal vision mode starting from the fourth level.
- In Chaos Theory, there's a sequence in the "Penthouse" mission that requires activating an archaic supercomputer. First-time players will undoubtedly need both Grim's and the nearby Engineer's exposition to explain what it is and how to work it; second-time players who jump right in to get it over with will instead get additional dialogue where Sam explains things and what he is doing.
- Some major characters have interrogation sequences despite how difficult they are to hear. In Version 2 of Double Agent, the final fight has Dufrasne firing at Sam with an M249 from across a trip mine maze; despite this, players who saved enough flashbangs can get close enough to grab him, allowing players to hear a secret conversation (provided the nuclear bomb has enough time left).
- In both versions of Double Agent, it's noted that Jamie Washington has an artificial pacemaker. Since the OCP is available in Version 2's ending, especially cruel players can send him into cardiac arrest with it, causing him to keel over and die silently.
- Dragon Their Feet: Every game in the series up to Double Agent has you mopping up the last co-conspirator in the final level after having already disposed of the Big Bad in the second-to-last level. In Splinter Cell it happens in "Kola Cell", a Xbox-exclusive downloadable level, and in Version 1 of Double Agent it's a bonus level for achieving the Best Ending.
- Dying Alone:
Coen: What do you think?
- Occasionally crops up with major character deaths, such as Enrica in Double Agent (Version 2) and Irving Lambert in Double Agent (Version 1). Also noted humorously in Pandora Tomorrow when Fisher looks over Soth's file:
Fisher: The world is small, nasty, and complicated, and everybody dies alone.
Coen: [laughs] What do you think about Norman Soth?
Fisher: He's small, nasty, and complicated. But I guess how he'll die is up to him.
Fisher: How many men do you have up here?
- Also mentioned in one optional interrogation in Chaos Theory's Penthouse level:
Mercenary: I'm alone on this roof.
Fisher: Alone, huh? Lousy way to die.
Mercenary: We all die alone.
- Dynamic Entry: Plenty, far from limited to Goomba Stomps or bashing doors open into people.
- Elite Mooks:
- The Georgian Special Forces in the final mission of Splinter Cell and the I-JSDF commandos in Chaos Theory are... disappointing. They wear night-vision goggles, but that just means that it's a little easier for them to spot you if you move rapidly near them. They still can't see you in normal darkness even if they have a perfect line-of-sight, as long as you move slowly and/or are more than a dozen or so feet away from them.
- Big Bad Shetland's personal bodyguards, on the other hand, have thermal vision goggles and are the only enemies in the entire series who can see you perfectly even in pitch darkness.
- Elites Are More Glamorous: The series as a whole. The player character is a former Navy Seal who travels the world, engaging in highly-dangerous operations with top-of-the-line equipment and upgrades.
- Enemy Chatter: Happens in several installments, so much so some objectives can be done by hearing or recording the right chatter.
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: The first four games incorporate this, with Fisher often using psychological means to terrify or confuse mooks into giving up information. This was later removed from the series, however, with Conviction going with direct physical torture and Blacklist doing away with interactive interrogations.Mook: Forget it, I won't tell you anything!
Fisher: (laughing) Are you crazy? We're on the 60th floor!
Mook: Wha— whaddya mean?!
Fisher: Y'know, it's not true that you go unconscious before you hit the ground. You see it coming the whole way.
Mook: You— you wouldn't!
Fisher: You wanna convince me not to?
- Enter Solution Here: The code for a huge number of keypads in the games can be found on computers or in the possession of guards. If you have found the code to a keypad, it'll be displayed when you enter the screen to type it in.
- Suhadi Sadono from Pandora Tomorrow is a charismatic guerilla leader who resembles Che Guevara both in looks and clothing style. In one cutscene, an American college student is seen wearing a Suhadi Sadono t-shirt similar to the Che Guevara t-shirts worn by real-life college students. He is also similar in name to Agusto César Sandino, and like him, gains much support and popularity from his people based on his opposition of U.S. military domination in his homeland.
- In-universe, Double Agent has a few to previous Splinter Cell characters:
- Emile Dufraisne is a Composite Character of several allies from previous games. His status as the Big Bad and leader of the JBA who often gives orders personally to Fisher while he's on the job makes him the Lambert expy, but he's also got shades of the various runners (Junior Wilkes, Coen, Redding) in his tendency to transport Fisher to the mission sites, as well as Douglas Shetland for his typical more hands-on approach to those missions, and his plans to essentially restart America by killing a lot of people.
- Grimsdottir in turn gets Decomposite Characters. Enrica Villablanca shares her status as the token female of the group and the second most talkative and helpful of the support staff behind Emile, but any and all technical wizardry she performs to more directly aid Fisher actually comes from programs written by the otherwise-rarely-seen Stanley Dayton.
- Foregone Conclusion: For those who played Essentials (released before both versions of Double Agent), the confirmation of Lambert's death at Sam's hands in Conviction isn't a surprise.
- Form-Fitting Wardrobe: The stealth suits.
- Gaiden Game: Essentials isn't actually essential to keeping track of the series' plot, but it does cover up any questions you might have about the leap from Double Agent to Conviction... or was supposed to, before Conviction hit Development Hell.
- Gameplay Grading: Chaos Theory and Version 1 of Double Agent have a grading followed by a stealth rating at the end of each mission up to a rating of 100% stealth, with it being decreased by stuff like being spotted by enemies, killing enemies, the number of alerts raised, bodies being found, etc. While the solo play of Version 2 of Double Agent still uses the grading system, it doesn't give you a stealth rating, with your actions instead affecting your Karma Meter. The co-op of Version 2 does bring back the stealth ratings, though.
- Good Is Not Nice: Fisher is this in trumps. In a nutshell, he has zero sympathy for powerful monsters, the "innocent", or cowards (to name a few groups).
- Goomba Stomp: Landing on enemies is one way to knock them out.
- Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Bosses are no more or less durable than regular Mooks and, in several cases, can be stealthed the same way. Even during the final confrontation with Emile Dufraisne in Version Two of Double Agent, he still goes down with a single headshot or knife wounds.
- Heal Thyself: In the first three games. In the first game, they were an equipment item that could be picked up, with you being able to carry five at one time and using them one at a time to heal a small chunk of health. Pandora Tomorrow switched to wall-mounted kits that you used as you needed, with their supplies represented by red lights on the side that turned off as you used the kit's contents, equaling about as much as a full set of five kits from the first game. Chaos Theory switched to depicting actual medical supplies in the kits, which Sam would actually take out and use for himself, though as such the number of times he can heal himself with them is reduced to three at most, if he first hits the kit after only a small amount of damage. Double Agent and onward switched over to Regenerating Health.
- How We Got Here: The plot of Essentials. Also, the Flash Forward sections of Conviction can also be considered this.
- Human Shield: Sam can take most enemies hostage by putting a gun to their head in the first game and Pandora Tomorrow, and putting a knife to their throat in the later games. Most enemies will hesitate to shoot him unless Sam is aiming his pistol at them.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Averted. Sam only ever has a pistol, a rifle, and starting from Chaos Theory a knife, all of which are visible on his person whether he's using them or not. Played a bit more straight with his various other gadgets, but he's still realistically limited to a handful of each at best, and even then it can be explained in that most of those gadgets are pretty small so that they fit into his SC-20K's underbarrel launcher.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: "TOM CLANCY'S SPLINTER CELL". Ironically, he didn't write any of it past the concept, and only had say in a few areas.
- In-Series Nickname: Anna Grímsdóttir goes by "Grim" to most, and occasionally "the Grim Reaper" to some.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Despite all the climbing, the game can get quite picky about certain things.
- I Surrender, Suckers: A staple of the series.
- Sam pulls this in a scene very near the end of the first game, when Georgian forces have him at gunpoint, and another in Pandora Tomorrow where he exits a doorway at the Kundang camp and a bunch of soldiers on the other side hold him up. He's rescued by, respectively, a well-timed blackout organized by Grim allowing him to get to cover and start shooting, and assistance from Displace snipers distracting the soldiers from him.
- Douglas Shetland tries to pull this on Sam during their final confrontation in Chaos Theory, roughly three quarters of the way through the game. Even if Sam goes for it, all that happens is Shetland gets a knife in the chest for his trouble, rather than a bullet to the head.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Surprisingly averted, with Sam instead using threats, mind games, and a scary voice to get information.
- If you get hit by an enemy's sticky shocker in Chaos Theory, you're treated to an interrogation scene where you can pick your own cuffs while enemies rough you up with this.
- Played straight in Conviction, where Sam beats the crap out people he wants information out of.
- Just a Stupid Accent: In the first game and Chaos Theory, foreign enemies would always speak English to each other in whatever accent matches their ethnicity. Sometimes it would be so bad it got to the point of Narm (just listen to the North Korean soldiers). Thankfully this trope started to stop with Double Agent and was absent from Conviction and Blacklist.
- Bizarrely averted in Pandora Tomorrow. For whatever reason, almost all the voice actors in this game didn't bother to use any kind of accent. Thus, you get the rather hilarious situation where Indonesian militants, Syrian mercenaries, Israeli police officers and a French train conductor actually sound more American than Sam does (which in itself is funny on another level, as Michael Ironside is Canadian). That same game also averts this trope in a different manner in the Jerusalem level, where you can sneak by two Ultraorthodox rabbis who are speaking in Hebrew to each other. Also averted in that same game's final mission, where the terrorists you are hunting are all Americans.
- Averted in the PC version of Chaos Theory, where there is an option to have bad guys speak in their proper languages.
- Justified Tutorial: The first game starts with a training mission, with Sam noting that he hasn't been on the field since he left the Navy ten years prior.
- In Chaos Theory, the "Penthouse" mission's Mooks are civilians and cops, meaning Fisher is seriously scolded for being discovered or violent towards the mooks, and can have his non-primary objectives cancelled for doing so. The reason for this becomes apparent in the next mission, as Fisher is not allowed any kills and alarms can make it nigh-unbeatable by extension.
- Kill the Lights: This is a tactic that can be used by Sam by using his small arms to shoot out anything that emits light ranging from light bulbs to the lighting sign in order to reduce chances of him being caught out in the open. On the other hand, this can be used by Sam to sneak up on an enemy and grab them from the side or from the back.
- Laser Hallway: Used in several of the games.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Most installments of the series have had these.
- Little Useless Gun: Sam's standard guns pack comparatively little punch compared to those of other video game protagonists; pistol headshots are sometimes not even guaranteed kills and centre-of-mass shots even with the assault rifle can come across as a waste of ammo. This is probably due to Sam using subsonic ammo, trading stopping power for discretion. Averted in Conviction and Blacklist, where a variety of different guns are available, giving the option of more firepower.
- The entire modus operandi of Third Echelon. They're so top-secret, they don't even share their existence with the CIA. As the blurb on the original game announced: "should you be captured or killed, all knowledge of your existence will be denied."
- Even more, each Splinter Cell (which consists of a handler [Lambert], a tech expert [Grim], an operative [Fisher], and a support specialist [who tends to get killed]) has absolutely no knowledge of any other Splinter Cell operated by Third Echelon. They are completely independent from each other so that if one Cell gets burned, their knowledge is limited. It's implied several times that Sam's extensive knowledge of Third Echelon itself is also not normal.
- Multi-Platform: Every game except Essentials. Double Agent is notable for having two different versions depending on the platform.
- Musical Spoiler: The games are fairly quiet, focusing on ambient background music... until the player alerts an enemy, at which point different music starts. The music even reveals how sticky the situation is, because the music varies between different levels of the enemies' awareness of the player. Finally, when the music starts to fade, the player is in the clear.
- Next Sunday A.D.: The first few games in the series take place two years after they were released. Splinter Cell was released in 2002 and is set in late 2004, with some bonus missions taking place in early 2005. Pandora Tomorrow was released in 2004 and takes place in 2006. Chaos Theory was released in 2005 and takes place in 2007. Double Agent was released in 2006 and takes place in 2008. Essentials was released in 2006 and one of its missions takes place in early 2009.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The co-op prologue campaign of Splinter Cell: Conviction plays largely on this trope. Throughout the game's story, the protagonist agents, Archer and Kestrel were originally tasked with destroying and/or recovering weapons of mass destruction that were in possession by rogue elements of the Russian military. Unknown to those agents, 3rd Echelon Director Tom Reed was pulling strings behind the scenes to have the two agents steal the EMP weapons for themselves to help set up the main plot of Conviction. In a last-ditch effort to cover his tracks, Reed orders Archer to kill Kestrel, while secretly having 3rd Echelon asset Andriy Kobin kill the agent (later retconned to be sent into a coma) that survived their duel.
- Ninja: A Running Gag in the earlier games is that Fisher will often overhear guards talking about an intruder and one of them will say it's a ninja, only for the other to call him crazy for thinking so.
- Chaos Theory in particular has the most well-known instance, where after the requisite conversation, you can grab either of the guys who had it, and then interrogating him has him promptly go full Fan Boy mode, so enthralled by the fact that it really is a ninja that even the threat of murder just has him respond "killed by a ninja, cool!", before asking if you'll kill him with your blowpipe or if you have any tetsubishi on you.
- Lampshaded at one point in the first game: while trying to carry an unconscious computer analyst out of the CIA for interrogation, Lambert warns Fisher ahead of time about someone from the CIA chatting with Wilkes and their interrogation specialist. Fisher asks how they got spotted, only to be told that they weren't trying to hide - there's nothing wrong with people from different agencies talking on public property, it's the "SIGINT ninja" carrying an unconscious CIA employee out of the building that would be an issue.
- Nintendo Hard: The pre-action games as a whole, both due to a major enemy advantage and the gameplay requirements, which are strongly oriented towards sneaking, timing, and planning. As noted by Lambert, weapons are always a last resort, as playing the game (for example) like Metal Gear Solid will only get you killed; even choosing the "armed to the teeth" loadouts in Chaos Theory and Double Agent aren't recommended on anything above normal difficulty.
- No Canon for the Wicked: Subverted with Double Agent. While the evil options of the first two big choices, blowing up a cruise ship and killing Hamza, are non-canon, the third, killing Lambert, is canon.
- No-Gear Level: In Version Two of Double Agent, you fight a final boss battle against Dufraisne inside a maze of laser tripmines; he's got a heavy machine gun, you're unarmed (navigating the maze to reach your discarded pistol is a large part of the fight). Of course, it is possible to rush him and stab him, as well as kill him with a frag grenade.
- In the first few levels of the first game, you only have a pistol and don't get your fancy rifle until the CIA level near the middle of the campaign.
- Nonindicative Name: Somewhat. John Brown's Army doesn't have anything to do with abolitionism and is a curious name for a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic organization. The name seems to have less to do with John Brown's ideals and more with his methods, since the charter for the organization you can read while exploring the HQ between missions claims that they see the current American government as hopelessly corrupt, and one of John Brown's tenets was that the only way to abolish injustices such as slavery was armed insurrection against the corrupt government that condoned them.
- No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: Zigzagged as, while there is always a set of objectives and a place/person to reach, the game often lets you chose one of several paths you take to get there. Both Chaos Theory and Double Agent take it further, even letting you ignore minor objectives and continue on after setting off multiple alarms.
- No Such Agency: Third Echelon does not officially exist, and the government will deny any knowledge of its existence. By Conviction, however, this seems to be averted, as Third Echelon has its own publicly-accessible headquarters in D.C.. Fourth Echelon in Blacklist is a deconstruction of the concept: Sam's organization is so secret no one can know about them, but nobody in the US intelligence community is willing to share information with someone they don't trust.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In the first and third games, NPC characters will speak English with whatever accent that matches their nationality. However, in Pandora Tomorrow, outside of a single group of civilians in Jerusalem, everybody speaks English with generic North American accents. So, you get the funny result of Israelis, Frenchmen, Syrians, and Indonesians all speaking English with fluent U.S. accents.
- Also, in Chaos Theory on the PC, there is an option to enable people to speak their real native languages.
- "Not So Different" Remark: Majid pretty much says this to Fisher, they're both men who kill in cold blood without regard for the law for a cause they believe in.
- Nothing Is Scarier: In the Seoul level on Chaos Theory, there is no background music, just silence. This gives the level an eerie feel, combined with the imagery of war going on everywhere (fires, AAA tracer fire, fog, etc.).
- Occupiers Out of Our Country: The motivation of a few of the enemies in the series, notably Suhadi Sadono in Pandora Tomorrow who demands that all U.S. forces leave Indonesia & East Timor.
- Optional Stealth: Chaos Theory, despite being a stealth game, allows the player to just run through the game if they want, going so far as to let players choose an "assault" loadout that gives them extra ammunition and grenades and more lethal gadgets instead of stealth tools.
- Pacifist Run: The number of people you have to kill to win any given entry in the series is never more than one, though certain missions make it difficult to pull this off. Conviction seems to make this even harder, since only hostage-taking and the distraction cam are guaranteed non-lethal. This sometimes leads to Gameplay and Story Segregation, where Fisher will be instructed to kill someone but knocking them out will also work.
- Pandora Tomorrow averts this. You must kill all the members of the terrorist group in the final mission. Even if you knock them out, Brunton will contact you on the radio and insist that they need to be dead. Which means that you then have to plug a few bullets into their unconscious bodies. Justified in that these men were planning to detonate a smallpox bomb in LAX.
- Also averted in Chaos Theory, where you have to kill three people: Hugo Lacerda, Milan Nedich and Douglas Shetland. Two of the three are even grabbed and interrogated, after which Fisher automatically kills them even if the player hits the button to just knock them out; to compensate for players who actually are doing pacifist runs, these three kills aren't counted at the end-of-mission score screen.
- Painting the Medium: Done cleverly as a form of Self-Deprecation in Chaos Theorynote - during the opening of the second level:Lambert: Fisher, we just pulled up Celestinia's dry-dock report for the Maria Narcissa. They have a newly-installed central alarm system.
Sam: Don't tell me - three alarms and the mission's over?
Lambert: Of course not! This is no video game, Fisher.
- Papa Wolf:
- In Double Agent, Sam thought his daughter had been killed by a drunk driver. By the time Conviction rolls around, he's found out that it was really murder. He is not happy. And then he finds it was faked for his and Sarah's protection. By Lambert.
- A bonus level in Double Agent had Fisher's daughter kidnapped by a group of terrorists, and Sam was coming to her rescue on an unsanctioned mission. Lambert was able to get a hold of him at the start, and told Sam to let him send in a group to take care of them. Sam counters by asking if it were Lambert's children, what would he do. Lambert said he'd "send you (Sam Fisher) in."
- Phrase Catcher: In Chaos Theory, absolutely everyone - Panamanian bank security officers, American PMCs guarding an apartment, and Japanese I-SDF soldiers - can and will react to catching a glimpse of Sam then discovering nothing when they investigate with "nothing here but ghosts and shadows".
- President Evil: The Big Bad of the first game is the President of Georgia.
- Prison Riot: Sam uses one as cover to escape from Ellsworth in Double Agent.
- Private Military Contractors: Armed Guardian Services (ARGUS) in Pandora Tomorrow, and Displace International in both there and Chaos Theory.
- Product Placement:
- Quite a bit. For example, during a pivotal scene in Chaos Theory, a purple Ubisoft blimp is clearly visible, SoBe vending machines are found inside CIA HQ in the first game, and a major plot reveal in Conviction is done using a Cisco telepresence call. That last one could have been done over the phone, except for the possible reason that Grim wanted to look Sam in the eye when she told him about Lambert's deception.
- Sam chewing Wrigley's Airwaves in several cutscenes in Chaos Theory. And the dramatic inner city zipline that just happens to start atop an 8-foot tall neon Axe Deodorant sign. In fact, you may struggle to find a single level in Chaos Theory without one branding or another.
- Double Agent has Sam use a Nokia phone whenever he goes Safe Cracking.
- The OpSat prominently displaying the Palm or Sony Ericsson logo in a couple of the games is a particularly unsubtle example.
- There is an Axe deodorant billboard in the Penthouse level.
- Punchclock Villain: Occasional, such as "Penthouse" in Chaos Theory; Lambert warns that the people policing the streets during the blackout are volunteers and/or cops, and he severely scolds Fisher if he kills any of them.
- Put on a Bus: Frances Coen from the latter half of the original game and Pandora Tomorrow. In the game she acted as Sam's field runner (replacing Vernon Wilkes, Jr. from the first half of the original game), and assisted him during several missions. She did not return in Chaos Theory, although it is mentioned that she was assigned to Japan to spy on a Yakuza organization called the Red Nishin. No mention of the character has been made since.
- Rage Against the Reflection: Intro to Double Agent.
- Red Herring: In Chaos Theory, this is the literal name for the Red Nishin yakuza gang. They are also, of course, actual red herrings. Displace's evil mercenaries are here to meet with agents from the rogue ISDF, not the Nishin.
- Retcon: The year in which Sam's ex-wife died. The manual for the Play Station 2 version of Double Agent mentions under Sarah's biography that Regan died in the 1980s. However, according to Conviction, she was still alive circa 1991.
- Rule of Cool: When the first game was in development, Tom Clancy (who insists that games using his name maintain a certain level of realism) rejected the idea of Sam Fisher's "trifocal goggles" because at the time goggles with both thermal and night vision would have been impossible to create. The game's developers convinced Tom Clancy to allow the goggles by arguing that having Sam switch between two separate pairs of goggles would have made for awkward gameplay. Ironically, since the release of the original game, Northrop Grumman and ITT Industries have both invented goggles to allow the user the same type of vision as the iconic Splinter Cell goggles.
- Rule of Fun: The lights on Sam's goggles and other gear are not diegetic and do not exist in-universe; according to promotional materials, they're entirely for gameplay's sake, to make it easier for the player to actually see where their character is in the dark.
- Also, it's apparently fairly common for locations to be outfitted with security cameras and light fixture covers which can withstand assault rifle rounds.
- Sad Clown:
- While Sam Fisher doesn't come across as very depressed in the first three games, it doesn't stop Gallows Humor from being a part of the character's personality.
- According to the manual for Chaos Theory, Fisher's dark sense of humor is a coping mechanism he uses to defuse the tension and stress he is often under due to the dangerous positions he often finds himself in during a mission.
- Save the Villain: In Chaos Theory Admiral Otomo tries to commit seppuku. Sam has to save him so someone will still be alive to take public responsibility for the entire sorry mess.
- Scare Chord: The original features a creepy piano sound every time the enemies get suspicious.
- Scenery Porn: All of the games are known for their excellent graphics, the original Xbox version making one of the largest technological leaps of that generation. There was even a developer's commentary video included on the disk just to point out some of the more impressive things they managed to pull off.
- In Chaos Theory, in the confrontation between Sam and Doug.
- Ship Level: Chaos Theory has the Cargo Ship, while Double Agent has Cozumel and the second half of the Sea of Okhotsk.
- Shown Their Work: In Chaos Theory, the foreign locales are very-well and accurately detailed. In the Seoul level, the storefront shutters are yellow, blue, and red, just like the real ones in South Korea. In the Bathhouse level, the Japanese bathrooms have squat toilets, which are very common in Asia.
- Skeleton Key: Used in the early games; in the first, there's a lockpick that shatters the pins to unlock almost any door, and the third had a "telemetric lockpick" that allows Fisher to open a dual-lock vault.
- Sniper Scope Sway: The games require you to hold your breath to get a steady shot when using a sniper scope, with the time you can hold it limited.
- South Asian Terrorists: Version One of Double Agent has a rogue Pakistani nuclear scientist named Dr. Aswat, who Emile and Massoud have a meeting with in Shanghai to purchase Red Mercury devices from, and Emile orders you to steal the notes from his safe. You are later tasked by the NSA at the end of the mission to kill him, otherwise you'll lose a lot of trust with them, but your JBA trust is also slowly going down as they wait for you to extract, so you have to be quick about it.
- Spy Cat Suit:
- Sam's suit isn't quite as fetishistic as the one in Metal Gear, but it's rather close. The novel says it's more or less a full length wetsuit that makes sure no sound comes out while he's moving, and it does feature camouflage and lots of pockets and gear strapped on.
- The Double Agent multiplayer versions exposed the character's arms. A female spy was added later on, and she's pretty much there just for fanservice.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Sam and Enrica in Double Agent.
- Stronger with Age: Sam's abilities simply get more fearsome with time, considering he soon upgrades to knives and corner grabs in the later, pre-action-reboot games.
- Stupid Sacrifice: Lambert's (canonical) death at the end of Double Agent. It benefits Sam very little, as Dufraisne is about to nuke the JBA headquarters, and Sam's cover is simply blown a little later stopping Dufraisne.
- Super Drowning Skills: In the first games, though Sam learns how to swim in between Chaos Theory and Double Agent. Presumably he had to pick it up pretty fast during that final cutscene, which is odd, since the first thing we see Sam do in the Splinter Cell series is... deep sea diving.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Sinister, Obviously Evil Third Echelon Director Williams is replaced by sinister, Obviously Evil Third Echelon Director Reed between Essentials and Conviction. Given the two characters are very similar in personality and serve a virtually identical role in the plot, one wonders why they didn't simply keep Williams as the Big Bad.
- Swiss Army Gun: By Chaos Theory and Double Agent, the SC-20K has become one of these to an extent. Even from the start it already had the do-everything launcher that could launch stun rounds, airfoil rounds, and the various camera types on top of the regular gun with its long-range scope, but these games added onto that with a variety of grenade types to launch and the ability to slide the launcher off to replace it with a foregrip for steadier shots, an underbarrel shotgun for more close-range utility in a firefight, or even a 20mm sniper rifle attachment.
- Take a Third Option: Completing optional objectives sometimes gives the player more options on how to tackle situations that appear later, which would otherwise be hidden.
- Defied early and late in Double Agent — early on, Fisher is ordered by the JBA to kill a pilot of a helicopter he captured or not for reputation with either the JBA or NSA. The game does not allow you to traverse your aim over to anyone else, such as the leader of the JBA standing right in the room. Later, Fisher has to either kill Lambert to maintain his cover, or kill Jamie Washington to save Lambert. If you like, you can fire your shot into the air — in which case, you immediately get headshotted by Washington, resulting in a Game Over.
- Take That!:
- Numerous digs at other video game franchises, including Metal Gear, Prince of Persia (which had a remake series starting around the same time by Ubisoft, so it qualifies as Biting-the-Hand Humor), and Half-Life ("crowbars are for geeky video game characters"). And previous Splinter Cell games ("don't tell me, three alarms and the mission's over?").
- In Pandora Tomorrow, clothing featuring the face of Suadi Sadono becomes fashionable in the west, and it's implied that many of the people who buy the shirts do so for fashion reasons and not because they support the man's cause. This is very likely a jab at college students who wear Che Guevara t-shirts but know little to nothing about the man himself.
- Tap on the Head: Sam knocks out numerous guards (including civilians and U.S. National Guard) with blows to the head. Subverted in one instance in Chaos Theory, where the captain of the ship dies if you knock him out by any method (you can see his body cooling down in thermal vision).
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Averted for the most part, guards are very thorough and will follow your trail of destruction if you're reckless enough to leave one behind. However, whoever is watching the camera monitors still can't seem to figure out that something is wrong when all the cameras are being put out or that they should call for outside support when Sam walks in front of the camera with relative impunity once all of the guards are dead. It's Probably Nothing is a recurring line in each game.
- The Last Thing You Ever See: One of the best features in Multiplayer. If a Spy player manages to get a Mercenary player into a chokehold, he can whisper into the player's ear until snapping his neck.
- This Is Reality:Irving Lambert: Fisher, we just pulled up Celestinia's dry-dock report for the Maria Narcissa. They have a newly-installed central alarm system.
Sam Fisher: Don't tell me - three alarms and the mission's over?
Irving Lambert: Of course not! This is no video game, Fisher.
- Throwing the Distraction: Bottles and cans work as distractions (and with the expanded physics interactions in Chaos Theory, nonlethal weapons) in a pinch. That said, it can be risky if whoever you're trying to distract can see the item flying through the air before it hits what you threw it at, since they'll investigate where they think it came from rather than where it landed.
- Too Kinky to Torture: Sam's interrogation technique is usually effective, but there is always at least one guard who's too stupid or crazy for it to have any meaningful effect. For example, in Chaos Theory, one guard assumes that Sam is a ninja and is so occupied with babbling on about how cool ninjas are that Sam is completely unable to get any useful information from him. Even threats of imminent death only make the guard excited about how cool it would be to be killed by a ninja. Another mook, a Japanese soldier on guard duty, claims he is Not Afraid to Die, refusing to spill any information. Truth in Television, as 90% of the actually well-paid, well-trained, and fiercely loyal, guards don't succumb to Sam's scare tactics, while grunts, cheap guards and civilians do.
- Trial-and-Error Gameplay: This has been, to greater or lesser degrees, always true when attempting a ghost run in any of the Splinter Cell titles, but it quickly hits near impossible territory when trying for a complete Stealth Run or Pacifist Run of Conviction. It is possible, but it seems like the developers go out of their way to discourage it in that title.
- Unusable Enemy Equipment:
- Sam cannot pick up most enemy weapons, or ammunition from them unless the user has it in a satchel. Being unable to take ammunition is justified for his pistol, as it uses 5.7x28mm ammunition, which is rare in every country and is not likely to see major service in any time setting the Splinter Cell games take place in due to its Real Life performance issues. However, Sam's rifle fires the very standard 5.56x45mm ammunition from standardized magazines. Many of Sam's adversaries carry weapons that use that same ammunition, but he can't pick up bullets from them.
- At the same time, however, loose ammo pickups for both of his guns and the various items he can launch from his underbarrel launcher show up in some very strange places, including oil rigs in the Caspian sea, Internet startup companies in D.C.* , the streets of Jerusalem, the maintenance hallways of LAX, and a Panamanian bank. In Chaos Theory this is lampshaded a couple times: there is an e-mail Sam can read in a mission set in a North Korean missile battery wherein a mook is complaining that 5.56mm ammunition was provided to them instead of the 7.62mm rounds any of their weapons actually use. In the next level, interrogating a North Korean mook has him reveal that he and his buddies have been deliberately stashing enemy ammo, just in case they need to use enemy weapons for some reason.
- Updated Re-release: The original trilogy has an HD re-release on the PS3.
- Visibility Meter: Sam Fisher has a "stealth meter": a slider that shows how exposed he currently is. Justified by the fact that the stealth meter is one of Sam's in-universe gadgets connected to dozens of light sensors sewn into his stealth suit that dynamically measure the illumination around him. In Chaos Theory, the meter is expanded to include the amount of sound Sam is making against the ambient noise of the environment; Double Agent then switched to a simplified system, where the light on the back of his shoulder and on the lenses of his goggles would change colors depending on the light, with green indicating full invisibility, yellow for lit up enough to be spotted, and red for actually having been spotted.
- Weapon of Mass Destruction: What many of the game's plots revolve around stopping.
- Splinter Cell: An unprovoked invasion on a neighboring country by a President Evil leads to a revelation that he has sold nuclear material to a renegade Chinese general who wishes to start a war by nuking Taiwan. And then a nuclear suitcase bomb by said President Evil is revealed to be hidden somewhere in American soil.
- Pandora Tomorrow: Five smallpox bombs have been hidden in various locations by the terrorists and are on a Dead Man's Switch unless they are reset every 24 hours on their boss's orders, which makes killing the Big Bad impossible.
- Double Agent: The John Brown's Army developing Red Mercury bombs, which are more or less non-radioactive nukes, with plans to detonate a few on American targets and sell others to allies in Shanghai.
- Western Terrorists: Quite a few of the enemies in the series, such as Phillip Masse, Norman Soth, Douglas Shetland, and the entire John Brown's Army organization.
- In the final mission of Pandora Tomorrow, you can grab one of the terrorists and interrogate him. Sam identifies him as an American based on his accent (from Virginia, by the terrorist's own admission) and calls him out on being an American trying to kill thousands of other Americans. The terrorist's response is that there aren't many "real" Americans left these days.
- What the Hell, Player?:
Lambert: Fisher! You just killed an innocent man!
- Although killing civilians, hostages, or anyone else you're not supposed to would normally just result in an instant game over, in Pandora Tomorrow you could blow up a French security guard witness with no penalty except for Lambert complaining about how Sam's lost his mind. Likewise, in Chaos Theory, killing civilians or U.S. soldiers simply gives you a 0% score and a serious chiding from Mission Control instead of instantly ending the game.
- There's considerable hilarity to some of Lambert's exclamations; it's a lot of fun trying to Catch Em All...
Sam: Sorry. I thought he was the enemy.
- In some situations, Sam actually demands What The Hell Mission Control. For example, in Pandora Tomorrow, after having a female Shin Bet agent escort him through the city at great personal risk to herself, Fisher is ordered in the last few seconds he sees her to kill her. If you, as the player, do so (you do have the option, interestingly), then the first thing Sam says at the beginning of the next scene is "Tell me what I just did, Lambert." When he finds the answer unsatisfactory, he berates his boss for poor decision-making and claiming that shooting unarmed women for little reason is mighty close to terrorism. Said Shin Bet agent actually was planning on betraying you, though. If you refuse to shoot her in the five seconds it takes for the elevator to get moving, she'll be waiting for you with a sniper rifle and a few similarly-armed friends when you start to move back out of the level.
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Occasionally mentioned, as Sarah is left alone while Sam is on missions. Becomes the reason for Sam becoming a double agent in the fourth game, as he has no family left to go home to, and thus completely commits his life to espionage.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Averted, as Sam never gives them the chance since he avoids confronting his enemies face-to-face, preferring to take them out with a minimum of drama at long range or from behind; the few times he presents an opportunity like this, the bad guys hesitate anyway, such as grabbing Sadono near the end of Pandora Tomorrow - nobody shoots because they don't want to risk killing their own boss. Played straight in Conviction, though. During the final confrontation Director Reed has multiple opportunities to just shoot Sam, but instead just continually goes off on another tangent in his Motive Rant.
- Would Hit a Girl:
- In the first game, if you do strike Grim during the training mission where she appears in person, you get an instant game over (justified as there really is no reason to do it, and you and her are coworkers). You can likewise kill or knock Frances Coen out when she takes over as Sam's runner halfway through the game for an immediate game over.
- In the Jerusalem level of Pandora Tomorrow, you are ordered to kill a Shin Bet agent supposedly helping you. However the player can choose not to, which will come back to bite them later on in the level.
- Worst Aid: How does Sam save the villain of Chaos Theory from a self-inflicted knife wound? By ripping the knife right out, obviously. And, of course, Sam shows the proper respect in setting down the knife the villain used for his attempt at seppuku, in a situation where he really does not have the time. The original game possibly does poke fun at this sort of thing, however, where a wounded technician in the Kalinatek level asks the player to carry him to the infirmary. Sam promptly carries him there across his shoulders the same way he does any unconscious or dead guards he needs to move out of the way, and the guy exposits for another minute before checking out.
The action-stealth games contain the following examples:
- Action Prologue: In Blacklist.
- Actionized Sequel: The series post-Double Agent.
- Conviction, based on the emphasis of the "Mark & Execute" feature, and the reduction/removal of features used to distract and incapacitate rather than kill.
- Blacklist was at first shaping up to be even more of this, with a variety of new offensive moves such as running "Executes", but it also features more stealthy options to accommodate, ample opportunity to stealth one's way through every level without being seen or so much as killing a single person like in games of old and an added Perfectionist difficulty that takes away melees from the front and Mark & Execute.
- All There in the Manual: The events that happened between Conviction and Blacklist (including the formation of Fourth Echelon) only occur in a tie-in graphic novel that's included with the Blacklist Collector's Edition.
- Apologetic Attacker: Briggs softly apologizes right before killing the Secretary of Defense.
- Ascended Extra: Grim goes from being a Voice with an Internet Connection to a main character in Conviction, though she still keeps some of her old role. Taken further in some of the side materials such as one of the "anecdotes" for EndWar, she outright became Director of Third Echelon. Conviction makes this unlikely, what with Third Echelon being destroyed and replaced by Fourth Echelon in Blacklist.
- Bag of Spilling:
- Somewhere between Double Agent and Conviction, Sam appears to have lost the ability to knock enemies out without killing them. Excluding one portion of a mid-game level, whenever you walk up to an enemy in Conviction, the button prompt for a hand-to-hand takedown appears as "Kill". The justification is that Sam just doesn't care anymore. The knockout ability was restored in Blacklist.
- Also in Conviction, the non-lethal gadgets - airfoil rounds, sticky shockers, sticky cameras with knockout gas canisters. This can be justified in that he no longer works for Third Echelon and hasn't the access to the same resources he used to. Like the preceding example, non-lethal gadgets were restored in Blacklist.
- Although Sam has access to more firepower in Conviction, even the upgraded version of his old gun he stumbles across no longer has the launcher attachment.
- Sam can no longer switch his weapon over to his left hand to shoot around corners from Conviction onwards.
- Balcony Escape: Used several times throughout the series.
- Bald of Evil: Conviction has Dmitri Gramkos and Blacklist has Sadiq.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Conviction, like its predecessors, fits the trope with villains Andriy Kobin and Tom Reed, the director of Third Echelon. Averted in Blacklist, however, as Majd Sadiq remains the central focus of the game's plot.
- Bottomless Magazines:
- All pistols in Conviction have unlimited reloads.
- The AK-47 you're forced to use in the Iraq flashback is also given unlimited reloads.
- Blacklist also gives you unlimited pistol ammo-but only on Rookie difficulty.
- Brick Joke: The Framing Device of Conviction is Vic Coste's interrogation by Black Arrow. In Blacklist, the ending shows that Vic is to be one of the chief interrogators of Majid Sadiq in Guantanamo Bay, a direct reversal.
- Bulletproof Vest:
- Explicitly shown in Conviction first during the "flash-forwards" to the ending, then in the Downtown mission when Sarah gives him a tactical vest. The difference in protection is negligible, especially since the more useful portable EMP backpack was ruined, and was useless due to the events in the preceding scene.
- In Blacklist, the enemy Heavy Infantry play this extremely straight, being completely invulnerable to body shots or electric attacks like the sticky shocker. Sam can also upgrade his ops suit for greater levels of protection.
- Controllable Helplessness:
- In Conviction Grim holds Sam at gunpoint and you can't do anything about it other than advance or stall futilely.
- Played with in Blacklist. Near the end of the final mission, Sam is escorted in cuffs out of the Site F bunker by one of Sadiq's men. However, Sam voluntarily let himself get captured (as Briggs was sent to draw out Sadiq himself), and after a few moments of being forced to walk forward to the airfield, Sam easily subdues his captor when the order to engage is given.
- In the final mission of the Blacklist co-op campaign, a chopper explodes and knocks Sam and Briggs unconscious while they're escaping the Voron facility with the package. The ensuing sequence has the two players taking out Voron soldiers while laying on the ground near-incapacitated.
- Cool Old Guy: In Conviction, Sam can hop up from one tiny ledge to another, run up walls and even scale an entire building with his bare hands with minimal effort despite being 54.
- Critical Existence Failure: The moment Fisher hits 0HP he promptly crumples into a ragdoll heap.
- Cruelty Is the Only Option:
- Darker and Edgier: Even moreso than the earlier games, which get grim rather quickly. Conviction's premise is that Sam has left the NSA and is investigating his daughter's death when he stumbles onto a treasonous conspiracy against the President being conducted by Third Echelon, finding out along the way that Sarah's death wasn't an accident. Blacklist features probably the most competent enemy Sam has ever faced, an entire series of massive terrorist attacks being committed against America, and is very humorless, with even the slight Gallows Humor found in Conviction absent.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?:
- While playing the very last level of the Conviction, you may get the impression you have seen it before, provided you watched xXx: State of the Union.
- Blacklist reads like a play-by-play re-enactment of the last three seasons of 24, including a female president who negotiates with terrorists and ignore the advice of the lead character, a female operator/tech support, a nerdy programmer, a support character who doesn't approve of the lead's actions, liberal usage of Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! and the villains attacking key American installations and officials. Not helping matters is that the lead villain is mocapped and voiced by Carlo Rota, who plays Morris in said series.
- Downer Ending: Conviction's Co-op campaign. The only solace in it is that Reed ends up dead and Kobin gets hurt badly by Sam in the singleplayer campaign. The co-op ending for Blacklist retcons this so that Kestrel was merely wounded, not outright killed, and he is later rescued from Voron by Sam and Briggs. Archer is still dead, though.
- Enemy Chatter: Happens in several installments.
- FaceHeel Turn: Third Echelon itself, where as a whole with the exception of Grim and her techie friend, Charlie Fryman, who has some serious hero-worship for Fisher, their tactical personnel are to a man loyal to the Big Bad and resolute in hunting Sam down, not to mention seemingly being OK with assassinating the President of the United States.
- Faceless Goons: Omnipresent, of course, but special notice has to be given to you playing one in the Iraq flashback level of Conviction, tasked with rescuing your squad leader. You're Victor Coste, rescuing Sam.
- Faking the Dead: Sarah Fisher.
- Gas Leak Cover-Up:
- A gas leak is the reason given in the "Washington Monument" level of Conviction to clear out the area so the mercenaries can go in to hunt down Sam.
- Used again in Blacklist to cover up the vehicles Grim destroyed with a UAV in Tehran. Of course a gas leak could destroy a dozen SUVs while leaving everything else around them okay, but the Iranian government goes along with it since they are no more eager than Fourth Echelon to engage in a shooting war with the U.S.
- Gas Mask Mooks: The last part of the stages in Conviction's Hunter multiplayer mode has these, as does the Washington Monument stage after aforementioned Gas Leak Cover-Up.
- Genre Blindness: Despite having clearly been briefed on Sam's abilities and tactics, Black Arrow mercenaries in Conviction will split up to search for Sam and walk within melee range of cover points.
- Genre Shift: Conviction and Blacklist shift the series from full-on Stealth games to Third-Person Shooters with Stealth mechanics.
- Get into Jail Free: In Conviction, the setting for the first mission past the Opening Narration. In Blacklist, Sam needs to pose as a prisoner at the Guantanamo prison.
- Greater-Scope Villain:
- Megiddo in Conviction. They are a mysteriosu organization who holds a lot of power and control many cities around the world. By putting a mole into 3rd Echelon, they attempted a coup assassinate the president and replaced her with one of their own, allowing them to control the US.
- According to Sadiq, there are 12 nations backing up the Engineers.
- Gun Accessories: Conviction adds these as upgrades for weapons that have different effects, such as sights, ammo types, new barrels, and suppressors.
- Gunship Rescue: You get to hide from a helicopter on the enemy's side some time before Vic's own chopper shows up to blow it away in the "Michigan Ave Reservoir" level of Conviction.
- Heroic BSoD:
- Kobin kills either Archer or Kestrel, while they are at grief on how they've had to kill the other.
- In Conviction's single player, when Sam infiltrates Third Echelon this gets invoked since he's so upset over Lambert's work and eventual death by Sam's hand to protect Fisher and his daughter. To put it into perspective, Sam is so pissed the player gets to stride out of an exploding building in constant slow-mo with automatic marks and infinite executes for a scene.
- Human Shield:
- In Conviction taking human shields will give Sam the ability to execute (counting as a melee "kill"), and several of the Challenges involve using human shields. However, he can only knock out a hostage by "throwing" them, as if he's standing still they're killed. (Unfortunately since dead bodies can't be moved in Conviction, the only way to "hide the body" is to throw a human shield out of enemy view.) They're not as good at stopping fire this time around, as enemies are less hesitant to fire and the bodies will only take so much damage — and even less when the enemies are eventually only using long guns — before Sam discards them.
- In Blacklist, one of Sadiq's lieutenants takes a human shield while exiting a Philadelphia subway station. The cops shoot him before Sam can grab him for questioning.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Although there are some limits on how many weapons and gadgets Sam can carry in Blacklist, he can conceivably hold a primary/secondary weapon, several types of grenades, a Tri-Rotor drone and extra ammo clips.
- I Did What I Had to Do: In Blacklist. Grim says this, nearly verbatim, when she's forced to justify her usage of a drone to destroy the Iranian forces pursuing Sam and Briggs while they're escaping from the embassy.
- I Have Your Wife: Used by Sam of all people in Blacklist against an Iranian general's wife & son to get access to a fortified base in the heart of Tehran. He even shows the general a live video feed proving that he can have them killed at any second. Although it turns out Sam was bluffing about it.
- Impairment Shot: In the Abandoned Mill mission in Blacklist, the camera wobbles and goes blurry as Sam suffers from the effects of nerve gas poisoning.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: In the "American Fuel" mission in Blacklist, Sam forces the vehicle Sadiq's lieutenant is escaping in (an ambulance) to crash into a guardrail, and the latter is impaled by shrapnel. Sam can either choose to end his misery after interrogating him, or send in a medical team to extract him.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Conviction with Mark & Execute.
- Improvised Weapon: In Conviction, Sam finds and interrogates/beats up Kobin at Third Echelon headquarters. The target tries to fight back by snapping off an American flag mounted in the room, which doesn't work and instead lets Sam stab a flag through his shoulder, which feels strangely symbolic.
- Infinity -1 Sword: Beating each of the side mission chains (Grim, Charlie and Kobin's) in Blacklist unlocks the best armor for each playstyle (Ghost, Panther and Assault, respectively), as well as several powerful guns. In the single-player campaign, they can make certain levels a cakewalk, while you pretty much need the fully-upgraded assault gear to survive the final co-op missions.
- Informed Ability: Sam is stated to be a Krav Maga practitioner. Up until Conviction, his hand to hand combat moves don't even remotely resemble Krav Maga. Then again, the novels are of questionable canonicity, so this can be excused.
- Infrared X-Ray Camera: Clancy wanted it changed to something more realistic, but Ubisoft stuck to their guns, resulting in Sam's new Sonar Goggles in Conviction basically combine the functions of the old goggles, and let him see and mark his foes through walls. In Blacklist, these are upgraded to include "Sonar Infrared" to act in much the same way with the addition of seeing their live or dead state, or other similar functions.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Eric Johnston provides the mocap work and voice for Sam in Blacklist, along with Carlo Rota doing mocap work for the game's primary villain, Sadiq.
- In-Series Nickname:
- Interface Spoiler: A minor example in Blacklist. When you visit the mission selection screen for the first time onboard the Paladin, it informs you that you are going to extract Andriy Kobin, which isn't revealed until the mission cutscene (or even later, if you do any of the side missions beforehand).
- Ironic Echo:
- Conviction: Kestrel repeats a much earlier phrase said by Archer that "Orders are orders.", followed up by "Right, chief?" ('chief' being Archer's In-Series Nickname for him.) if Archer kills him. This is implied to be the canon based on the fact that Archer's corpse is on display in Kobin's mansion, implying he was the second kill.
- Blacklist: When Sam interrogates him about the location of Sadiq, Nouri says that Sadiq is "right behind [him]", and he knows all about Fourth Echelon. In the climax, when Sadiq asks Briggs where Sam is, Briggs responds "right behind you". Not literally, but it's pretty close.
- I Surrender, Suckers: A staple of the series.
- In Conviction, the game ends with Sam, with Grim's help, breaking out of handcuffs to take out the other Splinter Cells before neutralizing Reed. "MARK EVERYONE" indeed.
- In Blacklist, the general Sam is escorting into the Iranian Embassy's server room turns on him and takes him hostage. Sam drops his weapon and lets the general ramble for a moment before giving Grim the signal to cut the power in the room.
- Sam himself pulls this at the end of the game, allowing himself while disguised as an Air Force General to be captured by the Engineers so he can get a chance to take out Sadiq.
- I Was Never Here: In Conviction, at the end of the game President Caldwell says something amounting to this about Sam's presence, with a gun pointed at Reed.Army Ranger Captain: Drop your weapon! On the floor, now!
President Caldwell: Captain, thank you for rescuing me. Now I don't see anyone else here but us. And I'm sure you don't either.
Army Ranger Captain: (after a moment) No ma'am. Let's get you out of here.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
Lucius Galliard: Your advanced interrogation techniques need work.
- Conviction features this; the first gameplay footage is of Sam beating answers out of a thug in a restroom. Possibly a Justified Trope since Sam has gone rogue and has few resources aside from himself, making it difficult for him to coax information out any other way.
Sam Fisher: *slams the guy through a piece of the landscape*
- Jiggle Physics: Grim, in Conviction. Very noticeable near the beginning of the third level (Price Airfield).
- Killed Mid-Sentence: This happens a lot to the enemy goons in Conviction, given how they never seem to shut up until they get dropped by a headshot from the shadows.
- Knight Templar: The Engineers in Blacklist, who are trying to force the U.S. to pull their military forces out of all foreign countries they are currently stationed in (All 153 of them) in retaliation to atrocities America has committed in those countries and/or the belief that American influence is corrupting/has corrupted those countries by unleashing devastating terror attacks on major U.S. cities. Notably, some of the Engineers themselves are American.
- Lampshade Hanging: In Conviction's penultimate mission, a Black Arrow operator in front of the White House gate is telling two others what a bad idea it is to (unknowingly) give Sam Fisher a great way to breach their perimeter:Black Arrow trooper: You just parked a couple hundred gallons of highly explosive fuel in the middle of our defensive position, where people may be shooting at it with guns. How fucking stupid are you?
- Laser Hallway: In Conviction the lasers can only be seen through goggles; in Blacklist they are visible to the naked eye.
- Laser Sight: Used by some Mooks in the first few games, optional for Sam, and can be purchased as an upgrade for several guns in Conviction and Blacklist.
- Last-Second Ending Choice: Conviction can have you choose whether Sam executes Tom Reed or not. If you don't, Grim shoots him anyway, so the the only thing it really changes is the tone of the scene.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler:
- Seeing as how Conviction is a franchise relaunch, it explains most of the plot of the preceding four games in its intro and first couple missions. This means Lambert's death is canon, and is summarily said as such in the opening of the game.
- The marketing and trailers for Blacklist play up the fact that Third Echelon is gone and Fourth Echelon have taken their place.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Conviction, Sam assures his worried daughter in a Flashback, who is scared of the dark, telling her that the dark can be used to hide yourself from bad guys. Which, of course, he and the player has been doing for the entire series.
- Left Hanging: Interested in that Megiddo group that apparently pulls the strings of the U.S. government? Well, Blacklist isn't.
- Like You Would Really Do It: In universe, Sadiq simply refuses to believe that Briggs would kill the Secretary of Defense in cold blood. He's wrong.
- Limited Loadout: In Conviction, Sam and the two co-op characters Archer and Kestrel are only able to carry one main weapon (a rifle or shotgun) and a pistol. Sam can carry every type of gadget at once but the co-op characters get just any two at a time.
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Most installments of the series have had these.
- Locomotive Level: The Philadelphia mission in Blacklist has Sam pursue one of Sadiq's lieutenants through a trainyard, and then through a subway train.
- Magical Defibrillator: The co-op characters in Conviction get one. Taken to ridiculous extremes when you realize that the person being revived is still conscious.
- Marquee Alter Ego: Sam starts Conviction as a guy in a sweater with a gun. Over the course of the game he ends up acquiring first his signature pistol, then goggles that look just like his old ones—whipped up by a fanboy, no less—then a newer version of his trademark rifle, then a bulletproof vest, and now he looks more or less like good ol' Sam. Which is why Grim stripping him of his weapons and goggles is a nice bit of symbolism about removing his defenses, making him vulnerable.
- Married to the Job: Discussed in the credits of Blacklist:Sarah: You're staying with them? With the job?
Sam: You know I have to. But I'll come back when I can.
- Masquerade: Changed in the later games, as Third Echelon starts to loudly proclaim their existence in their offices at NSA ( as seen in the infiltration level of Conviction) all the more bizarre. One can only assume Reed changed a lot after he was in charge.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Conviction seems fairly good in regards to gender equality, with a female President and of course Grim. Then you see that all of the enemies you face are male. This isn't quite as straightly pulled in other installments, however, for various reasons.
- Mercy Kill: Briggs kills the Secretary of Defense before he can give Sadiq the national security information he was after. Considering how Sadiq was going to torture the Secretary to death, it was the only merciful option available.
- Mickey Mousing: The launch trailer for Conviction punctuates the beats to "God's Gonna Cut You Down" with gunshots and explosions.
- Middle Eastern Terrorists: Fourth Echelon takes on Engineer terrorists in Iraq, Jordan and Yemen in Blacklist, as well as black market arms dealers in Turkey. Otherwise, it's averted since the rest of the Engineers are recruited worldwide.
- Motive Rant: Reed's is an interesting example, as at specific points it is possible for Sam to interrupt him, and the rant segues from Reed's desire for what he sees as an incompetent president forcibly removed from office, to delivering petty insults to the helpless Caldwell and Sam.
- Multinational Team: Conviction's co-op campaign (serving as a prequel for Sam's solo campaign), features the duo of Kestrel (Russian Voron) and Archer (American Third Echelon) teaming up to stop renegade Russians from selling some nukes. Then, at the end of the campaign, you find out you've been stealing them for Reed, and you have to kill your partner. Whoops!
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: Played with in Blacklist. Sadiq tells Sam at the end that if he is killed, several nations will rise up and attack the U.S. on a much bigger scale. Sam Takes a Third Option and fakes Sadiq's death, so that the latter can be interrogated for what he knows.
- Nebulous Evil Organisation: Megiddo, a secretive, sinister organisation that plays a central role in the plot of Conviction. According to Tom Reed, Megiddo has great influence in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. President Caldwell would not cooperate with Megiddo, so they plotted to assassinate her and replace her with the VP, who happens to be controlled by the organisation. Although Sam foiled their plot, the organisation remains at large. Megiddo does not play a role in Blacklist aside from being briefly mentioned in a "Gone Dark" mission.
- Necessary Drawback: In the guns of Conviction.
- Neck Lift: Sam gets the ability to grab interrogation targets by the trachea in Conviction, letting him raise enemies to their tip-toes and drag and throw them around.
- Neck Snap: Briggs uses this to kill the Secretary of Defense. Also very popular in hand-to-hand takedown moves in Conviction.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It would seem the only reason Reed could carry out his plan is because Kestrel and Archer secured those EMP devices for him.
- No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: Averted in Blacklist. The in-mission cutscenes have slightly different sequences based on which weapon Sam is holding. For example, in the Abandoned Mill mission, when Sam and Briggs reach the rooftop, the former will either shoot or stun the pursuing soldier based on whether Sam has a stun gun or pistol/rifle in his hand.
- No Party Given: Averted. Vice President Calvin Samson is explicitly identified as a Blue Dog Democrat in a bipartisan administration, which makes President Caldwell a Republican.
- No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom:
- Most of the levels in Conviction are extremely linear. Sam will stay on the right path because there is only one route at all - other doorways are blocked by cleaning equipment or other obstacles.
- Blacklist averts this by rewarding the player for choosing to search around the level or try alternate paths, via "Exploration" bonuses.
- Not Quite Dead: Agent Kestrel (of Conviction's co-op campaign) in Blacklist.
- Occupiers Out of Our Country: Majid Sadiq in Blacklist takes this Up to Eleven by demanding that U.S. forces leave all foreign countries they are stationed in - all 153 countries.
- Odd Couple: In Conviction's co-op, the American spy, "Archer", is kind of a more dickish Sam, while the Russian, "Kestrel" is quiet and actively regretful about having to kill his countrymen, no matter how corrupt.
- One Dose Fits All: In the first game, the gas exuded by the smoke bombs and diversion cameras will knock every enemy out a fixed period of time after it hits them.
- Optional Stealth: Blacklist gives players the option of choosing to complete missions in "Ghost" mode (enemies are avoided and knocked-out rather than killed), "Panther" (stealth kills) or "Assault" (combat kills and straight-up gun battles).
- Pacifist Run: Both averted and allowed in Conviction. Averted in that even if you're able to sneak up onto Kobin in the second mission, you're told that you have to neutralize the guards before interrogating him. On the other hand, there's a Challenge for completing a level without firing a shot; fortunately melee kills that automatically use pistol shots don't count against you and it's actually very easy to complete at the Lincoln Memorial since you only get a weapon for the last third, at which point you start not far from the end of the level anyway. Technically, all enemies in Conviction are killed, even if you dispose of them with seemingly "non-lethal" methods. When guards find them, they explicitly act as if they are dead.
- Painting the Medium: Conviction and Blacklist use the rather cool technique of 'projecting' elements like mission objectives, backstory, and Sam's thoughts onto the surrounding environment. For example, as Sam approaches a mansion the words "Infiltrate the Mansion" appear on its facade like they're being beamed from a film projector. This also works in the Dev Diaries, where words, phrases, and titles will be projected on background elements. Blacklist has a similar style, with teammates appearing on the walls when they speak to Sam over the radio.
- Blacklist also does this in the briefing for the final mission. Normally, when the game asks if you're ready to start the mission, the camera focuses on Sam, and once you say yes, Sam starts issuing orders. In the final mission, Sam asks his team if they're going to work with him (since it's completely against orders), and the prompt to start the mission appears three times, focusing on each teammate in turn. Each time you say yes, that teammate tells him "Go for Denver."
- Pet the Dog: In Blacklist. At the end of the co-op campaign, Kobin expresses concern and sympathy for what happened to Kestrel, even though he's the one who shot and delivered the agent to the Voron militia in the first place.
- Post-End Game Content: After the end credits of Blacklist, you can talk to each of your crew members for an extra post-mission conversation, as well as finish any leftover side missions.
- President Evil: Conviction has the Vice-President, with The Plan intending on making him just President.
- Private Military Contractors: Black Arrow in Conviction. A heroic version is Paladin Nine Security run by Vic Coste in Conviction and Blacklist.
- Product Placement: Conviction actually has dynamic product placement - background TV screens will change ads periodically and during one playthrough, the ads for the movie Devil updated to indicate that it was releasing that week.
- Punch-Packing Pistol: Subverted in Conviction, where pistols are actually the weakest weapons in the game. Even the "super powerful" Desert Eagle is inferior when compared to the assault rifles. However, despite their low damage, pistols make up for this by having unlimited ammo and generally better mark & execute ability.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Conviction features a tutorial in the shape of a flashback to when Sam's daughter was about six. After Sam comforts her and deals with her fear of darkness, along with telling her how he could use darkness as an advantage to protect her if needed, a group of burglars break into his house. After not finding anything, they plan to wait for his wife to come home, it leads to Sam offing them using the game's Mark and Execute command.
- Rare Guns: Sam uses both the Five-seveN and the F2000. Mostly averted in Conviction where the wide majority of weapons are "common," but only the few opposing Splinter Cells will have the F2000 ("SC3000").
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: Given to the opposing Splinter Cells in Conviction.
- Red Scare: Given a tip of the hat with the Russian Voron agent Kestrel for Conviction - his goggles glow red while the American agent's glow the series' iconic green.
- Regenerating Health: Version One of Double Agent, Conviction, and Blacklist, as opposed to the first three games in which you need to use first aid kits to heal.
- Remember the New Guy?: Victor Coste is one of Sam's oldest and best friends, but he is never seen nor mentioned prior to Conviction.
- Retcon: Sarah Fisher's death in Double Agent was never meant to be anything more than a tragedy. When the 2007 version of Conviction was lambasted and entered Development Hell, Ubisoft scrapped the fugitive gameplay that they had worked on and scrambled to cobble together a new story that didn't involve Sam being a fugitive.
- Renegade Splinter Faction: Third Echelon was supposed to be a secret sub-agency within the NSA but under Reed's reign this is what it has become.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
- In every game before Conviction, Sam has followed the rules. After he finds out that his daughter's death was faked by Third Echelon, the people he had been working for, and specifically Grim and Lambert, he finally crosses the line.
- The first two levels of Conviction are rather explicitly about Sam being on the hunt his daughter's murderers. He also detours from his infiltration of Third Echelon when he finds one of them, having previously escaped his grasp, with his back turned while begging the Big Bad for protection...
- And finally, when it turns out that Lambert hired Kobin to find a woman who looked like Sam's daughter and throw her under a truck, and then outright lie that Sarah died in a pathetic way, all to "protect Sam", Sam has a few seconds to rationalize it out... and then slowly develops a semi-tranquil rage. How bad is it? You get unlimited execution marks for the rest of the level. Have fun!
- Rogue Agent: After Double Agent, Sam has been labelled one and since Lambert is dead, his chance to clear his name won't come until Convictions, by which time Third Echelon has sunk to the depts of becoming a rogue agency.
- Sadiq and Jadid Blacklist were both former SIS.
- Ruder and Cruder: Splinter Cell: Conviction and Splinter Cell: Blacklist have a lot more casual swearing and stronger expletives than the previous games in the franchise. In the former, the gratuitous amount of swearing the enemies do tends to be a common point of mockery of the game.
- Rule of Fun: While playing Conviction, don't even think about how Mark and Execute or Weapons Stashes would work in real life.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- At the start of Conviction, the Third Echelon Sam knew has been metaphorically destroyed. And then it literally gets destroyed, right after he finds out his best friend, Lambert, lied to him. Running Sam through a burning building while in an Unstoppable Rage is pretty cool.
- It seems rather unlikely the developers just happened to choose that an American flag mounted in the room would be picked by Kobin to snap off and attempt to defend himself with against Sam, which really only just lets Sam stab it through his shoulder.
- Save the Villain: In Conviction, you can execute or spare the Big Bad. Subverted in that if you spare him, Grim shoots him in the head anyway.
- Scare Chord: A dramatic "actiony" noise happens when discovered.
- Scenery Gorn: Downtown Washington D.C. after the EMP bombs go off in Conviction. Also, the White House.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In Blacklist, after President Caldwell orders Paladin to be grounded and the team sent home, Sam decides to go ahead with the mission to infiltrate the Denver bunker and stop Sadiq anyway. The three other team members (Grim, Charlie and Briggs) are then given a player-controlled prompt whether they agree with Sam's decision or not.
- Sequel Hook:
- It may not be noticed immediately, but Conviction has one: Reed may have been stopped, but Megiddo is still out there.
- In Blacklist, there are 12 nations supporting Sadiq's operations, and will likely retaliate against the U.S.. Possibly a second one with the unconscious Kestrel, who is rescued at the end of the co-op campaign and put in Paladin's medbay.
- Ship Level: The preorder or DLC exclusive Billionaire's Yacht in Blacklist.
- Shoot the Dog:
- In Conviction, it's strongly implied that Lambert and Grim had some random young woman murdered in order to provide a body that would match Sarah Fisher's appearance in order to convincingly fake her death. It's also stated that Grim has done this a lot for various national security purposes. However, Kobin makes no mention of murdering someone to do the job (nor having done so in past instances); he could just as easily have connections at morgues and the like.
- Both averted and played straight in Blacklist:
- Briggs averts this when he lets Sadiq escape so he can save Sam.
- In the Tehran mission, Grimm launches a drone strike to protect Sam and Briggs. They argue over whether this was the right decision afterwards.
- In the finale, Briggs gets two: First, killing the Secretary of Defense so the Engineers can't torture his password out of him. Second, in a reversal of the first scene, he tells Sam to Go On Without Me so he can capture Sadiq.
- Shoot Your Mate: A much more literal version appears in the climax of the co-op story in Conviction, where you are forced to kill or be killed by your fellow player's character. For this reason, only one player at a time can complete the "Survivor" Achievement. Then it turns out Kobin will kill the survivor anyway.
- Short-Range Shotgun: In Conviction, used with the M-500 and averted with the SPAS-12.
- Zigzagged in Blacklist. While shotguns have poor accuracy with the default ammunition, equipping slugs turn them into decent mid-range weapons.
- Shown Their Work: The final mission of Blacklist takes place in a large underground bunker under Denver International Airport known as "Site F." This is actually a nod to a lesser-known conspiracy theory that somebody note maintains a secret Elaborate Underground Base under said airport. The evidence theorists offer for this is that the airport is the largest one in the U.S. and it has a massive tunnel network of unusual design, high volumes of electromagnetic signals coming from underground and many plaques and engravings at the airport having cryptic messages such as one referring to "The New World Airport Commission."
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: The Black Arrow mooks in Conviction, and how. It's almost as if they always have to use the f-bomb or "asshole" in everything they say.
- Smoke Out: In Conviction, a sign that enemy Splinter Cells are coming.
- Smug Snake: Reza Nouri, good God, Reza Nouri in Blacklist. From the moment you meet this guy you'll probably want to punch him in the face.
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Describes most of the conversations between Sam and Kobin in Blacklist.
- Sniper Pistol: Averted in Conviction; you can hit targets further than the indicated effective range, but landing a kill-shot is a different matter.
- South Asian Terrorists: Subverted with the Big Bad of Blacklist, Majid Sadiq, who is ethnically Pakistani, but has a strong British background and was a former MI6 agent. Played straight in Briggs' and Kobin's first missions, though, which have you taking down Indian smugglers in Kashmir and an Afghan drug operation respectively.
- Stronger with Age: Sam's abilities simply get more fearsome with time.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Victor Coste seems to be essentially a non-evil version of Douglas Shetland. Both are old friends of Sam Fisher who served with him in the US military, currently run a PMC, and assist Sam during his current assignment.
- Take a Third Option: In Blacklist, when confronted with the choice to put Sadiq on trial (allowing him to spill innumerable secrets about the US) or kill him (which would anger the Engineers' backers and start 'twelve wars'), Sam takes him prisoner using Fifth Freedom. With no body to identify him by or official trial during which to spill his secrets, all Sadiq has to look forward to is a long and miserable death in an interrogation area in Gitmo..
- Tempting Fate: During the White House attack in Conviction, Sam comes across the Vice President, who has a death grip on the Idiot Ball after seeing Fisher kill at least two squads of elite Third Echelon soldiers:Samson: You can't touch me. I got protection. I'm Teflon. So whatever you think you're gonna do to me, you can forget about it, because I'm bullet proof. God damned bullet proof, ya hear?!
Fisher: Oh, really?
[Fisher kneecaps him with a pistol]
Samson: [screams] YOU SHOT ME!
Fisher: You really need to work on that "bullet proof" thing.
- The Big Board: The SMI in Blacklist.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: Discussed in the ending of Blacklist. President Caldwell notes in an address that the individuals who saved the U.S. will never be identified, but their exploits will be remembered.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: Averted in Conviction during the Third Echelon infiltration.
- The Reveal: Numerous times throughout the series, naturally. Particularly noteworthy are those of Tom Reed's revelation as the mole inside Third Echelon in Conviction and Fisher's discovery that the I-SDF had been conspiring with Shetland the entire time in Chaos Theory.
- Token Evil Teammate: Kobin gets elevated to being a member of the Paladin crew in Blacklist.
- Tomato Surprise: You play a Faceless Goon in the Iraq flashback level of Conviction, tasked with rescuing your squad leader. You're Vic Coste, rescuing Sam.
- Took a Level in Badass: In the more action-y Splinter Cell games, Sam seems to get faster, more agile, and more adept at killing. The explanation, as of Conviction, is that he's not working for Third Echelon, and he doesn't need to hold back anymore. In Blacklist, he's running Fourth Echelon.
- Tracking Device: In the Abandoned Warehouse in London, Sam sets a tracking device on a nerve gas container. The team tracks it down to Philadelphia.
- Trick Arrow: The crossbow in Blacklist can be upgraded to fire EMP or non-lethal bolts.
- True Companions: Sam and his small circle of support crew, along with Victor Coste. Victor even explicitly says that he and Sam are like brothers, and Victor killed several platoons of Iraqis who had captured Sam in order to rescue him during Desert Storm. Later events cast an ironic light on these relationship.
- Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Part of Splinter Cell: Conviction was about Sam Fisher dealing with a plot to attack Washington D.C. with a series of EMPs, then using the confusion to kill the current president so the Vice President, who is in league with Megiddo, can take over.
- Twist Ending: In the Co-Op storyline of Conviction, Archer is ordered to kill Kestrel over headset, after his superior couldn't get to him over his OpSat. Thing is, he's wearing the headset, and the OpSat is elsewhere in the plane...right next to Kestrel. Whoever wins the ensuing fight, Kobin kills them, and you can see Archer's body in the single-player campaign.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change:
- In Conviction: Sam flashbacks to his time as a SEAL during the Gulf War. His squad is attacked, the leader is captured, and the survivor is forced to go after them. Though some of the mechanics carry over, it plays more like a standard third-person shooter, with things like the removal of the Mark & Execute system, and the addition of strafing and unlimited rifle ammunition (handgun is usually all that is unlimited in Conviction). Yes, strafing. You're playing as Vic Coste.
- In the iOS/Android version by Gameloft, several actual first person shooter section are enabled because the game uses the same engine as the Modern Combat and Rainbow Six series. The other goodies are all included.
- The middle section of the Lincoln Memorial level has you chasing an assassin on foot. Sam even sprints, something you can't do in normal gameplay.
- In Blacklist, you control Briggs during the Philadelphia mission as he attempts to disarm two of the four Blacklist bombs. This sequence is played from a first-person perspective (even though it switches back to third-person in transitional moments like climbing ladders). Briggs also doesn't have any of Sam's equipment or tactical functions, despite wearing a similar pair of goggles. He is also controlled for a brief Sniping Mission.
- Also in Blacklist, Grim is controlled for some use of cover fire in a UAV.
- Unlockable Content: In Blacklist, concept art can be unlocked by searching throughout the Paladin for various pieces of recon intel. Also, several suits and weapons are unlocked if the various side mission chains (Grim, Briggs, Charlie, Kobin) are completed.
- Unnecessary Combat Roll: All the games allow you to roll, but in Conviction it's made especially easy to practically just roll around all the time. In fact it's quicker and more effective to roll than to move along in a crouch, which is why many players will do this so much, although it can get somewhat comedic. It does serve a purpose, however: at least in the original trilogy, if you drop from a ledge high enough to take Falling Damage from, Sam will land on a roll and negate the damage.
- Unstoppable Rage: The end of the Third Echelon infiltration, where Sam doesn't need the "Mark" part of "Mark and Execute" anymore. Also, the screen becomes orange-tinted, and the background music includes what sounds like Sarah's garbled voice speaking in the background.
- Unusable Enemy Equipment:
- Averted in Conviction, where Sam can pick up enemy weapons, and with long guns up to three spare magazines; he won't get any grenade refills except at Weapon Stashes though.
- Also averted in Blacklist, where enemy weapons can be picked up from the ground. Upgrading parts of the Paladin also allows you to purchase (and modestly upgrade) enemy weapons via the Black Market, if you really like some of the enemy kit. It's pretty expensive though, and money is usually better spent on your own gear.
- Unwanted Assistance: In-universe in Blacklist. Sam chews out Briggs for choosing to save his life instead of pursuing and capturing Sadiq at the abandoned mill.
- Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: Conviction has this. While storming his former HQ, Sam Fisher battles several newer Splinter Cell agents. Of course, being the first Splinter Cell ever created, he easily trashes all of the Upgrades despite being outnumbered. However, he's also wearing the newest version of the Sonic Goggles, which allow him to move without losing image, and don't have the conspicuous "ping" that the other agents do.
- Villain Has a Point: During his Motive Rant, Tom Reed says he was motivated to assassinate President Caldwell because she was threatening to shut down Third Echelon which would have left the country open to attack. Though this undermined by his true motivation being to simply stay in power, Reed is ultimately proven right in Blacklist when 3E's absence allows for a devastating terrorist attack on Anderson AFB and Caldwell being forced to create Fourth Echelon to combat the Engineers.
- Virtual Paper Doll: Blacklist allows the player to customize their gear, right down to the color of the lights of Sam's goggles and suit. Certain elements (like the various camouflage patterns) have no benefit during missions.
- Weak Turret Gun: Averted throughout the series, but most conspicuously with the ceiling-mounted turret guns in Conviction during the Third Echelon HQ mission, as you cannot even target them for attack, much less destroy them. Other times, there are ways of taking them down, but not by direct assault on them.
- Weapon of Mass Destruction: What many of the game's plots revolve around stopping.
- Conviction: The ultimate goal of the Big Bad is to detonate EMP bombs in Washington D.C. and assassinate the president.
- Blacklist: This game takes it Up to Eleven by having multiple WMD threats occurring across the span of a few days, including both biological and chemical weapons in danger of being used on American soil with potential death tolls numbering in the millions. Later subverted; the Engineers' actual plan is to force the USA into Continuity of Government protocol, so they can capture the codes to the American weapons of mass destruction.
- We Are Everywhere: In Blacklist, Sadiq pulls this on Sam at the end, explaining that there are 12 other nations that are also allied with the Engineers (if not complicit in their attacks), who will rise up and attack the U.S. in the event of his death.
- Western Terrorists: Majid Sadiq plays with this, as he may be ethnically Pakistani but he has a strong British background and was a former MI6 agent, and plenty of the fighters in his organization are Westerners (though his most trusted lieutenants appear to be Arab).
- Wham Line: In Conviction.Grim: "I know Sarah's alive. How's that for starters?"
- What Measure Is a Mook?: In Conviction, colleagues of the mooks you take down will stand over their body and vow to avenge their death. This is often shortly after they've been hurling curses and taunts at the unseen Sam.
- This can slam right back into more Mood Whiplash when you kill the guy vowing to avenge the death, his body is seen, and another guy comes over to vow to avenge his death. And you kill him too! Thus, you can create a conveyor belt of vengeance that ends when you've killed everyone in the area, and you get away scott free.
- What the Hell, Player?: In Conviction, where failing to save the scientist inside the Michigan Avenue Reservoir or killing civilians in the Downtown District are failure conditions.
- A subtle one, in one of Blacklist's pure-stealth side missions that sees you infiltrating an old British seafort to plant bugs, the main 'atrium' is patrolled by a guard dog. Whilst you can sneak past it, it's very likely you'll end up getting found out by it, which can easily lead to the alarm being sounded and thus immediate mission failure. Naturally, repeat failures caused by this particular canine may lead to frustrated players knocking out said dog and throwing it into the water outside the fort, leading to this;
Grim: That didn't sound good.
Grim: It says here the guy owns a prize-winning show dog...?
- When You Coming Home, Dad?: Discussed thoroughly in Blacklist. One of the calls Sam makes to Sarah Fisher has him implicitly state he won't be home for Thanksgiving due to the continuing nature of the Engineer attacks.
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?: Justified when Reed captures Sam in Conviction, as he is arrogant, surrounded by five armed agents in the same room, believes Sam to be tied up and if the player waits too long to disarm him, Reed will shoot Sam.Reed: What, no famous last words? Or do you need Anna to tell you what you should say? Or maybe just say: "Fuck, Tom Reed just killed me!"
- With This Herring: Blacklist both averts and plays this straight. President Caldwell gives Fourth Echelon usage of Paladin, a heavily-modified transport plane that boasts top-of-the-line equipment. However, you don't get any gear besides your default suit and pistol at the beginning of the game, and any upgrades you buy for the plane (including an upgraded medbay, radar and all of your additional weapons/equipment) have to be purchased with funds you acquire through the course of the campaign.
- Would Hit a Girl: Played with in Conviction. Watch carefully now; the player gets to try and hit Grim for jerking Sam around. Sam instead punches the locker she's standing in front of, because she was a trusted co-worker. When she reveals things that she had left hidden for so long, he doesn't have any trouble hitting her. And just to make his point clear, he hits her twice. The first she was expecting. The second was just to make sure it hurt. From the second hit, it sounds like she's taken a bad hit to the jaw.
- Worst Aid: Averted and inverted in Blacklist: if you choose to spare the Engineer commander at the end of the Louisiana mission, Sam does not pull out the metal rod that has impaled him in the gut, but rather walks away and tells Grim to call a medic for him. On the flip side, Sam does pull it out if the "kill" choice is taken.
Fisher: This page is small, nasty and complicated, and will ruin your life.
Coen: Heh. What do you think about the Troper?
Fisher: They're small, nasty and complicated. But I guess their edits are up to them...