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 "You have the right to freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. From want. From fear. These rights would not exist without a fifth. The right to protect all other freedoms, by whatever means necessary. It's my freedom. It's my duty. It is my war."

Developed under Tom Clancy by Ubisoft, Splinter Cell is among the most prominent entries in the Stealth genre. The first game introduced 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.

The first game, in which Sam investigates a Georgian dictator engaged in terrorist activities, was stealth in its purest form; Sam was almost completely balanced with his enemies in terms of killing power, and a number of missions forbade him from killing any enemies or even causing an alert, so a very heavy emphasis was placed on avoiding confrontation altogether. To that end the player had to navigate creatively, time their movements with extreme caution and patience, and make use of Sam's high-tech gadgets, most notably his 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.

The game was a success and was quickly followed up by a number of sequels. The first two sequels stayed very close to the original, while enhancing and evolving the gameplay -- Pandora Tomorrow, about a terrorist plotting to release a virus, expanded the game to include multiplayer capabilities, with a versus mode and specially designed co-op levels, as well as some new moves such as shooting while hanging from pipes and new gadgets such as a shotgun attachment for your rifle. Chaos Theory, about the theft of a weaponized computer algorithm, added to gameplay considerably, most notably with a host of optional secondary objectives in any given mission, but also with more freely navigable environment; new moves like the "inverted neck-break"; several neat new gadgets; a sound meter in addition to your light meter; noticeably more believable enemy AI; and a statistical breakdown of how you performed in a mission, giving added incentive to achieve perfect stealth.

Double Agent, was a major break from the formula. It involved Sam going undercover with a terrorist organization to prevent a series of bombings, and in addition to more traditional missions it provided missions where the player could choose which objectives they completed, choices which affected the storyline, and even unlocked additional missions. There are two versions of this game, "Version One" for next-gen consoles and "Version Two" for old-gen; both versions follow the same basic story, but the tone is noticeably different between the two. In Version One the player's choices could be described as between idealism and pragmatism—Sam finds himself in a position where he can either perform a horrible deed, or lose a lot of trust within the terrorist organization. Version Two is much darker, allowing the player to have Sam actually betray the NSA.

Both versions end with Sam on the run from the authorities. The next entry, Conviction, deals with his attempts to investigate his daughter's death in the previous game, and is an even further departure from the original tone and gameplay. Sam ends up in Malta, where leads point him to a thug named Andriy Kobin. Before he can get the answers he needs, he's captured by Third Echelon, prompting him to escape and link up with old friend Victor Coste. His search for answers takes him down a path he had thought he would never take, uncovers truths he thought impossible and has him racing to foil a far-reaching conspiracy. Conviction was well-received, and was even named Game of the Year by the MachineAWARDS despite a Broken Base and Fandom Heresy.

At E3 2012, Ubisoft announced the next entry in the series, Blacklist taking place six months after Conviction, involving Sam Fisher, the head of a new clandestine organization that works directly for the President of the United States, Fourth Echelon, in the wake of Third Echelon being nominally shut down due to the attempted assassination of US President Caldwell in Conviction. Fisher's goal is to stop a terrorist organization which has been launching escalating attacks on US Interests under a plot codenamed "the Blacklist". The gameplay is similar to Conviction, but with more stealthy moves and faster action both.

There was a Gaiden Game released for the Play Station Portable, called Splinter Cell: Essentials, which was a sequel for the-then unreleased Double Agent. It was built on the engine of Pandora Tomorrow and its plot is based on an internal investigation into Sam's past operations for Third Echelon due to him being considered a traitor (which, in fact, he is not - the files for those cases had been tampered with). While there are new levels, the game is essentially a collection of Call Back and Nostalgia Level material.

Tropes used in Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell include:
  • Actionized Sequel: This is the case with 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 is shaping up to be even more of this, with running "Executes", but also has more stealthy options to accommodate.
  • AKA-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 FN. 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.
    • Averted in Conviction. All of the guns are called by their real-life names. The only one that isn't is highly fictionalized.
  • Air Vent Passageway: very common, at least in Chaos Theory they get smaller.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: The villainous plan of Chaos Theory has Shetland planning on taking down the US government with a somewhat anarchic manner. His brilliant scheme? Start a third world war between superpowers with nukes and hope what comes out on the other side is better.
  • And Now for Something Completely Different: In Version Two of Double Agent, the final confrontation with Dufraisne is pretty much a traditional boss fight, something the series never previously had, since it tends to err on the side of realism.
    • The Iraq level in Conviction is played as a straight-up, Gears of War-esque shooter where you have no accessed to suppressed weapons and there are little to no stealth mechanics involved, let alone options for stealth. This is because you're not playing as Sam, but as another soldier entirely - Victor Coste.
      • Not to mention Conviction itself.
  • 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.
    • In some of the side materials such as one of the "anecdotes" for End War, she outright became Director of Third Echelon. She also looks completely different for whatever reason.
  • Ass Shove: This conversation in Pandora Tomorrow suggests it:

 Shetland: Maybe you've got a use for this storage device I pulled off the guerilla I killed.

Fisher: Thanks. How'd you hide it from your guard?

Shetland: Just wash your hands when you're done with it.

  • Author Appeal: Conviction has this, though unusually for such a trope, the effect is not so much on story or themes so much as on gameplay. The project's (eventual) creative director Maxime Béland thought that the kind of slow-paced, careful observation and timing that were used in games like Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots and the previous Splinter Cell titles was boring, equating such movement speed to being like that of a "grandma". The "Mark & Execute" feature is something that he carried over from his previous project, Rainbow Six: Vegas, which he admits in interviews is simply a gameplay device and has no in-universe justification for why its mechanics work the way they do. The grayscale tones that the world adopts when Sam goes into hiding were inspired by his hobby of black and white photography.
    • While the new changes can certainly be fun taken on their own, Béland also seems to reject that some fans enjoy slow-moving stealth games for reasons of tension-building, prefer gameplay that has in-universe mechanical justification, and would rather stick with a more nuanced light/shadow visability system. Understandably, the radical changes made a Broken Base inevitable.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Usually averted in a realistic manner, although in Pandora Tomorrow Sadano can kill you with one shot (from a pistol, no less). Shetland also does fairly decent in his very brief fight with Sam at the end of Chaos Theory. Completely averted though in Conviction -- "bosses" (read: interrogation targets) may shoot at you but don't have better perception than the mooks, and they're subdued just as easily.
  • Badass: Sam Fisher, especially apparent in Conviction, when he uses the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique on his enemies. Also qualifies as a Retired Badass for being a former Navy SEAL and covert agent for Third Echelon.
  • Bag of Holding: In the first game Sam could collect med kits to carry with him for healing, but the game never shows where he keeps them.
  • Bag of Spilling: Somewhere between Double Agent and Conviction, Sam appears to have lost the ability to shoot pistols left handed.
    • He also lost the ability to knock out enemies. 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.
    • And the non-lethal gadgets - airfoil rounds, sticky shockers, sticky cameras with knockout gas canisters.
      • Although he has access to more firepower, even the upgraded version of his old gun he stumbles across no longer has the launcher attachment.
  • Balcony Escape
  • Bald of Awesome: In Double Agent, Fisher gets sent to prison in order to infiltrate the terrorist group. His head gets shaved in the process. In all honesty, a lot of people are bald in Double Agent... the protagonist, the Big Bad, the multiplayer characters...
  • 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 and Conviction has Dmitri Gramkos.
  • Bad Boss: 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, 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 implied that the only reason Enrica even stays with the organization is that Emile will turn her in to the police if she tries to leave.
    • Tom Reed, Director of Third Echelon in Conviction, shoots a pilot for wanting gas money.

 "Fuel isn't free, man!"

  • bang bang*
    • The commander of the North Korean missile battery in Chaos Theory shoots one of his subordinate troops in the face for failing to explain what caused the launch of the missile that sank the Walsh.
  • Banned in China: The first game was banned in China for portraying China negatively (although the Chinese villain was actually rogue). The decision was reverted a few years later.
    • Chaos Theory was reportedly banned in South Korea for portraying a fictional war between it and North Korea. They did the same like China.
  • Berserk Button: Near the end of Conviction Sam learns that his friend, Lambert, faked Sarah's death to stop a mole from using her as leverage against Sam. When Sam learns the truth he becomes so enraged that he gains the ability to instantly execute any enemies unfortunate enough to enter his line of sight.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Chaos Theory players who can speak Japanese will probably predict that The Red Nishin Gang (read: Red Herring) isn't actually the brains behind everything.
  • 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. It does however have a Canadian enemy, 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 and Massoud Ibn-Yussif.
      • And Alejandro Takfir, making for a Big Bad Triumvirate.
    • Conviction: Andriy Kobin and Tom Reed, the director of Third Echelon.
  • 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. Conviction has "Weapons Stashes", which include every weapon you've picked up or bought, complete with refills.
    • In the traditional sense Conviction also averts it; Sam now gets unlimited pistol magazines, and enemies have a certain range of weapons depending on the mission. Only a few of the later missions have a Weapon Stash at the beginning of the mission (Diwaniya, Iraq and Washington Monument have none), so all long guns would have to be taken from enemies until reaching one.
    • 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.
  • Blatant Lies: When Sam Fisher gets a guard into a choke hold he tends to come up with elaborate cover stories to extract important information out of them, example below:

 (Sam requests a phone with a suspect's picture on it.)

Security guard: Who are you?

Fisher: I'm from the phone company, there's been a recall.

    • Most of the time, however, the people he interrogates resist until he threatens to kill them. There is one exception at the beginning of Chaos Theory, where Fisher tells one of the soldiers he grabs that he's doing so as part of a test, which said soldier believes.
    • Appears in Conviction, too. When Archer (one of the co-op characters) grabs an enemy soldier, the last thing anyone ever says to them is "Keep quiet, and I promise I won't hurt you."
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Conviction has some brutal interrogation scenes, some of which are important to the plot.
  • Bond One-Liner: Sam starts using these in Conviction, to let the player know the area's clear, as well as randomly after dropping down on enemies or grabbing them from behind. 'That never gets old' indeed.
  • Bottomless Magazines: The Five-seveN in Conviction still holds 20 rounds per magazine, but Sam now has an infinite number of magazines for it as well as every other pistol.
  • Broad Strokes: Conviction makes references to one exclusive element from each version of Double Agent - Sam shooting Lambert in New York City (from Version One, as opposed to Sam enhancing/compromising Lambert's cover as an arms dealer in Version Two) and Sarah Fisher dying in 2008 (from Version Two, as opposed to 2007 in Version One). This of course disqualifies either version from being completely canon and creates a degree of irreconcilability, as no mention is made of other choices the player had to make (such as whether or not to blow up the cruise ship in Cozumel and killing or sparing Hisham in Kinshasa).
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • But Thou Must!: Conviction adds segments that are impossible to get through without killing enemies. For example, the first portion of the tutorial requires that the player kill two thugs. Sneaking by the thugs is possible, but the camera turns around and a "helpful" objective projection reminds the player to kill the thugs, even if they are unaware of Fisher and he is already past them.
    • Chaos Theory has a teeny-tiny one. There is one enemy at the very end of the first level who must be knocked out or killed before you can call for extraction to end the level (though this is justified as Sam could not safely board a helicopter with an enemy guard right beside him.) The rest of the game allows you to sneak by absolutely everyone without a whole lot of trouble. Except in That One Level (the bathhouse), and even that can be done. Your reward is basically a Bragging Rights Reward, but you'll feel warm and fuzzy inside.
    • Overlapping with Shoot the Dog: At the end of the second level of Pandora Tomorrow, you need to retrieve a picture from a (rather amicable) guy hiding behind a fortified door by dropping in from the air vents above. As soon as you do so, a cutscene featuring some enemies setting up an explosion to blow up the door and a countdown appear. This is basically a chance to have a semi-humorous conversation with the guy before the explosion, which always kills him. However, it you're fast enough, you can climb up the air vent and shoot the enemy guards, which makes the timer disappear, but there's a gas-shooting pipe at the end of the vent (where you need to go to finish the mission) which kills you very quickly if you get close, and the only way to disable it is to trigger the explosion, so the only two options is to either let the enemies do it or to blow him up yourself, which gets you a berating call from Lambert.
    • Or if you want to keep him alive take out the enemies and then shoot off the valve (step 51)
  • Book Ends: Conviction is told by Vic... oddly enough, as a debriefing by Black Arrow.
    • Seemed much more like an interrogation than a debriefing, seeing as how Vic is in handcuffs.
  • Call Back: Most of the levels in Essentials. Note that for games that had next-gen and current-gen versions (that is, Chaos Theory and Double Agent), the levels follow the current-gen progression except for a portion of the prison escape from Double Agent.
  • Call Forward: Essentials was released before Double Agent, but takes place after it and features a level from it as a Call Back.
  • Capulet Counterpart: In the PS2/Wii/Xbox version of Double Agent, Sam develops a genuine romantic attachment to Enrica, and is very pissed when she's killed by Third Echelon. In the Xbox 360/PC version, though, Sam's just playing her for info, and is perfectly happy to kill her in cold blood in order to achieve One Hundred Percent Completion (although she does help Sam by unlocking a coded door for him if you let her live instead, but you can kill her before she walks away after the door is opened. You have no option to knock her out...).
  • Captain Obvious: Due to an 'oversight' in Pandora Tomorrow one of your team will announce the alarm state has returned to normal...seconds after you've heard the same thing over the radio from the bad guys.
    • Also:

 (Elevator stops.)

Lambert: The elevator stopped, Fisher.

Fisher: Thanks Lambert.

  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: No appearance or mention is made of William Redding and Lawrence Williams in Conviction despite their heavy involvement in Essentials.
  • Clear My Name: Sam in Essentials.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Sam, particularly in Conviction.
  • Comic Book Fantasy Casting: In Conviction, President Patricia Caldwell is transparently an Expy of Hilary Clinton.
    • With Meryl Streep's face, no less.
  • Concealing Canvas: In one of the early levels of the first game.
  • Controllable Helplessness: In Conviction Grim holds Sam at gunpoint and you can't do anything about it other than advance or stall futilely.
  • Cool Old Guy: Sam's more than 50 years old, yet kicks ass much, much better than guys half his age.
    • In fact it can be argued that the older he gets, the more badass he gets. In "Chaos Theory" he has the ability to do some limited acrobatics, scramble up the railing from a ledge with some effort but in "Conviction" he can hop up from one tiny ledge up to another, run up walls, and even scale an entire building with his bare hands and minimal effort.
    • To clarify, Sam was born in 1957, making him 47 years old in the first game and 54 in Conviction.
  • Cosmetic Award: The last equipment unlock in Double Agent is night vision that sees in color rather than in all green. Most players say this is actually worse than the regular night vision.
  • Critical Existence Failure
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Added as a feature in Conviction. The most obvious are the Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques scenes, but more subtly are place in the game where Sam is required to kill Mooks.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Averted with Conviction. The "Mark & Execute" feature allows you to suddenly unveil yourself and kill previously chosen targets, with a single shot each and quicker than the player could otherwise do.
    • Simultaneously upheld with Conviction though; at the end of the Third Echelon infiltration Sam gets enhanced aiming, unlimited executions and all remaining enemies encountered on the way are automatically marked, so you can literally just mash the Execute button til the exit, to represent Sam's Unstoppable Rage. Also, in the final confrontation: "MARK EVERYONE." (Averted in that Grim who kills the three on the right around President Caldwell first while Sam only kills the two on the left afterward.)
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The controls for hanging from a pipe were completely inverted between games. Where you once had to press 'crouch' to drop down, or 'jump' to pull your legs up, you now had the choices to "crouch" against the pipe (i.e. pull your legs up) or jump off it.
  • 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. 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • Development Hell: Conviction. It was originally slated for release in Christmas of 2007. They ended up scrapping it and starting over at least once. The new Conviction was revealed at E3 2009 and scheduled for February 2010, then April 10, and then finally released.
  • Did Not Do the Research: In Chaos Theory, the Defense Ministry building in Japan is referred to in Japanese as the "Kokobo Shosho" or 小久保叢書 (It means Kokubo Book Series in English since the kanji of Kokubo is a Japanese surname, although not common). This is incorrect as the Defense Ministry is "Boei-sho" or 防衛省 in Japanese.
  • The Dog Shot First: Or rather, shoots if you don't. One major defining moment in Pandora Tomorrow has Mission Control abruptly order you in the middle of a mission to gun down your ally, an unarmed woman who has helped you through the entire level. If you comply, Mission Control doesn't even bother to explain why, admonishing an angry and confused Sam that "it's not your job to question!". If you refuse, the woman, an Israeli Shin Bet agent, shows up at the end of the level with two other Shin Bet snipers to try and blow you away. A very pissed off Mission Control explains that Israel wants the WMD you just acquired for itself, and that there are no diplomatic consequences for killing an American agent who doesn't officially exist. Whoops!
    • Also possible in Chaos Theory. In a "But Thou Must" fashion designed to force Shetland's death; shooting him provides satisfaction to those wanting justice or whatever, but putting down your pistol forces Sam to stab Shetland when he pulls a gun, meeting the demands of those who'd rather be driven to it.
  • Downer Ending: The Co-op campaign for Conviction. The only solace in it is that Reed ends up dead in the singleplayer campaign, and (maybe) Kobin too.
  • 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 Double Agent it's a bonus level for achieving the Best Ending.
  • Dynamic Entry: Plenty, far from limited to Goomba Stomps or bashing doors open into people.
  • Elaborate Underground Base (lampshaded)
  • 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 were the only enemies in the entire series who can see you perfectly even in pitch darkness.
    • Then Conviction rolls around and the opposing Splinter Cells get the same Sonar Goggles Sam does. Strangely, their version makes an audible noise when they ping, whereas yours doesn't. And they CAN see Sam through walls.
      • While each ping gives them Sam's "Last Known Position," they can't see him through walls between pings, -- so it is possible to outflank or even sneak up on them if you're fast enough and have enough room to move to their left or right.
  • Enemy Chatter: In Conviction, the first two mission's thugs and Black Arrow will taunt Fisher and urge him to come out and fight like a man. (Which, considering that they know who he is, is rather odd...) As the obligatory Penny Arcade comic shows, it's easier to kill them when they all, to a man, appear to be douchebags. Fortunately, when Third Echelon personnel hunt him, they're much more serious because he trained many of these men and is apparently a living legend at Third Echelon.
  • Enter Solution Here
  • Eyepatch of Power: Archer and Kestrel from Conviction are rendered in the loading screen with sonar goggles covering only one eye. The same goes for the enemy Splinter Cells.
  • Expy: Sam Fisher is an archetypal Clancy character, with shades of Jack Ryan and John Clark.
    • Suhadi Sadono from Pandora Tomorrow is a charismatic guerrilla 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.
    • Victor Coste in Conviction is an Expy of Victor Sullivan from Uncharted. His backstory is also extremely reminiscent of Douglas Shetland's from Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory, he is a private security contractor who was once an enlisted soldier serving with Sam.
      • It's made even more jarring when you consider that both Shetland and Coste were personally involved in rescue missions involving Sam. Essentials has a mission where you play as Sam rescuing Shetland (his commanding officer) from FARC guerrillas in Colombia in 1992 and Conviction has a mission where you play as Coste rescuing his commanding officer, Sam, from Republican Guard soldiers in Iraq in 1991.
  • Face Heel Turn: Shetland is a supporting ally in the second game and the Big Bad of the third game.
    • Ditto for 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 because they perceived her as soft on terrorism.
      • Actually, they were going to assassinate her because she was planning on shutting down Third Echelon and refusing to yield to Megiddo.
  • 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.
  • Fake American: Michael Ironside, the voice of Sam Fisher, is Canadian.
  • Faking the Dead: Sarah Fisher.
  • Follow the Leader: If it weren't for Thief and Metal Gear Solid'...
    • Splinter Cell even uses the same engine as the third Thief game.
      • Well, it's the Unreal Engine. There are a lot of games that use it.
  • Flash Forward: Several times in Conviction to the White House and being held at gunpoint by Grim.
  • 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/Future Spandex: 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.
  • Gas Leak Coverup: Used in the "Washington Monument" level of Conviction.
  • 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 Coverup.
  • Genre Savvy / 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.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Lampshaded in the beginning of Chaos Theory. Sam's used to the bad guys using AKs, so he can immediately tell just from the firing noise that something's off when they turn out to be carrying AUGs.
    • Later inverted in Conviction; only enemies in the first two levels drop Skorpions and Desert Eagles, and only in Diwaniya, Iraq and co-op are AKs dropped; in all other missions the enemies are using "Western" guns.
  • Goomba Stomp: Landing on enemies is one way to knock them out.
  • Guide Dang It: The games prior to Conviction allow multiple approaches to situations. Players who don't mind unpraised performance will have less difficulty, but players who want to complete everything and get all perfect stealth scores will need either a walkthrough or a lot of patience.
  • 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.
  • Heal Thyself: In every game except for Version One of Double Agent and 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Averted. Sam only ever has a pistol, a rifle, and a combat knife in Chaos Theory and Double Agent, all of which are visible on his person whether he's using them or not.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Several choices the player must make in Double Agent, although pretty much every one has an obvious "correct" choice, obvious because one of the choices will be a bonus objective (such as opening the cell doors for the JBA), unlocks bonus content or expand the level (such as not shooting the CIA agent), be the only option that isn't completely stupid when taking the trust meter into account (such as shooting the kidnapped helicopter pilot in Version One, which will provide a much-needed boost to JBA trust), or be opposite of a choice that immediately gets very direct negative feedback. There is one decision in the game which doesn't have such an obvious solution (whether to let the JBA destroy the cargo ship), but even that fits the pattern when the Prima official Strategy Guide recommends that the player lets them destroy it.
  • IKEA Weaponry: To an extent. Sam's SC-20K in Chaos Theory can mount a less-lethal munitions launcher, a foregrip, a semiautomatic shotgun, or a 20 millimeter rifle barrel for sniping.
  • 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: No ma'am. Let's get you out of here.

  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Conviction with Mark & Execute.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: "TOM CLANCY'S SPLINTER CELL". Ironically, he didn't write any of it past the concept.
  • 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.
    • That's probably because they weren't meant to. The canonicity of the novels is questionable.
  • Infrared X-Ray Camera: Sam's signature goggles have both night-vision and thermal, since the devs thought having two separate devices would be too cumbersome. Clancy wanted it changed to something more realistic, but Ubisoft stuck to their guns. Sam's new Sonic Goggles in Conviction basically combine the functions of the old goggles, and let him see and mark his foes through walls.
  • In-Series Nickname: Anna Grímsdóttir is known as "Grim".
    • In Conviction, Archer likes to call Kestrel 'chief'. This is used as part of Kestrel's Ironic Echo if Archer kills him.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Despite all the climbing the game can get quite picky about certain things.
  • The Infiltration: The entire point of Double Agent.
  • Ironic Echo: 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.
    • And if Kestrel wins, Archer calls him "Moi Droog" ("My Friend").
  • I Surrender, Suckers: 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 troubles.
    • Sam also gets to pull this in a scene very near the end of the first Splinter Cell, when Georgian forces have him at gunpoint, and another in Pandora Tomorrow where he exits a doorway and a bunch of men hold him up.
    • In Conviction, the game ends with Sam, with Grim's help, breaks out of handcuffs to take out the other Splinter Cells before neutralizing Reed. "MARK EVERYONE" indeed.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique - 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.

 Lucius Galliard: Your advanced interrogation techniques need work.

Sam Fisher: *slams the guy through a piece of the landscape*

    • Averted in most of the rest of the series though. At worse, Sam's usually threatening violence. At best, he's pulling dark humour about threatening violence. Bear in mind that Sam is voiced by Michael Ironside, one of the scariest-voiced people ever, so threats are all he usually needs.
    • 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... and then do the same to them when you get loose.
  • Jiggle Physics: Grim, in Conviction. Very noticeable near the beginning of the third level (Price Airfield).
  • Karma Meter: Double Agent - you have to infiltrate the terrorists without helping them out too much.
  • 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: Douglas Shetland, whose goal is to trigger a war between the United States and North Korea to "fix America".
  • 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?

    • Late in the first game, The Dragon sends out an email telling his men to stop sending door codes to sensitive areas through email, due to a "security catastrophe" caused by this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Conviction, Sam assures his worried daughter in a Flash Back, 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.
  • Locomotive Level: In Pandora Tomorrow, there's a surveillance mission that takes place in, on and underneath a French high-speed train.
  • Limited Special Collectors Ultimate Edition
  • 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.
  • Masquerade: 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.
    • Which makes the fact that Third Echelon apparently loudly proclaims their existence in their offices at NSA ( as seen in the infiltration level of Conviction all the more bizarre.
  • 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 every single dead body is male.
    • Not so. There are several dead female scientists in the White Box level, and a large number of female secretaries got wasted in the office portion of the White House level.
  • Motive Rant: Done by Shetland in Chaos Theory and Reed in Conviction.
    • 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), will feature 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!
  • Multi Platform
  • Multiple Endings: Double Agent, with which ending the player gets depending on the player's trust with the NSA and what he does at three specific points where he must make a decision.
  • Musical Spoiler: The games are fairly silent, focusing on ambient background sounds... until the player is spotted, at which point the 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.
  • Necessary Drawback: In the guns of Conviction.
  • Neck Lift: Sam gets the ability to do this to disarmed opponents in Conviction. With one arm.
    • He's not actually lifting them, with the exception of Kobin. He is, however, holding their trachea very tightly in his fingers. Just pay attention to how they move: it's obvious they're not being held up.
  • New Meat: The rookie Splinter Cell who joins you in the first mission of Version One of Double Agent demonstrates some skill, but his over-eagerness gets him killed before the end. In the sixth-generation version, however, the new guy not only survives but returns later in a mission.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: It would seem the only reason Reed could carry out his plan is because Kestral and Archer secured those EMP devices for him.
  • Ninja: Running gag, Fisher will often overhear guards talking about an intruder and one of them will say it's a ninja, with the implication that he is referring to Fisher. His buddy will call him crazy and in one case a guard you interrogate asks you to kill him with your blowpipe.
    • Lampshaded at one point in the first game: While trying to carry out an unconscious computer analyst out of the CIA for interrogation, Fisher is warned by Lambert about avoiding detection because it would be a woozy trying to explain to the agency what a "SIGINT Ninja" is doing sneaking around and carrying one of their personnel out.
  • 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.
  • No Sidepaths No Exploration No Freedom: Most of the levels in the games 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Nintendo Hard to pull this off. Conviction seems to make this even harder, since only hostage-taking and the distraction cam is 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.
    • 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 Fourth Wall: Conviction uses 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.
    • There's another cool instance of this in the game. After Grim tells Sam that it was Lambert's idea to fake Sarah's death, Sam gets automatically marks enemies and the player gets infinite Execute tokens to turn merge Sam's unstoppable rage into gameplay.
    • Done cleverly as a form of Self-Deprecation in Chaos Theory [1] - during the opening of the second level:

 Lambert: Looks like there's an active alarm system...

Sam: Let me guess - 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 out it was faked for his and Sarah's protection. By Lambert.
    • Then, the aforementioned unlimited execute sequence occurs, highlighting his quite literally unstoppable rage at the fact that not only did Lambert lie to him and betray his trust, but that it was all for nothing because the mole was never discovered..
    • A bonus level in Double Agent had Fisher's daughter kidnapped by a group of terrorists, and Sam was coming to here 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."
  • Plot Hole: A huge one exists between Double Agent/Essentials and Conviction.
    • Lawrence Williams, Assistant Director of the National Security Agency in Double Agent and Director of Third Echelon in Essentials. He was an Obstructive Bureaucrat in the former game and Big Bad of the latter, yet he's conspicuously absent in Conviction and his position has been filled by Tom Reed.
    • Sam was a fugitive at the end of Double Agent and during Essentials, yet in Conviction he's not.
  • President Evil: The Big Bad of the first game is the President of Georgia.
  • Private Military Contractors: Armed Guardian Services (ARGUS) in Pandora, Displace International in Pandora and Theory, and Black Arrow in Conviction.
  • 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.
    • And don't forget Sam chewing Wrigley's Airwaves in cutscenes in Chaos Theory.
    • 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.
    • The OpSat prominently displaying the Palm or Sony Ericsson logo in a couple of the games is a particularly unsubtle example.
  • Punch Clock Villain
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Intro to Double Agent.
  • 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.
    • Not his wife. Sam and Regan were divorced at that point and sources vary as to whether or not she was dead at that point.
  • 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.
  • Red Scare: Given a tip of the hat with the Russian agent for Conviction - his goggles glow red while the American agent's glow the series' iconic green.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: In every game before Conviction, Sam has followed the rules. After he finds out that his daughter's death was set up by Third Echelon, the people he had been working for, he finally crosses the line.
    • The first two levels 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...
    • Also when he finds out that said death was faked by Third Echelon, specifically Grim and Lambert.
  • 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.
  • 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: Chaos Theory: At the end, the last remaining bad guy tries to commit seppuku. Sam has to save him so someone will still be alive to take public responsibility for the entire sorry mess.
    • 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: The original features a creepy piano sound every time the enemies get suspicious. The later installments use more "actiony" noises.
  • Scenery Gorn: Downtown Washington D.C. after the EMP bombs go off in Conviction. Also, the White House.
  • 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.
  • Selective Condemnation: In Double Agent, Lambert instructs Fisher early on to do whatever it takes to continue building trust with the JBA, which is used to justify why Fisher doesn't lose NSA trust for wiping out the crew of a ship. However, even prior to that point Fisher still loses NSA trust for completing certain JBA objectives which don't have nearly as much impact.
    • Justified, as Emile made it clear that the tanker mission was Fisher's only shot at joining the JBA, and so Fisher had no choice but to succeed, because failure was not an option. On the other cases, Sam actually had some leeway in choosing what to do.
  • Sequel Hook: It may not be noticed immediately, but Conviction has one: Reed may have been stopped, but Megiddo is still out there.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Shoot Your Mate: This scenario crops up in the climax to the next-gen version of Double Agent, where Sam is ordered to shoot his boss, Irving Lambert, who has been captured by the terrorists.
    • Canonically, Sam did shoot Lambert.
    • A much more literal version appears in the climax of the co-op story, 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.
    • Another literal version is in Chaos Theory, in the confrontation between Sam and Doug.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: In Conviction, used with the M-500 and averted with the SPAS-12.
  • Shout-Out: At one point in Chaos Theory, Fisher jokingly claims to be Henry Tuttle while interrogating a guard about a building's ventilation system. The guard doesn't get the joke.
    • In Conviction, the lockdown protocol for Third Echelon is 23-19.
    • Many of Conviction's plot points bear a strong resemblance to those used in 24, as pointed out at the end of this.

 Fisher: "Okay, let’s recap. So we’ve had a PMC plotting a domestic terrorist threat using EMPs, a tech-savvy voice in my ear, a female U.S. President weighing in on field operations, the 25th amendment, my daughter used as leverage, brutal and instantly effective interrogation techniques, and ultimately a mysterious entity pulling strings from the shadows. Did I just play all seasons of 24?"

    • A surprising one in Chaos Theory, when eavesdropping on the meeting in the bathhouse. "Kaneda!" "Tetsuo!"
    • One of the conversations between Sam and Grim leads to a Half-Life reference.

 Sam: I didn't bring my crowbar.

Grim: Whatever, crowbars are for geeky video game characters.

    • In Chaos Theory, at one point two guards can be heard discussing the new Prince of Persia game (presumably Warrior Within), and saying how awesome it looks. Unsurprisingly, Prince of Persia is developed by Ubisoft.
  • Sir Swearsalot: The 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.
  • Sniper Pistol: Averted in Conviction; you can hit targets further than the indicated effective range, but landing a kill-shot is a different matter.
  • 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.
  • Spy Catsuit: Sam's suit isn't quite as fetishistic as the one in Metal Gear Solid, but it's rather close. The novel says to make 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.
  • Stronger with Age: Sam's abilities simply get more fearsome with time.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Lambert's (canonical) death at the end of Double Agent. Killing Lambert benefits Sam very little, as Dufraisne is about to nuke the JBA headquarters, and Sam's cover is inevitably blown a few minutes later anyway trying to stop Dufraisne. Killing Lambert doesn't even get Sam much closer to Dufraisne than simply shooting his way out of the interrogation room.
  • Super Drowning Skills. Sam does learn how to swim in between Chaos Theory and Double Agent, though. 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.
  • Swiss Army Gun: The SC-20K is this to an extent in Chaos Theory and Double Agent, having a number of usable attachments; averted in Conviction where it's just another long gun weapon.
  • 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 late in Double Agent, where 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 Solid, Prince of Persia (which had a remake series by Ubisoft), and Half Life. And previous Splinter Cell games ("let me guess, three alarms and the mission's over?").
  • 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.
    • That last part is averted in Conviction during the Third Echelon infiltration.
  • 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: Looks like there's an active alarm system...
Sam Fisher: Let me guess - three alarms and the mission's over?
Irving Lambert: Of course not! This is no video game, Fisher.

  • 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: Sam gets even more badass in Conviction.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Trick Arrow: 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.
  • 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 relationships.
  • 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 soldier 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.
  • 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: Sam cannot pick up most enemy weapons or ammunition. 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 standard magazines. Many of Sam's adversaries carry weapons that use the same ammunition.
    • In Chaos Theory, there is an e-mail Sam can read wherein a mook is complaining that 5.56mm ammunition was provided to them instead of the 7.62mm rounds they need.
    • 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.
  • Walk It Off: Double Agent and Conviction, as opposed to the first three games in which you need to use first aid kits to heal. Averted in the Version Two of Double Agent, as you still have the medkit mechanic.
  • 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.
  • What the Hell, Player?: 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.
    • In some situations, Sam actually demands What The Hell Mission Control. For example, in Pandora Tomorrow, after having a 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.
      • 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 when you start to move back out of the level.
    • In Conviction, where failing to save the scientist inside the Michigan Avenue Reservoir or killing civilians in the Downtown District are failure conditions.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him: Generally 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. 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.
    • Justified in that Reed 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?
(Player is given opportunity to grab Reed.)
Reed: Or maybe just say: "Fuck, Tom Reed just killed me!"
*Reed shoots Sam*

  • With This Herring: Sam's earlier missions have his only firearm being his pistol. Him having to retrieve his rifle from a certain location was probably intended to justify this, but it doesn't explain why the NSA couldn't have issued him an interim rifle before he retrieves the SC-20K.
    • Pandora Tomorrow actually gives him the SC-20K for the first three missions, then drops him in Jerusalem without it, telling him where to pick it up. When he complains, Irving says the guy it's with was doing some modifications to the acoustics, and he's pretty much the only person nearby with those kind of skills.
      • Which is in turn a little odd, because the guy who was doing the modifications to the rifle then has Sam test it out a bit in a clear tutorial segment, after Sam has been using it for two levels already. While it is true he is testing the modifications to the rifle, conventional wisdom in game design is to place a Justified Tutorial segment immediately as the player gains new abilities or equipment (rather than levels later,) making this tutorial seem like it was inserted Out of Order.
  • Wham! Episode: The ending of Double Agent where you can kill Lambert or, in 'past-gen' blow his cover. In Conviction this ending is canon.

 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.
  • ~Wouldn't Hit A Girl~/WouldHitAGirl: 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.
      • Although in the first game, if you do strike her on the mission where she appears in person, you get an instant game over.
  • Worst Aid: The Save the Villain mentioned earlier. How does Sam save him from seppuku? Just rip the knife right out.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: In the first mission of Pandora Tomorrow, you walk right past a room with Big Bad Sadano, and can easily put a bullet in his head without endangering yourself or any hostages (this all takes place a week before Sadano implements his "Pandora Tomorrow" scheme to release smallpox bombs if he dies). However, if you do this, you get an instant Game Over for not following orders, as Lambert wanted to leave Sadano alone until more intel could be gathered.
    • It sounds like the plan has already been implemented, actually; one of the drivers in the opening cutscene mutters the phrase into a phone before beginning the attack.
    • Likewise, killing Dufraisne in Double Agent at any time before the endgame results in an instant Game Over.
  • You Lose At Zero Trust: Literally. In Double Agent, if you lose all trust with either the NSA or JBA, you lose the game.

Notes

  1. as Chaos Theory is the first in the series that does not trigger a game over after 3 alerts

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