Today, April 9th, marks the anniversary of a hugely influential title in video game history: Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

Releasing back in 2002, the title was a revolutionary take on the shooter genre. Spy games had been developed before, but Splinter Cell used light like no other game before. Unreal Engine 2 was relatively fresh back then, only debuting months before. Ironically enough, the engine debuted as a dev tool for developing military training. Now, Unreal Engine 2 was being put to the test with Sam Sheppard. Despite releasing first on the PlayStation 2, the game really found its popularity on the Xbox. The console had more power and showed off the lighting effects and dynamic gameplay much more effectively.

Sam Sheppard, the main character in the Splinter Cell series, works for Third Echelon, a secret branch of the NSA; working black-ops missions to stop terrorism and other enemies of the United States, and to a larger effect, the world. The game also released for PC, Nintendo GameCube, and Game Boy Advance. Seriously, if you have not seen the GBA Splinter Cell, do yourself a favor. Despite the lack of 3D graphics and shading that made the console versions so iconic, the core experience is there and is one of the few examples of a good handheld port.

Six Splinter Cell games have released since the debut title. Additionally, novels following Sam Sheppard have released since 2004. Movie rights to the series have circled Hollywood since 2005, with official announcements in 2011 falling apart shortly after. Games have taken the stealth innovation and lighting mechanic from Splinter Cell and used it to their advantage ever since 2002. While games like Metal Gear Solid or Dishonored do a great job of working stealth into gameplay, no game quite matches the experience of the original Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell. Even today, it holds up as a great game and fun experience. Happy Birthday, Splinter Cell.

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