Tom Clancy – A Look Back at 26 Years of Gaming
Today the world was saddened to hear about the passing of legendary author Tom Clancy. Many will remember him for his amazing and technically detailed books about espionage, military science and terrorism. Others will remember him for his character, CIA Agent Jack Ryan, who has appeared in many of his novels and subsequent film adaptations. Some people, like myself, will remember him for his contribution to the world of videogames.
Below is a list of some of the games that have been created based on Tom Clancy’s universe. Hopefully this list is a worthy sendoff for such an awesome writer.
THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (1987)
Released in 1987 for Atari ST, Amiga, Apple II, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and IBM PC’s and later remade for the NES and SNES systems, The Hunt for Red October was based on Tom Clancy’s book of the same name. Published by Argus Press software Ltd, and developed by Oxford Digital Enterprises Ltd, The Hunt for Red October was a submariner simulator and Strategy game, controlled entirely by mouse. The objective was simple – guide the Red October towards United States controlled water while avoiding the Russian Navy.
RED STORM RISING (1988)
Released in 1988 for Commodore 64, Red Storm Rising was published and developed by Microprose and co-designed and co-programmed by Sid Meier. Based on the book of the same name, Red Storm Rising was about a nuclear powered submarine, whose mission was to disrupt Soviet operations between the Kola Peninsula and Iceland. Gameplay was designed so players could choose to play at different timelines. The older timelines gave you access to very basic submarine systems while the later timelines gave you access to more advanced and refined systems such as advanced sonar and weapons.
SSN was released for the PC in 1996, developed by Clancy Interactive Entertainment and published by Simon & Schuster. SSN was about a US Navy nuclear attack submarine and its participation in a fictional war with China over the Spratly islands. In the game, players took on missions ranging from intelligence gathering to full on naval warfare.
Gameplay was supported by in game news reports before and after missions to help immerse the player. The control scheme was limited to movement, weapons, periscope and sonar.
RAINBOW SIX (1998)
Released in 1998 for the PC, and later for the Nintendo 64, Playstation, Mac OS, Dreamcast and Gameboy Color, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six was the game that made Tom Clancy a household name for gamers. Developed and produced by Red Storm Entertainment – a company co-founded by Clancy himself – Rainbow Six was a tactical shooter that moved away from the arcade style that crowded the game market. Instead it blended authentic weaponry, squad tactics and stealth with realistic consequences for sloppy gameplay. Operatives and enemies could be taken out in the blink of an eye and players had to pay very close attention to pre mission plans.
Based on the book series of the same name, the story was about a multinational special operations unit called “RAINBOW” formed to counteract a global increase in terrorism. Team Rainbow sets off fighting seemingly random terrorist attacks that end up being related to something far more sinister, a biotech corporation set on killing off the global population to make way for a scientific utopia to be inherited by a chosen community.
RAINBOW SIX: ROGUE SPEAR (1999)
Released in 1999 for the PC, and the following two years on the Mac OS, Dreamcast, Playstation and Gameboy Advance, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear was very similar in gameplay and presentation as its predecessor, yet it’s popularity spawned numerous expansion packs.
The story in Rogue Spear centered around the collapse of the Russian economy after the fall of the Soviet union. The Russian Mafia has started purchasing weapons and weapons grade plutonium and making deals with international arms dealers to distribute them to the black market. Rainbow is sent in initially to investigate but soon find themselves in the thick of it to stop the deals before things get really bad.
GHOST RECON (2001)
Published by Ubisoft and developed by Red Storm Entertainment, Ghost Recon was a tactical shooter not based off of any of Tom Clancy’s books, but considered one of the defining games in the genre. Originally created for the PC, it was later ported over to the Xbox, GameCube and Playstation 2.
Ghost Recon centers around the Ghosts, a squad of elite soldiers from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Special Forces group. Taking place in 2008 Ultranationalists in Russia stage a coup on the Russian government placing one of their own as the President of Russia. This starts a chain reaction that ends up with Russia annexing Georgia and the Ghosts on cleanup duty.
SPLINTER CELL (2002)
Splinter Cell was created for the Xbox by Ubisoft Montreal. Following the adventures of Sam Fisher (voiced by Michael Ironside), lead agent in a branch of the NSA called 3rd Echelon. Gameplay was centered around stealth even going so far as to instantly fail missions if a direct approach was taken in certain situations. Sam Fisher came equipped with some great support equipment as well. His iconic triple green lensed night vision goggles, the SC-20K rifle which could be equipped to fire gas grenades and sticky shockers. Sam could also climb up poles, shimmy ledges and do split jumps to get the drop on enemy patrols.
Splinter Cell’s story has Sam heading to TBilisi in Georgia to discover what happened to two missing CIA agents, and ends up uncovering a plan to detonate nuclear weapons in the United States potentially starting World War III.
Splinter Cell and it’s first two sequels were given HD makeovers and released on the Playstation 3 in 2010.
RAINBOW SIX 3: RAVEN SHIELD (2003)
Released in 2003 by Ubisoft and Red Storm Entertainment for the Xbox, Playstation 2 and GameCube, Raven Shield focused on neo-fascist terrorism against American oil and financial interests by a surviving member of the Nazi Croatian Revolutionary Movement known as the Ustaše. Rainbow investigates and soon uncovers a plot to resurrect global fascism with VX Nerve Gas and Blister Agents. Raven Shield was highly successful among gamers, spawning several mods and expansion packs.
SPLINTER CELL: PANDORA TOMORROW (2004)
Sam Fisher returned on the Xbox in 2004 for Pandora Tomorrow. Not much changed from the original Splinter Cell, however graphics were greatly improved over the original and Sam now had to abilities to shoot people while hanging upside down and open doors while carrying bodies. The plot focused on Sam’s mission to stop biological warfare on the United States and other countries.
GHOST RECON 2 (2004)
Ghost Recon 2 was published in 2004 for the Xbox and Playstation 2, with a port to the GameCube in 2005. Set in the year 2011 The Korean Army is getting prepped for an all out war with other Asian countries. The United Nations step in, sending the Ghosts on a peacekeeping mission to stop North Korea from starting World War III.
SPLINTER CELL: CHAOS THEORY (2005)
Once again Sam Fisher graced the original Xbox with the release of Chaos theory, which introduced a whole slew of new gameplay options and fast paced stealth. It also introduced 2 player coop missions that encouraged Splinter Cell players to strategize and work together to ghost their way through missions. Gameplay was refined so that enemies didn’t instantly know you were behind them when you got too close and introduced a combat knife for silent melee kills, making Sam less likely to die a gruesome death due to an unfortunate player slip-up. Sam could also crawl through vents and climb ropes. Not to mention some hilarious dialogue between Sam and his handlers. “25 cents per hour and not a penny more!”
In Chaos Theory, Sam is sent around the world dealing with cyber warfare that could ignite a war between the United States and Korea. He also has to stop a plot to overthrow the Japanese government.
SPLINTER CELL: DOUBLE AGENT (2006)
Sam Fisher’s first adventure on the Xbox 360 and PS3 took him to a dark place in his life. After finishing a mission in Iceland, Sam finds out that his daughter Sarah has been killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Sam shuts down and, with nothing to lose, takes his most dangerous assignment yet. Sam infiltrates and works as a member of a terrorist cell called John Brown’s Army. His assignment is to stop the JBA from detonating bombs on US soil by any means necessary.
This was the first and only Splinter Cell game that had decision points in the game where player choice would influence the final outcome of the game. Double Agent brought the ability to influence your trust between the JBA and NSA through your gameplay style (eg. sparing hostages for NSA or detonating explosives for JBA). Aside from the branching story and improved graphics not much else really changed in Double Agent.
RAINBOW SIX: VEGAS SERIES (2006)
In 2007 Ubisoft Montreal released Rainbow Six Vegas for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. Incredibly well received, Vegas followed the story of Logan Keller and his two squadmates, Michael Walters and Jung Park as they hunted a terrorist named Irena Morales who has begun an assault on the city of Las Vegas. Vegas 1 ended in a cliffhanger that was wrapped up in Vegas 2.
Both games were very similar aside from the ability to sprint, and a different single player character who was fully customisable in the second game. The story was also designed to be tackled cooperatively with friends.
Gameplay was designed in linear levels where players would position their squad at doorways, use heat and night vision along with a satellite mini map to coordinate strategy before breaching and clearing casinos room-by-room. Players had the option to go in silent and set the rules of engagement for their squad. You could set your squad to shoot on sight or only when attacked, they could be instructed to fit silencers on their weapons, throw smoke grenades or go loud and explosive.
GHOST RECON: ADVANCED WARFIGHTER SERIES (2006)
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter (fondly referred to as G.R.A.W.) was released on the Xbox 360 in 2006 followed by a direct sequel in 2007. G.R.A.W. followed the story of Captain Scott Mitchell and the Ghosts as they are sent in to Mexico to assist in the recovery of NATO assets and personnel after a trade agreement known as the North American Joint Security Agreement (NAJSA) is interrupted by a terrorist attack, leaving the Canadian Prime Minister dead and the American Vice president trapped behind enemy lines along with the Mexican president.
The gameplay included cover based shooting and the control of multiple squads. Players could choose weapon loadouts for assault, sniping and support style gameplay. G.R.A.W. also introduced the Cross Command Interface (Crosscom) which highlighted strategic points of interest and enemy forces on your HUD along with giving you visual communications with command and constant monitoring of your squadmates’ positions and vitals. To add icing to the amazing G.R.A.W. cake, helicopter assault missions were thrown into the mix, where players take a blackhawk minigun station and go to town on enemy troops and vehicles.
EndWar was a different kind of Tom Clancy game. Breaking from the usual shooters and stealth gameplay, EndWar is a strategy game that took place during World War III. Designed for the Xbox 360 and PS3, EndWar used both gamepad controls and voice commands to control units.
World War III has started after a nuclear exchange kills 20 million people in the Middle East and raises the global oil prices to insane levels. Governments and allies split and reform new alliances. World tensions grow and the United States erects an orbital platform that will alter the balance of global power. Things are about to reach the breaking point. Only you can direct the war to its final resolution.
H.A.W.X. SERIES (2009 – 2010)
Set in the same universe as Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, the H.A.W.X. series is about a group of fighter pilots who have been decommissioned from the U.S. military and now are working as private military contractors known as Artemis Global Security. Over 6 years they fly defense contracts all over the globe until it is discovered that the PMC whom H.A.W.X. is flying for has decided to attack the United States in order to raise its stock prices.
H.A.W.X. gameplay is designed much like many other fighter combat simulators, with players being able to fly various types of aircraft with varied loadouts. The player is sent to various real world locations around the world and fly in combat against multiple enemies via land, sea and air with the option for first person and third person gameplay.
SPLINTER CELL: CONVICTION (2010)
For Sam Fishers second outing on the Xbox 360 and PS3, the story takes place 3 years after Double Agent. Sam Fisher is contacted by an old friend at the NSA and told that his daughter’s death was a setup and that she is still alive. This throws Sam back into the game with the hopes of seeing her again. To do this, Sam must help stop the now corrupt 3rd Echelon before they enact a plot to overthrow the United States government.
Gameplay was changed up for this entry. Sam Fisher’s stealth elements were practically tossed, in favor of a more panther like approach to combat. Sam lost most of his gadgets in favor of conventional firearms, his trademark night vision goggles were replaced with sonar goggles and he was given a new toy in the form of a backpack EMP. Sam also gained the ability to mark and execute foes. In combat Sam would charge this ability via melee combat, mark up to three enemies (depending on his weapons) and then, at the push of a button, time would slow down and Sam would kill all marked enemies with well placed headshots.
It was a bit of a disconnect from the series and left fans with mixed feelings on the future of the franchise. However it was still a fun ride, regardless of gameplay style. On a sad note it was also the last game in the series to feature Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher due to Ubisoft wanting a more physical actor for the sequel.
GHOST RECON: FUTURE SOLDIER (2012)
Released in 2012 for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 Future Soldier takes place in the year 2024. A dirty bomb is detonated in Nicaragua, killing off several members of the original Ghost team. Another Ghost team, designated Hunter, are tasked with investigating what happened which leads them around the globe From Nigeria to Russia. Things get hot fast though as nuclear weapons soon become involved and the Ghosts find themselves against everything from simple insurgents all the way to fully loaded special operations squads that are just as skilled and well equipped.
Gameplay introduced the ability to fully customise every weapon in your arsenal from gas pressure, bullet type, optics, trigger sensitivity and even the camouflage pattern on your weapon (CADPAT FTW!!) [you pesky Canadians! Ed]. The Ghosts also come equipped with remote controlled UAV drones that can be used to designate up to four targets. Once these targets were selected and the player and teammates were in place, all targets could be taken out simultaneously and quietly. Other functions added to the game were stealth melee attacks and adaptive camouflage which let the Ghosts blend in with their environments for more stealthy approaches to combat.
SPLINTER CELL: BLACKLIST (2013)
Returning to its roots this year, Splinter Cell Blacklist took us back to what made Splinter Cell great. Putting Sam Fisher back in the suit and goggles and in charge of a new counter terrorist unit now known as Fourth Echelon. Sam Fisher is sent on a mission to stop a terrorist group known as the Engineers from attacking American interests one by one until all American troops are withdrawn from foreign countries.
Stealth gameplay makes a return in Blacklist as well as a new spin on the panther combat gameplay in Conviction. Known as killing in motion, Sam now has the ability to mark and execute enemies while on the move. The option to play through the game entirely lethal or non-lethal is featured as well as Sam’s combat knife making a return. Sam has access to a large arsenal of gadgets again, ranging from gas grenades to sticky shockers, to distraction cameras and a UAV drone.
Blacklist also rewards players for different gameplay styles such as getting in and out without killing or being seen (ghost), silently killing anyone who gets in your way without being seen (panther) or full on assaults (assault… duh).
THE DIVISION (Q4 2014)
Coming next year, the Division is a new Tom Clancy game series. The game story will focus around a disease that spreads during Black Friday which kills thousands of Americans and causes a collapse of the United States government. The Division will be a narrative driven massively multiplayer console game for next generation consoles, where the player takes the role of a member of the Strategic Homeland Division, assigned to save what’s left of America.
RAINBOW SIX: PATRIOTS (2014?)
Coming (hopefully) next year, Rainbow 6 Patriots will take place in New York City. Rainbow will find themselves up against a populist militia group known as “The Patriots,” who have decided to take it upon themselves to change Wall Street by any means necessary.
The future is still uncertain for Patriots as development has been put on hold, the development team was swapped out for a different team and now Ubisoft is planning on releasing on next gen consoles.
So to conclude my look back, I’d like to put some personal thoughts into this. I’ve been playing Tom Clancy games most of my life, I’ve grown up reading the books and bonded with my parents while watching the movies. I was even inspired to join the Canadian Army in the field of communications and electronics by the Tom Clancy universe. I still serve in the Canadian Army and actually found out about his passing from someone in the office today. I am saddened by his passing but glad for the adventures that I’ve experienced from his books, games and films.
Rest In Peace. Carry on.