Strictly speaking, the act of being non-lethal describes the act of knocking out a target without actually killing them. This includes using electricity-based or non-lethal gas gadgets to knock out targets, or by using CQC (close-quarters-combat) to knock out a target. In the Splinter Cell series, using non-lethal tactics can be either mission critical or simply up to the player. In most of the games, knocking out hostiles will reward the player with a better Mission Rating at the end of the level. In Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the player is rewarded with more Ghost points for taking out enemies non-lethally.
In the Splinter Cell series, there are a number of ways to knock out hostiles:
- Using non-lethal gadgets.
- Knocking out using hand-to-hand.
- Dropping on the target's head.
- Throwing a bottle at a target's head.
- In Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, it is possible to knock out targets by aiming a Sticky Camera at a target's hit and firing it at them; the Sticky Camera is then reusable by picking it up from where it fell on the ground.
- In Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction, it is impossible to neutralize an enemy by non-lethal means. This fact has been met with harsh criticism by the fanbase, as the series has traditionally been focused on leaving a minimal footprint and being undetected. The stark contrast between the cunning, stealthy options of other titles with the rampaging, murderous Sam Fisher in Conviction is jarring to say the least, and not well received.