This page contains a list of features and content that was cut or changed from the final version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell before its release. Many cosmetic and artistic choices were changed or discarded, and many gameplay elements also saw considerable changes made before the final game's release. Most notably, four entire levels were cut, along with all of their story. These levels comprised the game's nonexistent third act, with act 2 comprising the America missions, and act 4 comprising the Myanmar missions.
Development Timeline[edit | edit source]
Splinter Cell was first launched on November 17, 2002, as an Xbox exclusive.
Splinter Cell's development began at some point in early 2001, though its early stages of development are poorly documented. According to Retro Gamer Magazine, the game's plot was originally to portray Azerbaijan as the enemy, rather than Georgia. However, after the September 11th attacks, this was changed, as Ubisoft felt Azerbaijan could've been interpreted by some as a middle-eastern country. This is backed up by Bobrov referring to the mercenaries as "Azeris" in Shipyard, and also Vselka Infiltration.
The alpha was likely completed at some point in late 2001. As a complete dialogue script for the game appears in the Xbox game files, all 14 levels are believed to have been playable at this stage of development.
During beta development, Shipyard (act 3, mission 1) and Mining Town (act 3, mission 3) were cut from the game due to quality concerns and playtesting issues. According to Clint Hocking (level designer, then later lead designer), the game initially had 7 level designers, each designing 2 levels. Hocking designed Police Station (act 1, mission 1) and Severonickel (act 3, mission 4). In an interview with Hocking, he states that one level designer had to be fired mid-development. One can speculate that this designer was responsible for Shipyard and Mining Town. In his words, these two levels were "bad". Cutting these levels also did not sacrifice major story elements, making these cuts easy to work around.
The beta was completed in time for E3 2002, where the game would be showcased. A portion of Severonickel headlined the play demo.Severonickel was also heavily featured in marketing materials for the game, like screenshots and video demos. Around this time, Ubi Soft publicly stated that the game had 12 levels, accounting for the two that were cut prior.
Later in development, likely in late-summer 2002, the decision was made to cut two more levels from the game; levels viewed as the game's weakest links. This would be done to help alleviate the workload Ubisoft Montreal was under, in order to wrap up the game. According to Hocking, the levels cut would be Nuclear Power Plant (act 3, mission 2), and one of either Oil Rig or Severonickel. Hocking, now lead game designer, made the call to cut Severonickel instead of Oil Rig. There were two main factors that guided this decision. The Ubisoft Montreal team was embattled, and morale was particularly poor late in development, in part due to infighting and creative differences. Hocking cut his own level to boost team morale. At this point in development, Hocking had also assumed the position of lead writer. He cut Severonickel so that he would not have to bridge two gaps in the story, had he instead cut Oil Rig. Leaving one big gap in-between Kalinatek and Chinese Embassy proved to be the better storytelling decision.)
As Nuclear Power Plant was eventually released with Splinter Cell's PS2 port, its rationale for being cut from the Xbox/PC version remains uncertain. Perhaps Ubisoft Shanghai viewed it as the strongest of the cut levels, and finished it with the extra development time that they had. Another theory is that this level was cut by Ubisoft Montreal, with the specific intention handing it over to Shanghai, as a PS2-exclusive.
In early 2003, a handful of level designers revisited the cut missions, with the intent of releasing some or all of them as DLC content. Kola Cell was the first bonus mission to be released, in March 2003. According to Clint Hocking, this level was a "massively rebuilt version" of Severonickel, done by a different designer.
One thing worth noting is that cut dialogue in PS2's Nuclear Power Plant does exist, which mentions Severonickel being the next mission. It is therefore safe to assume that Ubisoft Shanghai did, in fact, work with porting Severonickel to the PS2, before discarding it once again for reasons unknown. As the PS2 port's production extended into early 2003, it is possible that Kola Cell was already slated for release, making Severonickel obsolete and unfit for release as a second PS2-exclusive level.
Soon after, Vselka Infiltration and Vselka were also released via Xbox Live. Although distributed as two separate missions, these levels were originally combined as one, in the form of Shipyard. According to the original data sticks, script, and texture files from Shipyard, the Vselka missions seem to somewhat overhaul Shipyard's apparently-flawed level design, though most of the original level's content and story remains.
Mining Town was never released in any way, though its complete texture files can be found within Pandora Tomorrow. This suggests that Ubisoft Shanghai at least gave Mining Town a look, before discarding it once more.
Game Design[edit | edit source]
- Sam's vest appeared to be a dark/olive green or gray. In the final release it is black.
- The original SC-20k was available in all missions, and had no suppressor (like its inventory icon). It was also called the FN-F2000, like its real life inspiration. The suppressor was added by beta, making it a key indicator when judging the age of a screenshot.
- Sam's facial hair was more noticeable and darker. It can still be seen in the opening video sequence before the main menu.
- Sam sometimes had black marks on his face (later seen in Chaos Theory).
- Sam's short sleeve outfit was seen in more missions early on, particularly in pre-beta builds. Early versions of Police Station, Severonickel, and CIA HQ all featured the short sleeves.
- The health bar was displayed horizontally in the upper right corner.
- The crosshairs were square and would turn red when on an enemy.
- Night vision and thermal vision were selected via the inventory. Thermal goggles were initially usable in the first three missions.
- The interaction box was originally displayed as a series of icons in the lower left corner. Searching bodies was also an option listed in this earlier interface. This was replaced with physical satchels later on.
- A flashlight may have been an usable item for the player.
- A Concussion Grenade may have been an item for the player to use, but attempting to spawn it in game will fail. The game files description reads: A standard non-lethal stun grenade. The command would look like the following:
To open the console, press F2.
- The training level may originally have had more content.
- A GPS. Grim would be use it on Sam before basic training. Possibly as a way to introduce player to basic movement.
- The basic assault course would have you climb a rope net. (Like you would a fence.)
- A shooting section for the SC-20K may have been present.
- Sticky cams and shockers may have been used in the training.
Missions[edit | edit source]
Act three of Splinter Cell was to take place between the events of Kalinatek and Chinese Embassy 1, from November 4th through November 9th, 2004. It was to take place entirely in the Kola Peninsula in Russia, where Sam was sent to track down a secret microwave relay, first detected via Ivan's encryption key in Kalinatek.
Each mission section listed below features a piece of soundtrack from that mission, in order to add some level of immersion to reading this page. Severonickel is the only mission of the 4 with incomplete music, which is ironic considering it was actually officially released in some capacity. Shipyard's music was recovered from a promotional media CD from prior to 2006 (major kudos to Reynardine Fuchsfein for preserving and sharing it). Nuclear Power Plant's music was obviously ripped from the PS2 game files. Mining Town's music was strangely recovered from the EU release of the PS2 game, as it plays in the very last area of Nuclear Power Plant, but only the EU version. Half of Severonickel's music was recovered from Kola Cell, and the other parts that are known were recovered from the OPSAT tutorial videos. As such, the last portion of Severonickel's music featured below is incomplete.
Notably, the OPSAT tutorial videos feature almost exclusively music from the cut missions, making the identification of said music much easier.
Shipyard[edit | edit source]
This level was to take place on November 4th, 2004, at the Oktyabr naval shipyard. This is where Ivan's encryption key led Third Echelon. Sam's first objective was to contact a captive sailor named Bobrov, who was detected during Echelon's initial surveillance of the location. Sam needed to figure out how he was involved with the microwave relay. After infiltrating the shipyard facility, he finds Bobrov in a small freezer room. Bobrov then tells Sam about a submarine docked in the neighboring warehouse, and that it is being used to transmit a signal north. At this point, accessing the submarine's SISSIXS became the primary objective. Sam then forces the sub up by disabling its compressor, alerting the men on-board. While evading them, he disables Oktyabr's communications center, preventing the alert from spreading to other nearby military cells. Sam makes his way to the neighboring warehouse, and into the submarine. Within the bowels of the sub, Sam accesses the SISSIXS, and traces the microwave relay to a nuclear power plant to the north, along with uncovering a video signal showing captured American soldiers. The latter piques the interest of Lambert. The submarine then surfaces outdoors at a small dock, where Sam exits, and meets Wilkes for extraction via Osprey.
This level was resurrected as the two Vselka bonus missions, Vselka Infiltration and Vselka Submarine that were released as DLC for both the Xbox and the Windows versions of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell. The Komodo Shipyard level from Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is also based on this level, sharing almost all basic plot elements, and even sharing some exact lines of dialogue verbatim.
Little is known about this level's original design, though the script indicates a much larger facility, featuring an elevator, an extra floor, and an entire interior warehouse housing the submarine. Screenshots of the last portion of the level, after Sam exits the submarine, depict a starry night sky, rather than the foggy sky present in Vselka Infiltration.
This level was notably retained for the Game Boy Advance port of Splinter Cell, along with Nuclear Power Plant. Interestingly, this version of the level begins indoors, and features an action sequence in which the submarine slowly floods. There are no indications of this occurring in the main version of Shipyard, though details are admittedly scarce in the latter half of the level. Aside from that, there isn't much worth noting in this GBA version of Shipyard.
Nuclear Power Plant[edit | edit source]
This level takes place on November 6th, 2004, at the Nadezhda nuclear power plant. Sam inserts via a halo jump to a small maintenance building on the outskirts the power plant. He then infiltrates the plant looking to trace the microwave relay. In order to make it easier for Grim to find the microwave signal, Sam activates a false meltdown alert, so that all civilian operations in the plant cease. However, he discovers the plant is being occupied by the Russian military, much to the dismay of Lambert. The Russian soldiers ignore the meltdown alert. Third Echelon also detects a train outside the plant, which is heavily armored to insulate radioactive contents. Sam is tasked with not only learning why the Russian military is at the plant, but what is inside the train. From interrogating a technician, he learns that the soldiers are in fact mercenaries in disguise, working for Nikoladze and Grinko, and that the train is shipping its contents to the far east. The plant's logs indicate the shipment is Americium-239, a weapons-grade isotope. However, with no leads concerning its destination, Sam turns his attention back to the microwave relay.
Echelon becomes suspicious when they learn of the plant's broadcast, which continued in a monotonous fashion, despite the entire facility being under a state of alert. Sam taps into the plant's communication center, and Grim discovers that Philip Masse was using wavelength-division multiplexing to conceal the Georgian signal within Nadezhda's civilian broadcast. Echelon used this intel to determine a termination point for the signal: a Russian village nearby. Sam is then informed that Wilkes cannot get within 30 kilometers of the plant, due to the false meltdown alert. Sam then devises a plan: he'll stow away on the Americium train, and meet Wilkes 35 kilometers down the tracks.
Although this level is almost entirely intact on the PS2 version of Splinter Cell, a number of differences are likely to exist between that port and the original version. Firstly, there are a series of significant level design differences seen in other Splinter Cell media. Specifically, the beginning of the level featured a series of vents that created alternative paths, particularly in the area leading up to the vertical spotlight area. Later, when Sam interrogates the technician, the original level featured a bathroom that the player could optionally follow him into, before grabbing him. This bathroom is not present in the PS2 version. Texture files also indicate that the original level would've concluded outside, with Sam approaching the actual disposal train, rather than the level ending abruptly like on the PS2. Also, one must account for the usual level design alterations that were present on all Splinter Cell levels on PS2, due to that console's weaker hardware.
The script recovered from the Xbox port indicates that later drafts of this level would've led directly into Severonickel, rather than Mining Town. This is expected, due to Shipyard and Mining Town being cut significantly before Nuclear Power Plant and Severonickel.
This level was to take place on November 8th, 2004, in the town of Simargl, Russia. Third Echelon determined that there had to be an antenna somewhere in the town, due to the Nadezhda signal terminating there. Sam is inserted by Wilkes via car, an old Lada which Wilkes grew attached to.
JR. WILKES: Hey, I'm sorry as hell about extraction back there.
FISHER: Forget about it.
JR. WILKES: I feel like a heel. But we should have a much easier time out here. We'll be using this baby.
JR. WILKES: Great little car. You trolling for another antenna?
FISHER: Yeah. This town has Grímsdóttir spooked, she says it eats microwaves.
JR. WILKES: That's really weird, man.
FISHER: You sure extraction's going to be easier this time?
JR. WILKES: Yeah, man, for sure. We're in the middle of nowhere, long as I don't get eaten by wolves and these wheels hold out, we're golden.
FISHER: And you have confidence in the wheels?
JR. WILKES: Are you kidding me? This is pure communist era quality, my man. I have stolen a lot of good cars in my time, but this one... This one's got personality.
JR. WILKES: I'll wait until you leave before I pull out, so we don't attract attention.
Wilkes waits in the car listening to the radio while Sam goes to infiltrate the town. Lambert contacts Sam saying "Good news, Fisher. This may be our last antenna hunt. Our SIGINT analysts say this city swallows up all the signals. Grímsdóttir says they will need an antenna at least half a kilometer wide". He then instructs Sam to cut off the city's power to locate the Georgian operational base by their lights, as the Georgians have their own generator. The town is heavily guarded, with sniper posts set up at various locations across the residential areas. Civilians are present in town. With rumors being spread about the breaches at the shipyard and Nadezhda, the Georgian operations in the town are kept under extreme security measures. Sam sneaks into the town and interrogates a local civilian, who reveals that the mercenaries arrived about a week ago and occupied the mine. He adds that they bribed everyone they could, and killed those they couldn't. He also reveals that the transformer is at the end of the street, and is guarded by both Georgians and Russians. They have installed an electric fence, he says, but he thinks there is a break in it. Sam heeds this intel, and disables the generator. The mercenaries in make-shift barracks notice the blackout, and send someone out to check the electrical fence. Noticing unidentified footprints in the snow, a soldier gets suspicious and calls for reinforcements.
Sam then taps into town's communications tower, which has a sniper and a spotlight on its roof. Lambert alerts Sam that a technician was spotted descending into the mine, and that he needs to interrogate him. After Sam infiltrates the town and the communications tower, he then proceeds into the mine itself via an industrial elevator. After navigating the dark tunnels of the mine, Sam finds the technician. He tells Sam that the mine itself is the antenna, as the tunnels are lined with the antenna wire, creating its "half kilometer" length. The entire mine is functioning as a relay base. He concludes by telling Sam that the end of the antenna is by a pile of rocks just outside the mine, where the rocks are typically hauled away. Sam uses this information to locate this rock pile, and taps into the antenna. Grim positively identifies Philip Masse's signature at the receiving end of the relay. She traces the location to an abandoned nickel smelting plant in the west, where they believe Nikoladze's "war room" is. Fisher meets up with Wilkes, and the two drive to Severonickel.
This level is notable for how little has been seen or heard from it. To date, no screenshots from Mining Town have ever been recovered, and it is unlikely that any were ever released. It was never featured in any promotional material, and many traces of its existence were simply deleted from the game files, even in places where the other cut missions' data remains. It was likely the first mission to be cut, because even Shipyard has a handful of screenshots. As stated before, the texture files for Mining Town can be recovered from within Pandora Tomorrow's game data. The textures from many of the Splinter Cell 1 levels are also found there. Data from the first game was likely used for engine tweaking and early playtesting, as a guide to help acclimate the Ubisoft Shanghai to the engine and game. It is worth noting that Pandora Tomorrow was the first game Ubisoft Shanghai built from the ground up.
Severonickel[edit | edit source]
This level was to take place on November 9th, 2004, at a nickel smelting plant near Severomorsk, Kola Peninsula, Russia. The entire microwave relay led to this smelting plant, and Third Echelon intel could essentially confirm that Philip Masse was on-site. Rather than simply eradicating the entire facility via airstrike, Echelon sent in Fisher specifically to retrieve some of Masse's code, later known as the Masse Kernels.
Fisher is inserted by Wilkes via his car. Wilkes informs Sam that he'd extract via Osprey on the far side, meaning he'd have to leave his car behind. After parting with Wilkes, Sam enters the smelting plant, encountering a series of large warehouses, some full of crates, some full of smelting equipment. An early draft of the script mentions a sky-car which Sam must ride, though this is omitted in later drafts. His first objective is to disable the plant's satellite dish, so that nothing could be transmitted out from the facility by Masse or others. Because of this, no alarms can be raised before disabling the dish. Little is known about the level design of this first part of Severonickel, but it is likely that Sam finds his way to the roof of the facility, to find this dish. Once there, he learns that the dish has a UPS, to prevent power surges or outages. By disabling the UPS, Fisher destroys the dish, making it look like an accident all the while. Around this time, Colonel Alekseevich arrives via helicopter, likely on the very same series of factory roofs. An ex-Soviet, Alekseevich is brought in to provide leadership to the military cell, amidst worrying rumors about Simargl, Nadezhda, and the Vselka spreading through the ranks of mercenaries. Lambert instructs Sam to stay away from Alekseevich. Following this, Sam's attention turns to Philip Masse.
As he gets closer to Masse, Lambert informs Fisher that the Joint Chiefs approved a plan devised by Grimsdottir. Sam would force Masse to execute a program called "Pickett Gap", and Grim would sample the code before shutting it down, to prevent any harm. Sam crawls through a vent, and finds his way to an old ballroom, with Philip Masse typing away at a massive computer in the middle of it. He forces Masse to execute the Pickett Gap program, before killing him. However, as he is ambushed in the ballroom, Grim learns that the program was shunted to a different set of servers across the plant. Fisher is instructed to disable those servers, stopping the program. Along the way to the server, Fisher is tasked with tampering with three 57E7-Y Surface to Air Missile (SAM) launchers so that they will explode, instead of firing on the Osprey upon extraction. It is believed that these two objectives could be completed in any order, but once both are complete, Alekseevich is alerted to Fisher's presence. Here he makes his iconic "I want his head on a spike" remark. As Sam finds his way to a trainyard outside the smelting plant, he engages in a large firefight with Alekseevich and his men. On the other side of the trainyard is Wilkes and the Osprey. Wilkes is shot by one of the mercenaries. As Sam neutralizes all the soldiers and corners Alekseevich, the latter says "He sends the Cross, but He also sends the strength to bear it..." before shooting himself in the head. Fisher boards the Osprey, and flies away with the critically-injured Wilkes, while watching the SAM launchers detonate. Data retrieved from the smelting plant, and Masse's servers, helped Third Echelon pinpoint Nikoladze in Yangon, Myanmar.
Severonickel was eventually redesigned, restructured and became the Kola Cell DLC level. Certain areas of the level were condensed and rearranged, and all outdoor areas were removed in Kola Cell. The objectives were also abbreviated, though the core purpose remained Philip Masse.
Severonickel does appear in Splinter Cell: Team Stealth Action for N-Gage (the editor is currently confirming this, though he is confident it is true).
Notably, both the cutscene and the loading screen for Chinese Embassy 1 reference the Pickett Gap program. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory also directly references this level, as Sam says that he "killed Masse outside Severomorsk". The code retrieved in this mission also became the core of Chaos Theory's story, with Zherkezhi's knowledge of Masse's algorithms falling into the wrong hands. It is theorized that a major reason why Kola Cell was even released at all was because Ubisoft already decided that Chaos Theory would feature callbacks to Philip Masse. That game would've only been in preproduction in early 2003.
Rationale[edit | edit source]
Although it may seem jarring and confusing that an entire block of four levels were entirely discarded from the base game, the reasoning for this handful of cuts is actually somewhat straightforward. As stated before, Shipyard and Mining Town were casualties of the first round of cuts, which is believed to have been made in the time leading up to E3 2002 (which was 22-24 May 2002). Nuclear Power Plant and Severonickel were then removed together much later into development, likely during the final crunch to get Splinter Cell to go gold, which would've been around September-October 2002.
What deemed these levels unfit for the game in the eyes of Ubisoft will likely always be shrouded in some mystery, though there is one big lead concerning the general mindset that Ubisoft had. Clint Hocking and others have mentioned that there was a big issue with factional politics and creative disputes within the design team, much more so than subsequent Splinter Cells. There was one half of the team that thought Splinter Cell should be modeled after Thief, with a very open-world design, with ambiguous pathways, and many different tools at the player's disposal in a given situation. The other half thought that Splinter Cell should be much more linear, calculated, and with a heavier focus on storytelling and skill progression, much like Metal Gear Solid 2. Hocking identified with the Thief group, and designed the first versions of Severonickel with this approach in mind. In fact, he details that the middle levels of the game were constructed first, with this open-world mindset. This likely means all of the cut missions were originally built to be totally open, which is something that the level data definitely supports.
As development wore on, the team gradually shifted to the more linear mindset with level design. This meant that every level had to be chiseled-away, and stripped of many of the open-world elements, to make them more linear. This type of redesign likely suited some missions better than others, meaning some could've been enhanced by this change in design, while others could've been broken, and made totally redundant. This is likely why these four missions were cut, as the shift away from open level design ruined them to varying degrees, with too little time to redesign them appropriately. Shipyard and Mining Town were likely too open-world to even attempt to rectify, resulting in them being deemed "bad", and being early cuts. Nuclear Power Plant and Severonickel were likely very close to being deemed satisfactory, but required more time and attention than Ubisoft could offer.
Cutscenes[edit | edit source]
[TO BE EDITED]
The PS2 cutscenes that bookend Nuclear Power Plant seem to combine a lot of content that would've spread across the entire 4 Russia missions. This section has been created to potentially layout what the cut FNW newscasts would've looked like for each cut mission. More to come, obviously.
Data[edit | edit source]
See Splinter Cell Cut Content/Data for text pulled from game's code.