Government. Espionage. Military. Tom Clancy, the best selling author and co-founder of development studio Red Storm Entertainment, died October 1 at the age of 66. While Clancy was best known for his career as the author of military and espionage thrillers like The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games and Red Storm Rising, he has also been able to elevate his stories from page to screen in blockbuster film adaptations and ultimately becoming a pioneer in modern games development. While not solely responsible for the popularization of Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher or Rainbow Six’s Ding Chavez, Clancy provided the guidance and vision that allowed Red Storm Entertainment to become a AAA development studio under UbiSoft’s banner.
So while I wait patiently for next year’s launch of The Division, here are ten of Tom Clancy’s gifts to the gaming world.
While not anywhere near the pantheon of stellar flight combat simulators, HAWX deserves credit for carving out a little niche typically reserved for the Ace Combat series. Not robust enough to be a simulator but still grounded in the Clancy brand of potential realism, HAWX managed to toe the line between simulator and action-oriented flight combat simulator. While not the soap opera that its rival Ace Combat was, HAWX shared storyline with Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 provides just enough unique narrative.
Certainly not the best Risk-styled strategy game, nor the most memorable, but Politika was an achievement in that it was Red Storm Entertainment’s first title. Politika was an example of exactly what kind of cross-media marketing power Tom Clancy could provide. A demo copy of the game was included in the first book of Clancy’s Power Plays series (a series created by Clancy but handed to another writer), the aptly titled Politika. The trend would continue with similar turn based strategy games being cross produced with Ruthless.com and Shadow Watch.
Endwar was a fantastic experiment in voice activated commands in gaming. Set in Clancy’s familiar world on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Endwar utilized classic real time strategy implemented by vocal commands. Endwar was received fairly well by console audiences, a battleground where unit management and quick commands are often convoluted by the lack of multiple hotkeys of a controller. PC Gamers however passed on the game citing its simplistic mechanics not enough to break into the flood of strategy titles already available.
7. Ghost Recon Shadow Wars
Released with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS, Shadow Wars surprised in that it strayed away from Ghost Recon’s shooter history. Rather giving the 3DS a unique strategy game to play, Shadow Wars was praised as one of the best games for the system out of the gates. Although the story was cited as being lackluster, a trait for many Clancy games as he became less involved, Shadow Wars was a nice addition to a handheld strategy library already filled with Fire Emblem and Advance Wars.
6. Ghost Recon
It’s hard to talk about Ghost Recon without talking about its cousin Rainbow Six, but where Rainbow focused on counter-terrorism and structured instances, Ghost Recon was more militaristic and featured vast expanses of land to explore. While the franchise has skewed to future technology since the original, Ghost Recon remains a title that provided that marriage between fiction and realism.
5. Rainbow Six Vegas
Rainbow Six had gained a reputation for being far too ingrained in strategy simulator and not being cinematic enough. So rather than continue the trend of generic counter-terrorists trotting the globe to eerily similar compounds, Rainbow took a trip to the desert and truly captured that Clancy bravado for military tactics and Hollywood explosions. A challenging game that required just enough thought to get through the campaign safely, R6: Vegas was still a viscerally entertaining romp across the strip. Even the Fremont Experience makes a nice cameo.
4. Splinter Cell Blacklist
Even without Michael Ironside, Blacklist managed to surprise everybody this year by how tight the gameplay and storytelling was. While many had written off Sam Fisher after a confusing period moving from last generation through Double Agent and Conviction, Blacklist was a return to espionage and spy-toys, all the things that make Spliter Cell unique.
3. Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter
This is a game that continues to haunt me as I had a terrible glitch towards the middle of the game that left a bad taste in my mouth. But with great visuals and a ton of technology that had never been even dreamed of before, GR: Advanced Warfighter proved that the Ghost Recon franchise could do Black Ops II before Call of Duty even had legs to stand on. One of Clancy’s gifts was the ability to write at length of real world technology, even experimental technology. This gift was front and center in Advanced Warfighter as interactive heads-up displays and intelligent weaponry were all staples within the game.
2. Rainbow Six
Ding Chavez might be one of the most bad-ass game characters of the late 90s. Ding’s skillset was off the chart and I distinctly remember playing as Ding with a squad full of recruits (or redshirts as I referred to them). Truth be told, Rainbow Six often required more strategy than sending in the redshirts as a distraction while DIng played clean-up, but the hyper realistic strategy shooter inspired by the novel of the same name was Clancy’s coming out party into mainstream gaming.
1. Splinter Cell, SC: Pandora Tomorrow, SC: Chaos Theory
Okay, I’m kind of cheating on this one, but I really consider all three games to be one fluid evolution. Splinter Cell had some of the most amazing lighting I have ever seen in a game and where it not for my irrational OCD to shoot out every lightbulb and stealthly incapacitate every guard, my career with Sam Fisher might be longer than getting stuck at the end of Pandora Tomorrow. Hands down one of the best series of games of its time, there is a reason that Sam Fisher quickly became as big as Jack Ryan. Incredible story. Incredible tech. Incredible gameplay. And Michael Ironside.