Dev Explains Replacing Michael Ironside in Splinter Cell: Blacklist

Michael Ironside will not be reprising his role as Sam Fisher in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Ubisoft has explained his absence and replacement as a result of the series’ increased dependency on motion-captured performances.

In an interview with IGN, the game’s Creative Director Max Beland explained that the studio had, in the past, used three separate individuals to capture the whole of Sam Fisher—a voice actor, a facial animator, and a motion capture artist.

“On Blacklist we knew that we wanted to raise the bar of our scripted events, of our cinematics, and to do that we knew we had to go to performance capture,” he said.

“The difference between motion capture and performance capture is that with performance capture, you’re capturing everything at the same time.

“So we had one actor doing the body, the voice and the face. We have a camera that’s recording all the facial animations so right there, because you’re capturing a true actor’s performance, and the level of quality is raised instantly.”

Beland explained that Ubisoft sought out an actor who was capable of producing the voice of Sam Fisher as well as embodying his physicality.

“That’s why we had to go with an actor that was able to do that, so we found Eric Johnson,” said Beland, who replaces Michael Ironside.

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6 Comments on Dev Explains Replacing Michael Ironside in Splinter Cell: Blacklist


On July 12, 2013 at 8:54 am

Then they should have redone it with a different name. This is not Sam Fisher to me or thousands of others. Michael Ironsides voice defined the character. He will always be “the” Sam Fisher. They should have made this an up and coming agent who idolized him but wasn’t him. That would have made people a little more receptive towards the new title, me included. Now I just don’t know. It just kind of feels wrong.


On July 12, 2013 at 9:34 am

That’s exactly right. I would’ve loved to go out and buy this game if they had just replaced Sam Fisher with another name… Michael Ironsides is Sam Fisher. I don’t care what reason they had for keeping the old ‘character’. Whatever the reason, it was wrong. Now Sam Fisher is just an empty name and empty character to me because Ironsides is no longer there. And not only am I disappointed about their decision, but I’m also disappointed about my disappointment in one of the first game series that I ever dove into and fell in love with. I want to like this game, and it looks great… if only they replaced the iconic Sam Fisher with a much needed new character rather than sucking out every last bit of use from the first Splinter Cell. Just like most people in the business of game development now, they seem to feel the need to draw out the same old names to draw in the fans and money. They just need to retire Sam Fisher. It’s a respected name (with the right voice) among fans, as well as an old one… Time for a new Splinter Cell, Ubisoft. Please, for Fisher’s sake.


On July 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

“Motion capture” for “enhancing cinematics”?

Uh, I know cinematics are important, but they aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of videogames. Why? Because if they were, then (to steal a meme from the internet) Final Fantasy XIII would be the “Citizen Kane of videogames.”

Am I the only one whom sees this emphasis (both here and in the new Thief game) on “motion capture” as missing the point of both videogames and cinematics?


On July 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Scripted events, cinematics, and all this over priced crap is RUINING games. NOT IMPROVING THEM. Stop looking at games souly in terms of money, numbers, and figures. Can’t games just be fun and entertaining like they once where? What ever happened to pick up a game and it just starts up and you play. Oh right, can buy those cheap on steam any time.

Lady Gag'Her

On July 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm

@Aids – firstly, it’s not easy to really take you that seriously with the name ‘Aids.’ Might want to reconsider, especially as your opinion doesn’t seem to be legitimate than, for instance, those of ‘lol.’

Second, I don’t agree motion capture etc is ruining games. I do accept that there’s far too much emphasis placed on how realistic graphics are – and they will NEVER be so realistic that they fool people so its a moot point – but let’s face it, graphics have been a major selling point of games for years now, as far back as the NES. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to update them and keep them pushing the capabilities of the consoles, as long as developers don’t get sidetracked and forget about gameplay.

As for cutscenes and stuff, again I think you’re generalising a bit. There’s no question that there are occasions where cutscenes are perhaps placed where they needn’t be, occasionally even spoiling the flow of the game itself. There’s also some QTEs that frankly have no place in the games they’re in, or are used as a crutch instead of making complex controls. However, I don’t think you can say they’re ruining the industry. When used correctly, they can still be very effective. It’s the fault of developers relying on them too much that is the issue.

The Steam games you mention sell well because they’re usually made by independent developers and they’re cheap, so people want to support them on those bases – not because they don’t have cutscenes and stuff, which a lot of them still do.

So yeah, I definitely know where you’re coming from but I just think you’ve been a bit facile to suggest they’re “ruining” games. Overly-obedient consumers, greedy publishers, and elitist journalists are doing far more damage than a few overly-long FMV sequences.


On July 14, 2013 at 12:02 am

“That’s why we had to go with an actor that was able to do that, so we found Eric Johnson,” said Beland, who replaces Michael Ironside.”

I’m in no way a Splinter Cell fan myself, but you don’t just replace an actor like Michael Ironside.