The controversial torture scene depicted in the E3 reveal of Ubisoft Toronto's Splinter Cell Blacklist has been cut from the game, following negative reaction to the more brutal direction the series had taken.
Shown at the front-end of Microsoft's conference at last year's show in June, Splinter Cell Blacklist was fronted by a savage take on Sam Fisher who within the opening minutes plunges a knife into an enemy's throat, twisting it around in a player-controlled scene in order to extract intelligence.
"We've arrived in a strange emotional clime when our popular entertainment frequently depicts torture as briskly effective rather than literally the worst thing one human being can do to another - yea verily, worse even than killing," said writer Tom Bissell in the immediate aftermath. "I spent a couple days feeling ashamed of being a gamer, of playing or liking military games, of being interested in any of this disgusting bulls*** at all."
"It wasn't nice to see any negative reaction to something you've thrown your life into," Splinter Cell Blacklist producer Andrew Wilson said at a press event in Paris last week. "But at the same time you have to have the confidence that as long as you've got that stuff in there, eventually people will see it."
Upon closer inspection Blacklist is revealed as a more traditional Splinter Cell game, with the violence showcased at E3 one small - and optional - part of it. "Because the nature of E3, there are certain things that are easier to demonstrate," Wilson said of the decision to lead with the noisier side of the game. "Obviously we were up on stage at the beginning, and it's quite hard to get the value of a stealth playthrough in that environment. We would have got a negative reaction if we showed that kind of stuff."
Ubisoft Toronto has responded to the negative reaction, although it's still keen to point out the scene wasn't necessarily representative of Blacklist's tone. "The first thing I'd say about that is that possibly there was missing context - and in an unabridged snapshot, it seemed like pretty tough material," said Wilson. "We've scaled a lot of that back, and as we've gone through the process of development there are always things that you feel are not working as well. Every game does this, and cuts certain things."
And as for the torture scene itself? "Definitely we are not going to see when the game's coming out that there are torture scenes in it. That scene is not there any more. I've not really heard anyone say they loved it..."