The Fall and Rise of Stealth Games

I know I’ve talked about the fall of game genres here more than once before, but I don’t think I’ve done a post specifically about the fall of stealth games. It really is kind of pathetic when you look back at the past console generation.

It’s not really a mystery what happened to the genre – the same thing that happened to horror games and pretty much anything that wasn’t a shooter or an RPG. Sneaking around unseen isn’t as accessible as just shooting a dude in the face and getting some experience points for it. What’s the worst though is when developers play at stealth while turning it into a straight shooter.

Ubisoft just released another 10 minutes of Splinter Cell Blacklist footage that basically looked just like the E3 demo – i.e. like a third person shooter with Assassin’s Creed climbing mechanics. I mean, Sam (or someone trying to impersonate Sam) stayed unseen before he auto-shot each enemy I guess. Maybe that level is more of a sandbox, maybe Ubisoft’ll release a video showing someone playing the same level completely silent with no kills. What really got me down on this Blacklist demo though was the predator strike mechanic at the end. Predator strikes and laser painting targets are two of the things I never want to see again, especially not in a stealth game.

What’s really funny is that pretty much every “AAA” game I’m anticipating this fall is a stealth game, or a game that allows you to put a lot of emphasis on stealth. If Far Cry 3 can maintain the sandbox mission structure that the last game had, I will happily crouch, snipe, and stab my way through that game. I am really hoping that I’ll be able to beat Hitman Absolution practically without ever picking up a gun like I did in Blood Money. The real last hope of the genre right now is looking like Dishonored though.

When talking about Arkane Studios’ previous game, the 2006 Dark Messiah Might and Magic last week, I went over a little bit how good a stealth game it actually manages to be at times. It lets me know that Arkane get’s it, and so do all the previews for Dishonored. What’s even better is that one of the main guys on the project worked on the first Deus Ex – which was also an excellent stealth game if you chose to play it like one. That’s the key: choice.

Stealth is the most appealing when it’s presented among other options. It’s only cool when you chose to complete that objective without being seen when things could’ve gone a multitude of other ways. That’s the main difference between Splinter Cell Chaos Theory and Conviction.

When I look back, I’ve realized that my favorite stealth game this generation was probably the first Crysis, which just feels kinda odd. Technically that game is a shooter, but its sandbox nature also allows you to turn the game into something vaguely resembling Metal Gear Solid 3. Deus Ex Human Revolution did a pretty good job too, and if you ask me felt like an evolved first person version of Metal Gear Solid 2. I’ve also played heavily towards the stealth build in games like Skyrim and Fallout as of late.

So I guess there is sort of hope for the stealth genre, as long as it’s intelligently combined and contrasted with other play styles. From what we’ve seen, I’m not sure the people working on Splinter Cell Blacklist understand that.

BULLETS:

  • Before anyone mentions Theif, I own the first two games but have yet to play them. I’ll try to get to them later this year if I can before Dishonored comes out.
  • Well it’s happened: a whole dating sim based around Netorare. http://t.co/HPwEYQnc
  • Why we can’t watch NFL Hard Knocks on HBO Go: http://t.co/qSlfr5HC
  • Contra: Shattered Soldier and the original Siren headline the beginning of PS2 Classics on the Japanese PlayStation Store. Looks like they’re gonna be getting all the good games over there again.
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