Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Stealthy Shenanigans

Now, anyone who’s known me for more than a few microseconds will tell you I am not normally a patient (nor quiet) person, when it comes down to the crunch I like to get stuff done as quick and with as many explosions as humanly possible as a result my skill at stealth in games is somewhat... compromised.

Metal Gear Solid, Assassins’ Creed, Thief and the likes never really appealed because basing an entire game round, effectively, waiting, was never my idea of fun but these games have their place and I can see their appeal to those of us blessed with the ability to sit still for more than 7 consecutive seconds.

My problem lies with games that will add the odd stealth level/mission in the middle of an otherwise very unstealthy game and often this is done badly, off the top of my head I can think of at least three Zelda games that do this, none of which made it enjoyable and it just felt like a chore to get into the rest of the game. I want to stab things in the face when I’m playing a sword game, not go Solid Snake on their asses. Throughout my many playthroughs of Wind Waker I actually managed to devise a route where you only had to sneak past a grand total of two enemies, the real irony was this route involved getting captured because it started off at the holding cell, when you’re intentionally throwing yourself into the arms of the enemy, so you can escape, all integrity of the stealth situation goes swiftly out the window. I’ve often thought “Oh I fancy playing through Wind Waker again... oh, but that means I need to do the stealth part, I won’t bother” and when a game does that developers, it’s not a good thing

Another example is Fahrenheit (again, Indigo Prophecy if you’re in America) , I’m currently nearing the end of this and loving it, perhaps not as much as Heavy Rain but still a fantastic game. The issue is a couple of sections have flashbacks to when the lead character was a child and these involve possibly the most tedious example of stealth in the known universe. The AI is pretty poorly programmed and seems to detect you at random, the controls are clunky and while ok in a normal scenario they are god-awful when trying to weave around spotlights and it’s just, not really needed. The scene could have just as easily (if not more easily) been implemented by an action QTE-type sequence like every other action sequence in the game but instead they opted for something that would make a legitimate torture device.

The main problem with the above two examples is that you have no means of offence, my idea of stealth involves knives, suppressed weapons and tranquillisers, taking out people tactically and moving bodies to low traffic areas, not just playing ‘red light, green light’ with whatever enemies happen to be nearby.

Stealth is fine in games when it’s actually relevant and done well, and is at its best when it’s an option, you can choose to sneak around the level picking off targets with a silenced handgun and get by unnoticed and, if you’ve done it right, unharmed. But you always have the option to go all guns blazing if you mess up, or if you just feel like it, ventilate anything with a pulse and make it to the end of the level doped up on morphine from the numerous medikits you’ve had to use. It’s always nice to have the option then you can play the game how you enjoy it. A lot of the time a stealth game will spawn so many enemies on you after being spotted it may as well just skip all the formalities and skip to game over screen instantly and this, is what puts me off them.

A third example is Team Fortress 2 (hear me out here, ok?) now I love spy, and it’s my most played class with more than double the time of my second most played (solider). Somewhat contradictive given my last five paragraphs I know, but the main point is it has the choice for stealth (ok, technically this could be applied to any multiplayer FPS, TF2 more so as you have cloaks and disguises). If my urge to makes things explode reaches critical mass or I get bored of sneaking around I can switch classes and do something else, most of the time in this situation I’d have to switch games.

And that’s what it should all be about, choice, don’t force me into a specific tactic or type of play unless it’s absolutely imperative because the story forces it, give me the option to carry out the mission as I see fit. I have to be in the right sort of mood for stealth and if I’m playing an otherwise very action orientated game I’m not going to be in said mood so don’t force it on me. Stealth has a time and a place when done right, but when done wrong it can ruin a game faster than if it was published by Ubisoft.

"Here's what I have that you don't: a functioning liver, depth perception and a pulse!" ~ Spy (On dominating Demoman).

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