I've played games long enough to understand that most combat resolutions involve charging headfirst in a battle like a bull in a china shop and getting to an end-zone by any means necessary. But, in recent months, I've brushed up on another gameplay method -- the art of stealth. A warrior in the blazing sun can win a fight with his weapons, but a thief in the night can achieve no less the same fruits of victory through silence and shadows.
I recently picked up both Assassin's Creed 3 and Dishonored for my 360, and was forced into two very different situations that allude to a common purpose---defeating enemies without being seen. I initially found this to be a challenge because I've been so enamored in traditional games where you just ran into a fight and didn't necessarily give a rat's ass if you were spotted or not. Yes, rushing into a battlefield with guns blazing is an awesome adrenaline rush. But, games like Assassin's Creed and Dishonored show that fights can be daftly avoided and swiftly won before your enemy can even see it coming, and that has been a great source of appeal to me personally ever since I began experimenting with Assassin's Creed Revelations many months ago.
From the aforementioned Assassin's Creed to other games like Hitman, Tenchu and Metal Gear Solid, stealth-based gameplay is an experience in and of itself; something outside of what a lot of us are used to. It maintains the spirit of traditional action genres, but mostly encourages the option of stealth tactics to get past tricky situations without implicating the player in needless bloodshed. In some cases, stealth is the only means of success against enormous impossibilities; like a room full of bloodthirsty, gun-toting barbarians that you can never defeat on your own or with friends. I've found that a lot of seemingly impossible situations and puzzles can be solved simply by ending and/or avoiding conflicts before they begin. While the concept itself is not new, , we're nonetheless seeing more and more next-gen franchises adopt this approach to combat and refining it; most notably the Assassin's Creed series and Dishonored; both games pitting the player in roles of assassins who have the choice of cutting down enemies behind their backs.
And outside of killing anything that doesn't move, there are other key factors of interest concerning the stealth approach in games. You have to get from one area to the next or fulfill a non-lethal objective under the cover of darkness. And you need to understand the very real risk of getting spotted, and knowing what to do if the worst should befall you. To most gamers, the thought of avoiding a fight doesn't seem all that fun. But think about it. When you're sneaking around, you feel a heightened sense of tension that you wouldn't feel when you're repeatedly fighting face-to-face against a physical onslaught. And if you are caught, you're caught with your guard down and forced to improvise under a very narrow timeframe, even when you think you're prepared. Psychologically, the feeling of getting 'caught' is much akin to the thought of having your deepest, darkest secrets revealed. At that moment, you would not know what to do, and all the preparation and hindsight you may think you possess abandons you, leaving you utterly helpless and forcing you to think as light on your feet as humanly possible.
Sounds unpleasant? Yes, it does. But, what other traditional, no-frills action game ever really gave you that feeling? That experience? The thought of controlling the situation before it controls you? The risk of exposure? This is what can make games fun and rewarding all in the same token. And it's an idea that, I think, should have been explored more thoroughly in earlier games dating back to the early and mid 90s that merely hinted at the prospect of stealth based approaches. Metal Gear Solid is a notable exception to that, and look how it turned out.
The unabated thrill, uncertainty and suspense associated with stealth gameplay is a very different experience outside of traditional action games, and one more and more developers will want to explore -- even with existing franchises that can appropriately make use of it. For me personally, this kind of gameplay experience is invigorating and intriguing; the likes of which I haven't felt in a very long time. It compliments most kinds of action games by de-emphasizing the predictability of standard combat and introducing a risk-versus-reward system. Developers will want to draw on the idea of such a system even if not just for the sake of an idea like stealth-based gameplay. Other ideas can be birthed from this principle. As such, the industry needs to think of ways of giving gamers a thrilling experience that goes beyond the redundancy of going through the motions. The art of stealth, I believe, is one of many elements that can provide that if done right and done effectively.
And it just may be one possible shot in the arm (out of many) that the industry needs -- even if the industry itself doesn't see it coming.
The two games that come to mind for stealth is Alpha Protocol, and the Batman saga which has that heavy stealth like attitude to the game. Sure you can go all guns blazing but it also takes forever to get through those times instead of quick stealth takedowns.In alpha protocol - the more armor you have the louder you are so for stealth, you really need to carry light.The AC series (except for the latest because I haven't played it yet) has been a more amateur. Seriously it is ridiculous on how you takedown a few posters to remove your notoriety, and then as guards come up just jump in a haystack.
Also love Metal Gear and Deus Ex - great stealth games.
Problem is most games that have stealth elements are much easier played the old fashioned way. I disagree on AC being easier in stealth for istance, if the objective was just "kill that guy" and not "kill that guy without being spotted" I think nobody would have problems to just run through the enemies and shoot a bolt in his head since the player is basically invincible. Also in Skyrim you can take the sneaky path, and get a 32x damage multiplaier which kills a dragon in 1 hit, but if you are spotted you instantly die, while if you take the warrior path, even on the highest difficulty, by level 25 you take basically no damage at all and still deal a lot.
Great blog. The adrenaline rush of trying to get through an area by not being spotted and achieving a goal is brilliant and is even better than using overwhelming force in a shooter
Good blog dude. I played stealth for the first time with splinter cell. Loved it and hittman drived me to the limit. Trying to succeed every mission without beeing seen once was the goal. Besides those games stealth is verry rewarding in other games to.
Stealth gameplay ... reminds me of past times spent sneaking around in games hiding under cardboard boxes and barrels etc. - timeless :D
Arkham Asylum and Arkham City had some pretty good stealthy missions. Though to me, Arkham City was tougher with the whole 'you get caught once and they may shoot down your vantage points' ordeal. That sucked.
Stealth Mode in Crysis 2 isn't enough.
As soon as your cloak ran out... BAM. They straight away turn around and shoot the shiz out of you. Less alarmed NPCs would have been good.
I love games where I have the option to be stealthy. There is a certain thrill from stealthily sneaking up behind someone and executing them silently, then sneaking around and doing the same to all their friends who were unfortunate enough to be my enemies.
I would, however, hate playing games where it's "you got spotted, GAME OVER!" I'd get so frustrated I'd stop playing.
@starduke An instant game over is the worst that could happen in any stealth game. It almost feels like death. I, for one, would want to have a chance to react whenever I'm spotted, even if the time frame and the desperation set in XD
@Asagea_888 Yeah, the frantic running around trying to get away, or fighting for your life, when you get spotted is actually part of the fun. It's also sometimes funny, since the enemies in some games have really bad AI, 5 seconds later it's "Where'd he go?"
as a splinter cell fan, i am used to those games where you stick in the shadows, kill or engage only when needed or spotted and try to escape using many maneuvers once alerted anyone. assassin's creed isn't a solid example for a stealth game, the stealth elements are lacking reducing it to walking slowly and staying out of sight yet the game will never forbid you from going head to head with 10+ foes at the same time in which you could mow easily. games like the far cry and crysis series gave us very impressive options in combat, you can always lead a full strike without hiding or you could go in, take out your enemies quietly, plant an "EOD" and slip out watching the explosion and feeling the satisfactions of being a total badarse. the CoD 4 mission all ghilied up was one of the most impressive missions in an FPS game. the stealth wasn't very...it was scripted and once broken the only way to retrieve it is by killing all the foes which is sloppy but the mission does pushes you to be as stealthy as possible much like the black ops game mission where you take control of a SR-71 black bird and guide your team through the snow and for each scripted result you end up in the ground taking care of the foes, a few segments later introduces you to a crossbow with metal shafts as the best stealth weapon that can be used but always gave you an alternative such as the explosive bolts, not so stealthy when caught but moreover a very nice experience. also many people complain that the splinter cell series is losing face but as a fan of the series, i loved all the games, i read all the books and i played all the games enjoying each of them. conviction was something new, Level design is my only complaint about it, not many classic camera dough or wrecked areas that you need to tangle through but it was a turn out story breaking a more civi and less operational life. great post mate, keep it up.
Thief series for life baby. Not to mention splinter cell. Nothing like executing tactical success in stealth environments. That Ghillied mission was awesome.. if that was near the junk cars stacked and your in the grass?
You really nailed when you mentioned the tension. Now-a-days most games still offer a fair leniency once your "caught" but I actually enjoy the games where getting caught pretty much means either a game over screen or a very stressful time trying to hide. The tension just becomes over the top to where I can hardly handle getting caught. It's a huge adrenaline rush and I love it. Getting caught means you have to react fast either by taking the spotter out or hiding and both options should be difficult. There's nothing quite like it.
kfjl makes a great point. When stealth is an OPTION, it's especially rewarding and Skyrim did a pretty good job with that. But sometimes it can also work when it's scripted. The sniper mission "All Ghillied Up" in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was (and is) my favorite mission from a first person shooter (remember when the tanks rolled past you?). And it is a great example of how stealth gameplay can be incorporated into almost any genre.
@NedDaVdeoGamGuy Battlezone - specifically, the 1998 Cold-War-gone-hot-in-space reimagining Activision seems to have forgotten all about - had a pretty interesting 'stealth' mission in its NSDF/National Space Defense Force (USA) campaign: you had to 'appropriate' a Cosmo Colonist Army (Soviet) patrol unit, then finish its route and slip into their base to plant a data tap. The problem is that your cover would be blown right after - a scripted events - and you have to bug out right quick... it would've been interesting if you could attempt to slip out undetected, which would net a bonus objective (and maybe even change something in the next mission).
I've had stealth experiences I loved and some I didn't. I feel it's kind of easy to get it wrong, but when done right it is fun. I would prefer if stealth was an option rather than a necessity; two games I think of recently where you can stealth all of it or none of it is Deus Ex HR and Skyrim. Both games had a problem with the intelligence of enemy AI when stealthing (especially Skyrim), but I loved being able to make the choice of how I wanted to play. Sometimes stealth can be boring to me, like when I'm just sitting there doing nothing while waiting for a patrol to pass or a camera or spotlight to pass, but using stealth to get through a situation strategically can be rewarding.
I prefer stealth games over straight-up action. I know that was one reason I loved Deus Ex - there were times it could have been better, but overall, it was a great game to be stealthy!
@pokecharm if you refer to the newest Deus Ex,i loved it.It was the best stealth game ive played.You coulndt easily go on action because you would die easily.Too bad game was underrated in my opinion.
@pokecharm I want to try Deus Ex sometime :) But you know me -- too many games in the pipeline....especially AC3!