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Stealth Games


Sam P
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I don't like stealth games.

 

Which is surprising, because the first game I bought when I acquired an Xbox was Splinter Cell. But alas, I played through about 5 levels or so before losing interest and never loading it up again.

 

I've tried liking them, honest. I played through Metal Gear Solid 2 in its entirety, though on the easiest difficulty setting. While the experience as a whole left me lukewarm (scratching my head from the convoluted plot, feeling ripped off by its lack of gameplay content, and pissed off that I had to play as Raiden), I had convinced myself that I enjoyed the elements of stealth. It was fun to sneak up on unsuspecting foes to pinch them in the ass then run away to hide under a cardboard box when his partner came to investigate. I felt like some kind of silent badass, a methodical super soldier.

 

But that's about all that amuses me about stealth games, or stealth levels in otherwise fun (for me) games.

 

I just don't like sneaking around. What others call "suspense and tension" I call frustration and boredom.

 

Here's an example of what I don't like. I have to wait in the shadows until the guard patrolling in front of me turns around. Then, I tiptoe behind him, being careful not to tiptoe too fast, to a door that's 20 feet ahead. But at the end of the hallway is another guard, who periodically looks towards your direction. When he does, you should be in the shadows scattered all along the hallway. When I am almost at the destination, I can't take the tension anymore and I bolt for the door. This happens time and again. Then I get caught, and the level ends. I can't even fire a few rounds into the guard out of anger, because the game locks your weapons when you mess up. Yuck.

 

I just really despise having to time my movements to security guards or security cameras, especially when there's more than one. I would much rather take each obstacle out methodically, then proceed into the area knowing it's safe. But alot of stealth games don't even offer that option, instead forcing you to pass through completely unseen.

 

Too often, it ends up being a heavily scripted trial-and-error fest where I lose interest all too quickly. Add to that some mediocre puzzles and you've got a rather slow, unexciting experience.

 

Stealth games don't reward reflex and dexterity, instead relying on patience and restraint for progress. Not exactly thrilling stuff, for me. I am too impulsive, too visceral to be any good at these games.

 

It's all just personal preference, of course. Any thoughts?

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Too often, it ends up being a heavily scripted trial-and-error fest where I lose interest all too quickly.

 

This is my biggest beef with the majority of stealth games. You're not free to do the job how you want it. You have to use item x or move from point a to b in precise order to successfully do the mission.

 

Remember when that was called Dragon's Lair? :P

 

If I'm going to be inserted into a hostile installation to find some blueprints and suddenly I'm discovered in the breakroom, I don't want to fail the mission because I didn't spike the coffee with the ultra-powerful laxatives. I should, hypothetically speaking, be able to silently dispatch my foes or at least grab the coffee pot and do some damage with it.

 

But a lot of these games dispense with the choice, and that's really annoying. I found that to be the case with Splinter Cell slightly, and with Metal Gear Solid it's really obvious. Of course the radio is a big problem in MGS too ;).

 

Stealth is totally overdone now, I believe we've had conversations to that effect in forums before. Every other title has to have stealth elements, which is really annoying since it's hard to do well. For my money though, the Thief series and Deus Ex get the stealth right (though Deus Ex really needed a shadow detecting thingy), particularly Thief.

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Me too.

I even hate the occasional stealth mission in an action game. I want fantasy. I want to kill a thousand grunts with a totally unrealistic sized machine gun. If I want to experience a one-shot one-kill hide and seek world I'll try going nuts and robbing a bank or something.

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I want to kill a thousand grunts with a totally unrealistic sized machine gun. If I want to experience a one-shot one-kill hide and seek world I'll try going nuts and robbing a bank or something.

 

Camp, you *MUST* play Armed and Dangerous when its released on the Xbox or PC (On Wednesday in fact). I believe you will have found exactly what you're looking for there my friend.

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Personally, I find the best element of so-called Stealth embodied in GTA's central game dynamics.

 

You have a mission. You plan it meticulously, working out how to sneak in calmly, driving nice and smooth so as to not attract attention, and then working through the bad guys a couple at a time so you don't get overwhelmed. Then, halfway through the thing you make a mistake, and seventeen metric tons of hell unfolds. You shoot the wrong guy, get a wanted rating, the cops start coming in, rather than abort the mission you shoot the cop too, and before you know it you've realised that the only way you're ever going to get the cops off your back is the wanted reset that comes when you do complete the level. So you're flaming gang-members and cops alike, SWAT teams make escape impossible, and you're laughing your head off.

 

If, like most 'stealth' games you count being spotted as Game Over, then you miss out on so much fun its just silly.

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I won't sit here and try to convince anyone that stealth games are indeed cool. If it's not your thing, it's not your thing. I'm cool with that.

 

However, I would like to bring up one stealthy game that I think did stealth extremely well: Goldeneye 007. While it may be a shooter at heart, the fact is that they did give you a silenced weapon with the intent that you would use it to quickly and quietly get through the game without attracting the attention of every guard on the level. The Facility and the first Bunker level in particular were a lot of fun to play, as you knocked out your enemies one-by-one all the while avoiding cameras and making sure that no one spots you and triggers an alarm.

 

And if they do trigger an alarm, it doesn't end the level. It simply makes it harder to beat because now you have to deal with all the guards that will be coming your way.

 

It's a stealthy game, but one that plays it out in an action-packed way.

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It's a stealthy game, but one that plays it out in an action-packed way.

 

See, that doesn't bother me in the least, because then stealth is your option. I'm not down on stealth when it's given to me as one of several options or the action itself has several options. I just don't like when it's used for lazy-ass puzzle creation :P.

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I'm not a huge fan of Stealth type games, but I'm giving Splinter Cell a shot. I just picked it up during the Black Friday type sales and I'm hopeful that I'll like it more than the demo I played quite a while back.

 

I know I'm in the minority, but I actually liked the stealth type missions in True Crime. They're simple to accomplish, but I liked the change of pace that they offer to the regular gameplay.

 

I agree with J.Fo about Goldeneye though. Man, I loved that first board. I used to just play that board over and over again trying to complete it using only "other" kills with the Sniper Rifle. Good times... good times.

 

Glen

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Generally, I'm bored of the stealth-'em-up genre. It's getting very repetitive, and it's rare that a game as good as Splinter Cell comes around.

 

But you know what? I hate stealth missions in action games much more than I'm bored "regular" stealth games. I hate shoe-horned "stealth" gameplay in an engine designed for the all the opposite features - action, blasting, destruction. I hate having to sneak around in an engine that's not designed to handle shadows & "hiding' properly.

 

And I hate shoe-horned stealth missions in games that just would be better without it. Hulk, anyone? Even THUG has stealthy missions in it! An extreme sports game! Enough already!

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I like Stealth games because there is definitely a certain amount of realism to it. When you brake into enemy HQ, you aren't going to go in there guns a blazing. You're going to sneak in and hide in the shadows and hide dead bodies.

 

However, while Splinter Cell is a good game, it's certainly not without it's flaws. I'm not entirely sure why the game got the huge reviews that it did other than the fact that's it's got some pretty lighting. However, most of the time you can't enjoy the lighting since you have to have your night vision on to see anything since it's so dark. The biggest problem with the game is that it's meant to be a trial and error fest, which does dispense with the realism. Chances are you're not gonna be able to play a mission from beginning to end without getting discovered or killed. You'll likely have to play through several portions several times. That's my beef with the game. Secret agents don't have the luxury of getting to do things over and over again, so I think they need to make the objectives more clear and give better maps in the game(ugh, the maps are practically useless sicne you can't see where you are on the map) so that I can essentially play a mission from beginning to end without having to restart anything.

 

I'm actually playing Splinter Cell right now and am on mission 8. That mission ended so many times because apparently I was supposed to follow some guy into another room, but it never told me that. I had to try a few things until I figured that out. That, to me, is just poor game design.

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Sometimes stealth can be utilized to break up the monotony of a run-and-gun game, but I agree with Sam that it doesn't make a particularly compelling experience when it is the central focus of a game. I'll give you a strange example of a game that I thought used stealth elements pretty well...Ghost Recon. Specifically the POW camp level, where if you fired an unsilenced weapon you would fail the mission because the tangos would kill the hostages. So you had to sneak up to the camp and snipe with the silenced sniper rifle in such a way that the other guards couldn't see the ones you were picking off. That was a great way to utilize stealth in a game to change up the attack routine that you had developed by playing the previous levels.

 

Goldeneye was another great one and even Syphon Filter had some fun stealthy elements to it. But like any spice, too much is no good.

 

The way I think about it is kind of like a spectrum, with madcap run-and-gun games on one side (Doom/Quake, Serious Sam, and the forthcoming Armed and Dangerous for example), and super-stealthy, be-seen-and-you're-dead games on the other (Splinter Cell, MGS). Then there are the games in the middle, which can tend more towards the "action" end (like Halo and Wolfenstein), or towards the "stealth" end (No One Lives Forever, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six 3). Personally I like just about all of those titles except ones at the extreme stealthy end of that spectrum.

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Allow me to differ...

 

I love stealth games, when I am in the mood for them. Splinter Cell is brilliant, because it is exactly what it says it is. I would never recommend it to someone who wants to kill 2,000 creatures but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to someone who has seen every episode of Mission:Impossible.

 

I have been frustrated by the difficulty of some SC tasks, but have taken it as a challenge and tried my best to come up with a creative way through the problem. I give the developers credit for giving us as many different methods of advancing the storyline as they did.

 

Bring on Pandora Tomorrow, or whatever it is...

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I have a hard time with the stealth genre. I don't like to think of myself as a run-and-gun gamer so I happily bought the Thief double pack several months ago. To my dismay I can't seem to get into the gameplay. I couldn't seem to get back to Battlefield 1942 fast enough. I haven't completely given up on Thief yet, but at this point I'm not overly excited to embark on another stealth adventure either.

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Thief series and Deus Ex get the stealth right

 

Amen to that. For Thief especially!

 

This certainly seems to be a kind of gameplay that most either love it or leave it. Personally, I love it. However, that said, I found Splinter Cell to be nowhere near the level of gameplay that the Thief series is known for.

 

Thief I/II has open ended levels where you pretty much go about your business the way you want to go about your business. Sure, there is only 1 way to end the level but, how you get to that end is usually up to you.

 

Splinter Cell totally fails on that design level. Gorgeous to look at ,no doubt and, for me, fun gameplay but, talk about linear levels...

 

One way to win, one way through; kind of was a letdown.

 

I'm hoping that Pandora Tomorrow has multiple paths to take through the levels.

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Totally agree, stealth has been overdone now.. it's fun for a while but after MGS2 and now Splinter Cell i yearn for some out and out action, bring on Armed and Dangerous!!! I really enjoy games like Halo which give you the choice of going in all guns blazing or carefully taking out the bad guys from a distance.

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The biggest problem with the game is that it's meant to be a trial and error fest, which does dispense with the realism.

 

I see a lot of you saying this, but c'mon. What game ISN'T a trial and error fest? What game have you breezed through without messing up and having to re-do a section? Those games are usually called "bad" or "too easy." Trial and error (some may call it strategy and learning, but let's not diverge) is the cornerstone of videogaming. Drop that and you have crappy, buttonmashing shootemups that look cool but offer nothing in terms of challenge.

 

Totally agree, stealth has been overdone now.

 

Overdone? What HASN'T been over done? Let's take a look at things that have easily been, er, more overdone (brilliant English there, I know) than stealth:

  • Shooting tons of weak enemies overcrowding small spaces. It looks cool and makes you feel like a stud.
  • Hacking people up with swords while their friends wait harmlessly. Yeah. That's not overdone. While the combo you're pulling off might look like something out of a low-gravity environment, why's his friend chillin' in the background counting floor tiles? Oh, that's right. Because he'd easily lop off your head if he approached you while you were looking the other way. Overdone.
  • You're a loner. A rebel. No one understands you. You hate your enemies. You have a giant phallic symbol of a gun or a sword. Yeah, that's new.
  • All the female NPCs want you, and they forgot to get dressed. Overdone.
  • Your car is faster than the other cars and the only thing keeping them in the race is their precision computer-generated control.
  • The boss does the same thing over and over again, but with a slight, faster, or meaner variation. Rinse and repeat 5 times. You win. Overdone.
  • That other platform you have to get to just happens to be moving up and down for no particular reason. You have to time your just JUST right to get there. Yeah, that's never been done before.

...and that's just a few of them. My point is this: videogames follow formulas that work. Some executions work and some don't. Some people like certain genres and some people hate others (I swear to hamstergod if there's another FPS that gets all the testosterone cases over excited while they call it the bestgameevar I'm gonna hurl). That's just how it's done. It'll only get worse as publishers figure out what sells.

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Cogent point, Josh (translation: I agree ;)).

 

Stealth as a genre is just that, a genre. And if we believe that a mere handful of notable games equals "overdone", then what are we to say about the FPS action, RTS or other genres?

 

Perhaps a better argument is that random stealth missions shoehorned into games that don't benefit from it is overdone.

 

Oh, and I fixed your list.

 

-j

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I've held off on getting Splinter Cell since all three demo versions have kicked my ass, but I'm assuming the complaints are that the *mission* is over if you're discovered, and you have to start over at the beginning. Does it allow for in-mission saving, and you can start over at the last checkpoint? If not, I understand the frustration.

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I read in my GameInformer Magazine yesterday that Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow will offer online STEALTH multiplayer. I havent' heard much about it on any of the websites.

 

One player will assume the role of the spy, and the others will be the guards.

 

That sounds kind of interesting. If anyone has a link with more info, please let us know.

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What game ISN'T a trial and error fest?

 

Here's a partial list of the games I've played in the last year that are not trial and error fests: Halo, Crimson Skies, Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon Orta , not to mention most sports games, including so-called extreme sports like Tony Hawk or SSX.

 

Do these games completely eliminate trial and error? Of course not. But they don't depend on it, the way that Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six 3, and even Ghost Recon does to an extent. They don't depend on you memorizing the location of all the enemies on the level, and they don't punish you with death the instant you slip up.

 

Maybe some gameplay examples would illustrate my point. In Halo, for instance, you don't have to know the location of every enemy. You are given enough equipment and you can develop your skills to the point where you can make it through a level despite not knowing what is around every corner. And if you do die, you simply get reset to the most recent checkpoint to try again. It's not as if you have to do the whole level over again. Contrast that with, say, Rainbow Six 3, where you start a level, advance your team, stumble across an enemy (let's say a sniper in a window), get one of your teammates or yourself killed, and now you have to restart the level. Okay so now you know where that guy is, so you get back to that point, take him out, advance to the next room, and now there's a guy with an RPG who takes your team out. Start over. Get past the window sniper, get past the RPG guy, next room there are hostages and your grenade kills them. Start over.

 

That's the kind of "trial and error" that drives me nuts. The successful completion of the level depends on you remembering where the guy was that killed you last time, until you figure out where every single guy is on the map.

 

Of course every game worth its salt will have you dying, sometimes dozens of times per level. Who here cleared out the Library level of Halo on Heroic on their first try? It's a question of fairness, I guess. In Halo you have a reasonable chance of survival no matter what the game throws at you. And yes, sometimes you will turn the corner and find two Hunters waiting for you and a fiery death will result, and you have to reset. I'm not saying that never happens in a good game. But most of the time no matter what is around the corner if you use good tactics and you are a fairly skilled player, you have a good chance of surviving. Not so in the "trial and error" fests that most stealth games have turned into. Oops, that guard saw me, mission failure. Restart. Now I know he is there, I'll wait for him to turn the corner, open this door, and...oops, another guy in here, mission failure. Now I know where TWO guards are. Start over. Avoid guy number one, throw a can to distract guy number two, sneak through this door, oops, there's a guy onthe street who saw me, mission failed. Start over. And so on...

 

Clearing those games is kind of like clearing a minefield by tripping over every single mine.

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Originally posted by PoisonJam@Dec 3 2003, 02:39 PM

Clearing those games is kind of like clearing a minefield by tripping over every single mine.

Well said. That's my problem with Splinter Cell. I started mission 8 and they said I needed to use my thermo goggles to get into this locked door. So I do and everything is fine. I'm creeping along somewhere and there is another guard patrolling who goes into another room. So, while he's gone I figure I'll look around for some health and stuff. Mission over. Apparently I was supposed to follow that guard into the other room. No one told me this. Even my objectives didn't say anything. I guess I was just supposed to know. It just confuses me that if they can radio in to tell me I failed my mission why can't they radio in to tell me what I have to do in Room X while I'm there. I personally like the Metal Gear Solid series better. While it may not be as "realistic" as Splinter Cell, I just feel it's better designed. With Splinter Cell I'll often find myself running around trying to figure out where I need to go and will eventually stumble on a checkpoint. With Metal Gear if I ever get stuck or am unsure of where to go I can radio in and they'll usually tell me that I need to go to Room Y and save Hostage Z.

 

To answer the above question, in Splinter Cell if the mission does end you do get to start at your last checkpoint. If I had to start each mission from the beginning I would've stopped playing this game a long time ago. However, when playing Splinter Cell be sure to create multiple save files. When you get to a new checkpoint do NOT overwrite the last one and just save this new one in a different location. One thing that you'll run into a lot in Splinter Cell is getting to an area that you won't be able to beat unless you know what's coming and set up traps for the bad guys. If the scene starts without those traps set, you'll die instantly and if you didn't have multiple save files you would start right back at the beginning of that scene. By having multiple checkpoint saves, you can go back to a previous checkpoint and get to that area to lay down the traps to beat the level. That's what I don't like about the game though. I shouldn't have to have prior knowledge of a level in order to beat it.

 

Don't get me wrong. I do enjoy the game and it does some real neat things. But, it definitely could be improved by a long shot and I just felt it received way more hype than it deserved. This is the game that beat out Metroid Prime last year for Game of the Year and to me it's no where near the quality and fun of Metroid Prime.

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Great post, Dave.

 

It's exactly this sort of enemy location/ enemy patrol route memorization that I dislike. While it is indeed part of RS3's gameplay, I think what's there is thankfully limited. Except for the odd Sniper or RPG'er, there isn't too much to memorize. More missions that not, I've beat them on the first go. Splinter Cell on the other hand thrives on it.

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