Monday, 17 November 2014

Top 10 Stealth Games

I wrote this for Forces Of Geek in....August (I think!) - I love stealth based games and if anyone has some suggestions of games I should play, let me know in the comments please!

Lurking in the shadows, moving from cover to cover and silently sneaking around; stealth games can make you feel like a seasoned ninja, an expert espionage operative or lethal assassin...or Batman...and who doesn't want to be as awesome as Batman?! Here's my top list of stealth games in no particular order:

1. The Metal Gear Solid series

When someone utters the word 'stealth', my immediate thought is Metal Gear Solid. Hideo Kojima's insanely bizarre story aside, Metal Gear Solid was one of the first stealth based games where the gameplay was influenced by environmental factors. 

Not only could you hide in your surroundings but you could also outwit enemies by hiding in cardboard boxes because no one, not even a fully trained guard being paid thousands to safeguard stolen armaments or military technology would think to look inside a cardboard box, least of all one which seemingly moves from one place to the next...nope, not even those guys. 

Hiding in boxes and making fools of highly trained operatives isn't the only use of the games environment, stashing bodies and creating makeshift an item and weapons cache...cardboard boxes are essentially a ninja multi-tool...who knew?!

2. The Hitman series

Hitman is a game series that also makes use of its surroundings, Agent 47, our cloned assassin protagonist often takes down his targets in the most creative of ways as the game offers players multiple approaches and the chance to perform unique kills. Whether you decide to poison your targets coffee, leave the gas on in their apartment, use chlorophyll soaked arrows in a crossbow or you decide to, oh I don't know, electrify their penis (!!) is up to you.

I'm not making that last one up as Agent 47 has the ability, an intuition to know where his targets are headed to, not excluding the bathroom. 

Agent 47 is also a master of disguise and can blend in to any crowd in the right attire. It does detract from the job at hand somewhat when you're dressed in a chicken suit and garrotting your target but that's the joy of the Hitman games, you might be outlandishly dressed but you'll be damned before you find anyone more creative!

3. Tenchu: Stealth Assassins

Released in 1998, this original PlayStation game taught me everything I needed to know about being a ninja. As long as being a ninja involved waiting around for ages, trying to study the overly dark environment, hiding in the shadows, debating what to do, who to take out first and where to go for indeterminate amounts of time.

Much like Hitman, this game offers various ways to take down your targets. As a non-linear concept, this game was notoriously hard and I don't think I ever managed to finish it. However, it made the list because...well, ninjas!

4. Thief

Both the original game and the newer reboot, both of which are called Thief are set in medieval steampunk world and the protagonist is...*gasp* a master thief! The original is a monumental influence in the development of other stealth based titles that followed it and it was the first 3D stealth based PC game providing the perfect palate cleanser at a time when PC games were either simulators or Doom knock-offs. 

The original was also the very first title to use both light and shadows as a stealth mechanic and the first to include audio cues like eavesdropping to further the games progress. 

It also taught me to be distrustful of anyone who has a completely carpeted house as it's the perfect material to sneak upon and take down an opponent without alerting anyone! 

5. Dishonored 

Often described as Thief with more magic, Dishonored is an open world stealth action game set in an industrial, plague-ridden, steampunk-esque world...remind you of anything?

Despite the similarities, Dishonored makes it's own distinct mark on the genre as your actions directly affect the world. Kill too many people and the environment starts to look a little darker and more rats will appear, the way you play also changes the ending of the game. Opting to knock out your foes instead of killing them sees a much lighter-hearted ending whereas rushing in sword first will impact the story and reveal a much bleaker end. 

Multiple paths and options are open to you and the open world offers you a variety of different methods in which to exact your revenge against the ones who falsely imprisoned you for the murder of your Empress. Keeping to the shadows and using your magical abilities to slip by unnoticed is incredibly rewarding in this game and the magical ability to possess rats to dispose of bodies is a unique mechanic that works well with the story. 

6. The Splinter Cell series

As one of the first games I ever played on the original Xbox was Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell this series holds a cherished and nostalgic place in my heart. An ex-CIA, ex-Navy SEAL, Sam Fisher has been hired by the NSA to work as a black ops operative called a Splinter Cell who has complete freedom to do what is necessary to protect his country and provide intelligence. 

His signature grey tinged hair, night vision goggles and an array of hi-tech weaponry and gadgetry at his disposal gives him an air of James Bond...but without that quintessential English charm and a distinct lack of femme fatales and cheesy villains (that last part is probably for the best). 

With Fisher's dishevelled, unshaven, haven't had a good nights sleep in a while appearance and the realistic, geopolitical undertones, this game is how I imagine real espionage to be and for that element alone Splinter Cell made the list. 

Combining stealth elements and the occasional situation where quick thinking is necessary to avoid detection, these games utilise stealth tactics in a more sophisticated way than some other stealth based titles...except when an enemy is standing right in front of you and can't see you a mere metre away because of the shadow cast by that enormous, conveniently placed potted plant. Those enemies really should have showed up for their eye examinations.

7. The Assassin's Creed series

Unlike other stealth games, this series focuses on blending into the crowd and takes on a more social approach where hiding in plain sight is often the best option. Need a quick getaway from the guards? Here, take a seat on this bench and act natural!

Want to distract your enemy? Why not hire your own personal harem of ladies to seduce them away from their duties, think that's expensive? Well, assassins in this game are also expert thieves and make much of their money through pick pocketing. 

I've also learnt that a bale of hay will save you from the near certain death of a 50ft drop as well as providing the same level of cover as a cardboard box does in Metal Gear Solid....seriously, when will these A.I. learn to open their eyes and look properly?! 

8. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

This game is the prequel to Deus Ex and is set 25 years before the original and is the third game in the series. Political successionism, freedom, the Illuminati, big corporations and conspiracy theories all play a part either as underlying themes or setting up future events and plot points seen in the first game. 

Not usually stealth based action titles, this instalment of Deus Ex introduced stealth and cover elements to the gameplay. Cover is utilised much more in this game than previously as it is the sole technique to avoid being detected, the shadows are no longer safe to hide in because these NPCs actually attend their routine eye tests! Making too much noise also attracts their attention, I guess hearing tests are also provided by their employers!

In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, there is an x-ray vision ability seemingly borrowed from Sam Fisher no doubt and the rather useful cloaking augmentation along with other stealth based augmentations that allow the player to keep track of enemy positions and see how far their own sound carries. I'm having déjà vu...okay, okay, so much of the stealth utilised in this game is borrowed from Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid but at least the prequel tried to do something different by injecting new gameplay mechanics into the series. 

9. The Arkham Asylum series 

The only game series that truly makes you feel like the protagonist, the caped crusader himself Batman. When you perform a silent takedown in these games, you ARE Batman. When you grapple from ledge to ledge to avoid being seen, you ARE Batman. When get it, basically you are one of the most skilled characters at being undetected! 

Wildly outnumbered and trapped within the confines of an asylum, the first game in the series requires Bats to cling to the shadows and attack his foes with maximum precision utilising stealth in a way only the Dark Knight himself could...with Bat Gadgets! 

10. Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher's Bay

A prequel to the film, Pitch Black this game sees you playing Richard B. Riddick (with the complete Vin Diesel look! Hell yes!) as he is incarcerated in the legendary but brutal prison, Butcher's Bay. 

To separate itself from the largely action based films this game utilised the character Riddick as he was portrayed in the first 45 minutes of Pitch Black, silently moving amongst the shipwrecked survivors and stealing from them with complete ease. 

From there the films became more about his strength, however the game focuses solely on the shadow dwelling silent assassin! Also....did I mention VIN DIESEL!

As always, if you think I missed one or you have your own suggestions, get involved in the comments section below! 

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