Have Blackjack and Cloak, Will Travel

Meta: I’m back into classes again (woo…) so please allow me time for late posting, as I never know when I’ll have time to write. I’ll try to get them up on relatively good time, but they may have to come at night or perhaps the next day. Such is life. Thanks! ♥ Cat

Stealth! Oh, ye truly untapped genre, I do adore you so.

I’ve recently been playing Thief 2, a old yet great stealth game in the truest sense.

I don’t mean recent Splinter Cell stealth, where you could easily play the game as a shooter and be none the damaged. The most recent one especially so, it had a system where you could get five gorram instant-kills for every melee attack you did. That’s not a stealth game. Sneaking down hallways and holding your breath as guards peer into the shadows for you is stealth. Completing objectives despite the fact that every single enemy could easily kill you if they noticed you is stealth. Cursing a bank’s choice in flooring as you loudly tap-tap-tap your way across tile floors until you begin having wet dreams about shag rug (not a euphemism) is stealth. All those things are Thief, and sadly, not much else.

Why is there no love for the stealth game? Yes, shooters are easy and fun to make and play. But you must admit, stealth is a bit fun if it’s done right, isn’t it? Any pansy can pick up a suit of armor and a ratta-tatta death penis and play the big manly hero. However, it takes a special kind of person to forgo stabbing a guard in the face, opting instead to breathlessly blend into the darkness until the guard passes and then sapping the fellow in the back of the head. Or even better, simply passing him by without a backwards glance, as a good thief should be able to do. Yes, it might not be as heroic as the knight in shining armor plunging his sword into every passerby, but I can assure you that it’s much more dramatic and “immersive”. I’ve found myself unconsciously hugging walls and avoiding tile floors as I walk about my day after playing Thief, simply because you have to be in the mindset.

It’s incredibly challenging and requires a lot of patience and skill, which I suppose is part of the problem. It really isn’t an “exciting” genre. Suspenseful, they are, along with dramatic. However, most people play games to be stimulated in a way that the slow pacing that good stealth does not provide. Thus, games that are supposedly “stealth-oriented” like Hitman and the recent Splinter Cells will *allow* you to complete the missions in a half-competent way, but let’s face it, why would you? You could either spend hours disguising yourself, crawling through airducts, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, etc., or you could just ratta-tat-tat your way through it in 15 minutes. Playing the stealth part of the games almost feels like a self-imposed handicap, especially with the trend of regenerating health that we have running around like a mentally-challenged toddler. Yes, the gunning might be difficult, but it always seems to serve the purpose of the game so much better than the stealth.

Metal Gear Solid is another example of this. One and Two was a little more focused on stealth with the narrow corridors and so on, seeing that a few gunshots could bring a thousand enemies down on your head, but what about 3 and 4? Snake Eater let you kill the radio man and then mow down the rest of his buddies without real consequence, despite the game pushing the “no trace left behind, police your brass because it might show that you’ve been there, etc.” idea. So a errant magazine screams “baddie” but a squad of baddies is okay? Yes, there were consequences, but they were rather delayed for a stealth game. And MGS4 can just fuck right off, that was a RE4-style shooter, not a stealth game. Playing with only tranq bullets always made me feel like the game figured that there was something wrong with me, a idea that I was inclined to agree with when I was using a tranq gun to take down motorcyclists with guns, on the back of a motorcycle speeding through a European city. The hell? Plus, what kind of stealth game lets you buy such a varied array of loud and deadly machine guns? A: one that has lost its nut.

I don’t have anything against shooters, they can be fun. However, there is a specific kind of joy and challenge that comes from breaking into the gaming equivalent of Scotland Yard and implicating a police captain in evidence tampering by leaving his handkerchief (nicked off his desk) in the heavily-guarded evidence locker before making your way back out through the sewers with nothing but the clothes on your back and a dragon’s hoard of treasure that came from cleaning out the station. This, of course, all being done by knocking out/killing no more than a very small number of guards, and if you’re really good then they would never know that you’ve been there at all. That’s a challenge that I love to play, because it’s just so different. Instead of bashing down the door, you get to play the poltergeist, manipulating the people of the world into doing your bidding without them knowing half of it.

Plus, there’s something so wonderful about being somewhere that you don’t belong. Not in the way that your American soldier doesn’t belong in the Nazi fortress, shooting up the place. I mean it as in the B&E sense, that voyeuristic kick you get out of spending a bit picking open a door that was locked to keep people like you out, but hey, that’s not going to stop you, is it? It’s a peculiar, subtle thing, really…

Perhaps it’s a power thing, who knows. However, I must say this: I really hope that developers can get back on the stealth genre, it has been neglected for far too long.

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