Friday, June 15, 2012

Splinter Cell isn't about stealth?

I'm starting to get quite angry about everyone going on about how Splinter Cell: Blacklist has lost the stealth the series is renowned for. Is this simply because of the E3 demo? But it's an E3 demo, its always going to be big and loud. While it does show Sam Fisher running out into the middle of the bad guys guns ablazing. that's not all it offers. Just before Mr Fisher gets a little gun-happy he's quietly sneaking along the outskirts of the enemy camp, opens up the back of tent with a knife and takes out the first guard without a single person noticing. THEN he jumps out and murders four people in the blink of an eye, but it's an active choice of the player rather than the only move available to him.

Later on Sam runs up a wall and kills a guard on the balcony above, now this is pure Conviction style stealth, but whoever is playing this demo is going for flashy in order to please the audience. Instead of being careful with the body he drops it straight into water directly in the path of the other enemies and shit kicks off. It was immediately apparent that this was a speed-run and I could see how to do it better if he just paused for a second or two, but that's not the nature of standing on stage in front of the large crowd demonstrating a game.

Then there's a recent reveal that Conviction's black and white stealth mechanic has gone. A number of internet denizens immediately rushed to “OMG NO STEALTH WTF?!!1!?!”. Seriously? The video that this 'quote' comes from is actually about how the game has multiple ways to approach the game, shows the same level as the E3 demo but Fisher scaling the outside of the building instead of kicking the front door in Schwarzenegger style. Yet somehow what we take from it is the fact they've removed stealth?

What they've actually removed, and he says it quite clearly, is the black and white aesthetic that shows whether Sam is hidden or not. That's not quite stealth has disappeared. However, I do think that this is a loss, I really liked the muted colours when you're sneaking about, only for the colours spring to life when shit hits the fan. But I understand the line of thinking that it didn't quite work and am willing to see what they do in it's place.

I feel that Splinter Cell and Hitman have both reached a point where the stealth isn't the be all and end all of the game, but they can still be approached from that angle if you so desire. Stealth is the preferred way, but it's not game over if you fail, just a damn sight harder. Splinter Cell may have started at the Bastard Hard end of stealth spectrum and now has heavy leanings in the action end, I understand why long term fans have problems with that, I hope for their sake Sam relearns some of his old moves so they can play the game that way if they choose too. It's something that Hitman seems to be doing extremely well, if you ignore that Nun trailer. There is a shot of Sam firing a taser into water and the option of non-lethal takedowns that give me hope.

However, the blend of stealth and action is a style of play I loved in Deus Ex: Human Revolution and I love that more games are embracing it.
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