Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Return of the Stealth Genera for PC

- The Best Stealth Games PC has to offer

The stealth genera has an interesting history for video gaming.  Often volatile and requiring patience (something today's market seem to lack),  it often can lead to some of the most frustrating, and yet rewarding moments.  As many become bored of the Call of Duty's copy and paste formula, we once again see a resurgence in stealth gameplay.  Here's a list (retrospective of sorts) of the most popular stealth series on the PC (future dates are projected, and could change):

Metal Gear Solid Series
1998, 2001, 2013
Presented in the 3rd person, and advertised as tactical espionage action, MGS gets credit for popularizing the stealth genera.  It had a modern military atmosphere though a bit cliche to today's standards.  However with the allure of Japanese storytelling, and long winded cutscenes  managed to capture the attention of both the console market.  Over time, the PC market lost interest in Mr Snake (in part because the mouse controls did not fit the perspective) resulting in the loss of MGS 3 & 4.  However, since the theme is "Return", many should be excited, Metal Gear Solid 5 will make its return to the PC.

THIEF Series
1998, 2000, 2004, 2014
Released only one month after Metal Gear Solid, Thief gets credit for being the first 1st person sneaker. A UI decision that resonates well with PC gamers. Thief also introduces mixed morality, as you're not a good guy, doing whats right for the world.  Thief storyline manages to give us enough twists and turns and gadgets to make it a permanent fixture in the genera.  A nice contrast to MGS, is Thief takes place in the Medieval/Victorian era with a dash of fantasy.  While Thief hit a bump in the road with Thief 3, Thief 4 is in production, returning almost 10 years after its last title.

Deus Ex Series
2000, 2003, 2011
Deus Ex is really a game for everyone.  It tosses in all angles of gameplay; from the brute shooter, to the stealthy silent type, to the geeky hacker.  In many ways, Deus Ex rode in on the RPG first person genera.  It just so happened, stealth was one such element.  As for story, Solid Gear Solid already showed us conspiracy theories work well in stealth genera. Dues Ex takes the well treded concept, tosses it in a 1st person cyberpunk universe, while giving gamers player full control on how they wish to play.  Although the sequel was dumbed down to fit a shooter audience, the 3rd release in 2011 returned 10 years later to give control back to the players.

Hitman Series
2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2012
With his trademarked piano string, Hitman brings the bad ass, to the stealth party.  Mr 47, put the assassin into stealth.  While the overall theme of the game is serious, it doesn't shy away from having fun, while giving the player many options to tackle an opponent, sometime with hilarious results.  Hitman is also returning from a 6 year nap, to take advantage of the stealth resurge.

Splinter Cell Series
2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2013
There's no question, Sam Fischer is the American version of the protagonist Solid Snake.  Splinter Cell presents a clean storyline and a bit of a reboot for players that had grown tied of Snake, but still wanted the modern timeline for stealth.  For many, Splinter Cell introduced PC players back to a 3rd person gaming style, as its controls worked smoothly for a mouse/keyboard. Splinter Cell trademarked the multiple optics headgear, often seen in its brand marketing.  The addition of multiplayer and coop brought an even better dynamic to the genera of stealth, the latter requiring perfect coordination.   In recent releases of the series, developers have allowed more open shootouts, diminished the gizmos, and even eliminated the need to hide bodies.  A decision which was not well received, yet many critics missed a harder game mode which instilled  stealth gameplay values. When returning in 2013, more controversy as Splinter Cell reboots the series with a new Sam Fischer, while keeping the mixed style of gameplay.

Assassins Creed
2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012
Assassin Creed had a shaky start.  Often labeled as a Prince of Persia with stealth.  The allure for historical data mixed with a sci-fi twist, the storyline managed to capture a fanbase that propelled it to the successes we see today.  If the series was to add something to the genera, I would say atmosphere. I can't really say this game returns, as it hasn't let up, because the publishers know they have a hot IP, and are marketing the shit outta it.

Batman: Arkham Series
2009, 2011
Batman redefines, not so much the stealth genera, but rather the historically crappy comic book super hero genera.  Although highly successful, the step was rather simplistic.  Batman is a perfect fit for stealth, given his detective abilities, and always in the shadows, er ...like a bat.  An extra bonus, you toss in the cool comic book gizmos into the already well establish storyline.   Batman proves you can have a super hero stealth game, returning our faith in the super hero genera.

We haven't seen a new IP in the stealth genera in 5 years.  Yes, 5 YEARS!  Dishonored seems to have the perfect mix of developers and publisher to dive into this once sleepy genera   Although it does have the feel of a pilot, Dishonored managed to turn the heads of the industry.  In many ways Dishonored is a collection of all its predecessors:  the play-as-you-want of Deus Ex, the super-hero abilities of Batman, the 1st person perspective of Thief, the heavy emphases of  plot and atmosphere of Assassins Creed.  We can only hope Dishonored will return for more.

Honorable mention - Mark of the Ninja

[ Edit:  For some insider Jibber-Jabery on the subject ]

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