Stealth and I have a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, my sneaky moves in real life allow me to watch people through their windows without being caught, but on the other I generally suck at being inconspicuous in video games. Luckily, these games are often all too lenient when it comes to stealth – in real life, if a body was found and a bloodtrail led up to a man casually looking the other way, the police might have a few questions. In games such as Hitman, however, they might rub their chin a bit, but ultimately aren’t going to risk looking rude by casually enquiring as to whether you had anything to do with the dead gentleman whose, now that you mention it, clothes you are wearing. Anyway, this is a short list of the great stealth games in my life, and therefore all of yours, in no particular order.
Hitman: Blood Money
You’ve heard me talk of this stunning murder simulator before, if you followed the blog in the dark times before the other contributors came along. It is simply one of my favourite games ever and actually a stealth game I am reasonable at playing. The game is based around assassinating a target in each level (usually more than one, or possibly also achieving another objective), but the real spark of the game is in the creativity with which it allows you to complete these levels. No other game I can think of allows you to wander around a quiet American suburb as a knife-wielding clown, dragging corpses around outside and tossing them into the garbage truck which handily compresses them. While the tone of the actual game is never anything less than dry and serious, it encourages you to find the most stupid ways of completing a mission, and having a great time doing so. Equally, you can disregard all the clever ways IO have made for you to kill your target, and just lob a bomb at them, or wait in an elevator and strangle them when they get in. Great fun.
The Splinter Cell Series
What with a new Splinter Cell being announced in E3 this year, as well as a Steam sale on the original and the divisive Double Agent (from what I’ve played so far, it seems just as brilliant as all the others), Splinter Cell has been very much at the forefront of my gaming consciousness for the last few days. The entire series is a truly remarkable set of games, not one really failing to deliver brilliant stealth action. It’s a lot harder than Hitman (for me at least), but you get all kinds of fun gadgets and things to help you along your way. The humour is really missing from these titles, but that’s perhaps for the best. Stealth is, after all, serious business. The games also have remarkable replay value, and I’m still not bored of the opening mission in the original game, despite failing so many times at every major point in the level.
Team Fortress 2
This might seem like an odd choice, but Team Fortress 2 manages some brilliant 1st person stealth as the Spy class, which is something we rarely see these days. Especially with the new update, the Spy is a great choice for players who enjoy stealth games, but want the difficulty of real opponents to go up against. Obviously the style of TF2 means nothing about how you play will be realistic, but I feel Stealth games could do with a bit of variety like TF2 offers, and one of my dream games would be a Hitman/TF2 crossover where you play the spy. The characterisation in TF2 is brilliant, as evidenced by the Meet The Spy video, which shows exactly how the stealth works and why it can be tremendous fun.
Another somewhat odd choice, Ghost Recon is perhaps the least directly stealthy game on the list. While you are never told to go into the situations in Ghost Recon in a stealthy way, it’s almost always far easier if you do, and some of the best moments come from doing so. This, in a game which can take any mission and any degree of ability and create a compelling mini-story by the end of it, is something rather special. Again, the game is very dry and tactical, but even in it’s old age it makes for some great shooting.
* Disclaimer: I have not played any of the Thief games. I do not leave them out because I dislike them, but because I do not know how good they are from first-hand experience.