The stealth genre has evolved over the years

If going in all guns blazing isn't your style or if you're simply tired of playing Rambo, there's plenty to sink your teeth into. Stealth games have been around for some time now, but the genre seems to be evolving, assimilating the best elements of action and role-playing games and fusing them with age-old stealth mechanics of sticking to, and striking from the shadows when enemies least expect it. A lot of today's stealth games sport a strong action component, while maintaining core stealth gameplay, offering the player two clear choices. For impatient gamers, there's always the option of finding the biggest, ‘baddest' weapon and letting loose, but the more rewarding ‘stealth' path offers a lot more satisfaction at the end of a play session. The best part about stealth is that you don't have to put that gun away entirely — just attach a silencer at the tip of your barrel.

Stealth games existed as early as the Eighties, but it wasn't until Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu that games were classified in a separate category altogether, and today, there's a strong (albeit niche) audience for the genre, but it does seem to have had an influence on mainstream action games (first and third-person shooters in particular), which now often feature a mandatory stealth mission in their story modes. The core mechanics of the stealth genre haven't changed all that much. Players are given very limited ammunition, are faced with overwhelming odds, and being detected by enemies results in either a huge difficulty spike (thanks in no small part to the sounding of an alarm) or an immediate ‘mission failure' message. However, in an effort to make stealth games less unforgiving and more accessible, developers have chosen to give the player more firepower, regenerating health and companions who pack a punch. Splinter Cell: Conviction is a great example of one such attempt to reach out to a wider audience. Splinter Cell was the Xbox's answer to Playstation's Metal Gear Solid series when it released in 2002. It was a fairly ‘hardcore' title, requiring careful planning and heavy stealth, with missions often taking over an hour to complete. The series reached its stealth-driven gameplay peak with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, but two games later, it was both a stealth game and a competent shooter. Its protagonist Sam Fisher was faster, better armed and could take down a whole room of bad guys with a couple of button presses. This hybridisation, while not the best thing for the genre from an ‘artistic' standpoint could be the very boost it needs commercially. A lot more gunplay meant that even the genre-defining Metal Gear Solid 4 had to be played for a substantial amount of time as a shooter. However, ‘stealth kills' could never become a thing of the past as Crytek's latest shooter Crysis 2 has shown. Stealth plays a huge role in both the campaign and multiplayer modes of Crysis 2, with the words ‘cloak engaged' almost becoming synonymous with the series. Be it AI opponents or human opponents on virtual battlefields, players are now turning invisible, stalking and luring their prey for the perfect silent kill.

Keywords: Stealth games