All stealth in games is shoehorned in, plopped in half-assed, or just absolute garbage.* But is that really the worst part about stealth games? You’d be surprised to learn that, no, it’s not. The fact that stealth games will have shitty stealth gameplay is a given, so many developers give you ways to play the game without using it. And that is the problem.
I can understand and even emphasize with the stealth gameplay being complete terrible because these games will usually give you a gameplay choice between either the run-n-gun or the stealth path. But, they won’t give you a story choice between the two.
Here is how the stealth options work in regards to the story paths, character choices, and endings in these games.
1. Best Ending/Good: You are never seen. No one ever knows you’re there. None of the enemies are alerted to your presence, and a shot is never fired. You are a true paragon of virtue.
2. Decent Ending/Good: Any enemy who sees you is taken down in a non-lethal manner. Whether this is by using darts, silent takedowns, etc. Anyone who catches you is knocked unconscious. You never kill anyone.
3. Bad Ending/Bad: You use weapons and kill people.
Option 1 can only be achieved by using stealth. Option 2 is stealth, with periods of accidental run-n-gun, usually because you’ve fucked up and don’t want to restart. Option 3 is when you play using no stealth whatsoever.
Some of you still may not see the problem with this. The problem is that you don’t play the game the way you want. You don’t have a choice. You either use stealth the whole way, or you get a bad ending. That’s not a choice, that’s a punishment.
But, you’re saying, isn’t using stealth and taking down enemies non-lethally the right thing to do? By doing that, you are being a good guy. You deserve the bad ending if you kill everyone. If that’s the case, then why do the developers say you have a choice in how to play? Why do they give you the option to run-n-gun when you’re penalized for it?
I believe the developers are just giving lip service to this run-n-gun way of playing the game because they want players to think they’ve given them a choice, when there isn’t one. How many people, after shooting their way through a few levels and getting bad-mouthed by different characters for not being careful and penalized for their trouble, are still going to want to play the way they want to?
This is a personal point with me because even though I would like to enjoy these games, I’m being forced into a type of gameplay I can’t stand because I want to get a good ending.
Will I ever do a violent playthrough of “Deus Ex: Human Revolution?” No.
Will I ever do a violent playthrough of “Dishonored?” No.
Do I even want to? Yes! In fact, that’s how I would prefer to play. But there’s no sense in “enjoying the game” when the game will shit on you afterwards for making the “bad” choice.
Run-n-gun and stealth should not be the determining factors of a good or bad ending, and should not in and of themselves be a good or bad choice.
There’s a very easy way to fix this. All of these “make your own choices” games should include a run-n-gun option that’s not considered morally wrong. What if, instead of having these options:
1. Sneak around, and never be seen.
2. Sneak around, shoot sleeping darts into enemies who get too close, or knock them out from behind.
3. Blow up all the enemies with machine guns and grenades.
You had these, instead?
1. Sneak around, and never be seen. No deaths.
2. Sneak around, shoot sleeping darts into enemies who get too close, or knock them out from behind. You are sometimes seen, but no one is killed.
3. Sneak around, and execute enemies who get too close, using a blade or a silenced pistol. You kill only those who catch you, or you don’t like.
4. Blow up all the enemies with machine guns and grenades. Everybody dies.
5. Shoot all the enemies out in the open with nonlethal ammunition, or knock out every enemy you see with a blunt weapon. No one is killed.
I would choose option 5. I wouldn’t have to play the crappy stealth, and I wouldn’t get the bad ending. Killing an enemy is a moral choice, but fighting everyone you see and taking the front door approach is not. It just means you’d rather not fuck around in vents for thirty minutes.
Stop being cliche and predictable, game developers! This is a standard stealth element, not because it works, but because you’re too lazy or untalented to fix it.
*Except the Thief series. Thief is perfect.