On Stealth Kills (Day 24)

This one’s super broad, and as usual I’m only going to lightly touch on the idea. Here, the term “stealth kills” refers to the ability to instantly kill an enemy that’s unaware of the playable character’s presence.

Like anything, the effectiveness of the system depends on the systems surrounding it, so I’m just going to be talking about it in a very general sense.

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I’m of two minds about the system. On one hand, it encourages even violent players to stay hidden as much as possible, only attacking guards by virtue of stealth. On the other, a totally silent kill discourages sneaking by multiple enemies, especially when it’s possibly to silently clear entire rooms.

Basically, I think the ability to kill in stealth games often undermines the stealth itself. In the ungodly amount of time I’ve spent sneaking around in games – stealth being one of my favourite mechanics – I find it extremely easy to default to mass murder if I can do so without raising an alarm.

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It’s often the best method of playing the game in a genre that encourages multiple play styles. Pure stealth is much harder than silently killing guards along the way (since they’re no longer a threat) and killing guards quietly is almost always easier than going in loud.

So I think stealth kills aren’t necessarily a great addition to stealth games, despite the popularity of the idea. Some games – like the tragically underrated ‘Splinter Cell: Blacklist’ – encourage playing with different styles in different attempts, and they’re a fine addition in those cases.

How about you? Do you love or hate them, or feel a sad kind of indifference? Let me know in the comments!

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