Good Stealth, Bad Stealth

This is day 19 of Blaugust.

This post was inspired by an article over at Midnight Resistance (this was going to be a comment, but there are no comments!) In the post, Andi complains about stealth sections in non-stealth games and asks readers to tell about their least favourite stealth sections.

I am usually not a fan of stealth in games. I’m too impatient to wait for enemy patrols to pass by or throw rocks as distractions. Here are some games that feature stealthy parts that I really didn’t enjoy.

The Last of Us


I’m sure I’ve complained about this one before. I found the stealth sections, particularly in the first half of the game, extremely frustrating. Ammo and supplies were low, Joel only had a access to a couple different weapons. There were many areas with a good half dozen infected standing around and you had to stealth around, taking them out one by one. Usually one or two could be taken out fairly easily, but the others required you to throw bottles and things to distract them. I don’t mind stealth so much when sneaking by enemies allows me to avoid combat altogether, but in most of these sections combat was inevitable.

My biggest issue? I have a shotgun! I want to use it. Technically I could use it, but it alerts all the enemies in the area and taking on more than a couple at a time generally resulted in a horrible death. So I was forced to stealth around, stabbing zombies in the neck until there were only one or two left. These sections slowed the gameplay to a crawl and were the main reason I wasn’t overly impressed by my first few hours with the game.

Arkham… Anything

The first time you hang upside down from a gargoyle to make a surprise snare of an enemy and leave them dangling by their ankles it’s quite a rush. Same thing with dive bombing out of the shadows to take down a henchman with a gun. But the sixth? The tenth? The twentieth? It gets kinda old.

All of the Arkham games (at least the first 3, I haven’t played Knight yet) are filled with gargoyle rooms. Here the enemies are numerous and usually armed so you need to sneak around to take them out, lest Batman get overwhelmed. Honestly it gets old after a while, especially in the rooms that have a dozen enemies or more. Get to the face punching, Bats.


Maybe it’s unfair to put this in here since Dishonored is a stealth game. Or an action-adventure game. It’s up to the player. Sort of. You can choose to go around killing everything, or you can ostensibly get through the game without killing anyone (or at least very few people). How many people you kill can impact the ending of the game.

I tried to go the no-kill route when I played. That lasted about 12 minutes. Since the no-kill experience was ruined I had no choice but to turn into the most murderous bastard alive. The problem? The combat sucks. It’s clunky and not fun at all. So while the stealthy route is presented as a choice, it’s not much of one. You either go the mechanically solid but very slow stealth route, or you go through the game being subjected to the shitty shooting mechanics. In this case, the best choice to me was to quit.

But wait…

There is one game that, surprisingly, had stealth sections that I found very enjoyable.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein the New Order stealth

Wolfenstein is one of the best games I’ve played this year. It has a good story, really solid shooting mechanics, and all the weapons feel unique. It also has stealth. What is it that makes stealth in Wolfenstein feel so rewarding, while most games make it feel like a chore?

I can’t totally put my finger on it, but I have a few ideas. The first person perspective makes things more interesting. Whereas in The Last of Us I was watching Joel stab a zombie in the neck, in Wolfenstein I felt like I was stabbing things in the neck. Hmm… that sounds a bit psychotic now that I’ve typed it out. Anyway, the first person perspective was certainly more immersive.

Wolfenstein also made great use of sound to let you know when you were safe or not. From dogs softly snoring to Nazis in mech suits stomping around, you didn’t necessarily have to see your enemies to know they were there. I find relying on sound much more interesting than the magical ability to see through walls.

The biggest reason, I think, is that failing at stealth in Wolfenstein had a much different result than failing in other games. If you got spotted in The Last of Us, the ensuing scramble would likely bring every enemy running. And then you’d die. If you got spotted in Batman when you hadn’t taken out enough armed enemies, everyone would start shooting. And then you’d die. When you get spotted in Dishonored you have to take part in unenjoyable combat. Or die. In Wolfenstein, what happens after you’re discovered is still enjoyable. It might make things a bit harder, but it’s not a death sentence most of the time. Plus, the ensuing firefight is always a heck of a lot of fun.

What are your thoughts on stealth? Any particular examples stand out as good or bad uses of it in games?

8 responses to “Good Stealth, Bad Stealth

  1. I hate forced stealth of any kind. I don’t like stealth games. In general, I just don’t have the patience or the interest.
    Murf recently posted..#Blaugust Day 19: A Good MMO is more than its feature set (and you are too).

  2. I looooooooove stealth! It’s about the only kind of excitement I can handle in games, lol.
    Ysharros recently posted..Blaugust Day 20 – Only Slightly Early

  3. The game that “made” stealth for me was Goldeneye. It was such an integral part of the game, yet it was possible to salvage the situation with sheer bravado if you screwed it up, and you were very rarely forced into it.

    I managed to win Thief Gold (the original one, not the reboot) on Steamgifts so I am pretty keen to give that a shot. Ditto for Deus Ex: Human Revolution (now that they apparently fixed the issue with mandatory bossfights).

    I generally don’t mind stealth in my games, as long as it makes sense, and the mechanics are well done. Stealth in Mini Ninjas, for example, I hated because it felt pointless and like you were handicapping yourself by using it rather than just charging in.
    Dahakha recently posted..The Secret Lore – The Pyramid

    • I liked that in Goldeneye is didn’t feel like a real stealth “mode” it was just being quiet and not going in guns blazing. In Deus Ex I initially tried going the stealthy route but I felt it just made everything take forever, and didn’t really offer any extra reward.

  4. I actually love stealth games! It’s just that most of them aren’t very good and make stealth very punishing. Dishonored is a prime example. I really really really wanted to play a stealth, especially regarding the story, but you make one misstep and bam, you’re a murder hobo.
    I am really glad you mention The Last of Us, because I bought it, all pumped to play this most amazing PS game of all times and then…stopped playing within the first hours of the game because stealth was so hard.
    I never minded the stealth elements of the Arkham games, though the gargoyle rooms can get very tedious.
    My recommendations for great stealth games: Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mark of the Ninja. The latter is hands down the best stealth title I have ever played. It’s simply remarkable and I cannot recommend this game enough.

    Damn, now you’ve made me want to blog about stealth games.
    Kadomi recently posted..MMOs: My continued journey through FFXIV

    • Murder hobo, I like that.

      I did actually like how stealth was done in Arkham games, it was just those rooms that got to me. By the end of the game every bad guy in them had a gun and I died so many times because I slipped up and got spotted.

      I’ll have to look into Mark of the Ninja.

  5. Just played this game. When i first started playing It looked great but I just didn’t get into it. Put it in a few months later and started playing and wow! Incredible game! When you get into the story it really takes off. Great story and really enjoyed it. If you like the uncharted series you will like this game. I wish the ending was a little different. Very addicting.