The Joy of Stealth Games Without Stealth


#1

One of the most enjoyable experiences I had at PAX last weekend was Murderous Pursuits. It’s basically a multiplayer video game version of Assassin, if you ever played that game, as well as a sequel to The Ship. You are both hunter and hunted in a lavish Victorian setting, randomly assigned another player as your assassination target, but also knowing that someone else is targeting you at the same time. With each kill or death, the deck is reshuffled and you get a new target and a new hunter on your trail. At the end of a round, the most prolific murderer wins.

The catch is that you’re in a setting crowded with other characters who may or may not be other players, and the real secret is knowing how to blend into these crowds. For instance, while you can sprint, an AI character never will, so it’s a dead giveaway when a character suddenly bolts through the crowd. On the other hand, if you stand in certain spaces on the floor, such as in front of a portrait or an interesting sculpture, your character will go through the motions of making the same contemplative, appreciative gestures and expressions that the AI characters perform. In other words, you just look like part of the scenery

After a couple years of playing stealth games where the objective is remain concealed in the shadows and to find secret paths to your targets, it was a nice reminder of how much fun, and how deliciously tense, the “hiding in plain sight” type of stealth game can be. When success requires being increasingly vulnerable, and lingering in those exposed positions, the entire dynamic shifts to being about steady nerves and going with the flow. You need to take action and move with purpose, but all in plain view of a hostile audience, without ever having been seen to do anything at all.

I’m curious to see what kind of longevity Murderous Pursuits enjoys, and whether it will remain as interesting to me after I’m away from PAX, and after I’ve played a few rounds with the Waypoint gang. I’m also on the fence about some of its character models, whose heightened Victorianism includes some classically Orientalist tropes. They fit with the game’s theme, but is that theme really providing any critique of its dated stereotypes?

Still, it’s made me nostalgic for this exact kind of stealth game, and has me contemplating visit to Hitman or even the Silent Hunter series. I just love that feeling of trying to play it cool in a situation where everything is positively screaming “ Run like hell!”

What games scratch this itch for you? What are the best stealth games that take the action out of the shadows and into the light?

Let me know in today’s open thread!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/7xddza/the-joy-of-stealth-games-without-stealth

#2

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood’s multiplayer was just sublime. It’s exactly what I’d wanted ever since I heard of The Ship, and it enjoyed the legs that The Ship only dreamed of by virtue of it being attached to a massively successful franchise entry. I wish this model of play was more popular as a standalone product, because it allows for some extremely interesting moment-to-moment encounters that play out like sudden, harrowing flashes in the pan, leaving you either breathless, or burned.

Here’s an extremely good run that was pretty typical of this game:

Also worth noting that Spy Party, a game which inspired some of the elements in this game (specifically the “Vignettes”, or the little spots where you can position your character to blend in with the NPCs) releases like, tomorrow on Steam. You can buy it for $15 direct from the developer here, before it jumps to $25 on launch.


#3

Blending in as someone in the crowd was so fun when Hitman came around. I remember how rough the first game was, but it was such a neat take on stealth. I really should get back to 2016 sometime and take on the rest of the missions.


#4

This. I absolutely loved the multiplayer in AC Brotherhood (or maybe it was Revelations). I vaguely remember my favorite map was a large open town square during a nighttime carnival thing, with a bunch of civilians milling about. It more or less forced you to take a very subtle approach blending into the civilians around you while you stalked your prey.


#5

Came to say that Spy Party is a trip. It’s been super fun for me, and it makes for some super interesting spectator moments.


#6

Pretty sure the mode was in Black Flag too. Either way, yeah, I want more of that mode. It’s the rare multiplayer that is less about twitch reflexes and more about strategy and outwitting your opponents. I’d love it if future AC games could bring it back in some form or another.


#7

We should all get AC:Revelations on the next Ubisoft sale and play a few seshies


#8

Can I just say that them not putting the multiplayer in The Ezio Collection is straight garbage? Cuz it’s straight garbage.


#9

Isn’t this just Assassin’s Creed multiplayer? Did they stop doing that in the AC games? I haven’t played the most recent few.


#10

Alternative comparison: Spy Party but everyone is a spy and sniper at the same time


#11

The last one to have the competitive multiplayer was AC4. Unity had some weird coop thing, but Syndicate and Origins were single-player only.


#12

AC multiplayer is the best. The only competitive multiplayer game I’ve ever been able to fully and truly embrace.


#13

I was playing Dark Souls 3 last night and was in the courtyard right before the entrance to Anor Londo which as it turns out is a popular spot for multiple members of a certain covenant to invade you. I had a ton of souls and my humanity that didn’t feel like losing so I stood perfectly still next to a bonfire. Whenever each invader found me they had assumed I was AFK and would kind of curiously dance around my player. The moment they inevitably did an emote I would use my entire stamina bar to give 'em a good chopping with my greatsword. Maybe it’s cheap but it’s their fault for having honour while joining a dick covenant.


#14

i think an interesting thing about these games is they way they encourage you to play at being an AI character, whatever that means game-by-game. it’s role playing, but it’s not roleplaying as a different ‘person’ so to speak; it’s roleplaying as an AI subroutine, programmed to follow specific patterns - and even, sometimes, to ‘break’ convincingly.

it’s a form of performance which i feel has little equivalence outside of games, and i think if someone made a game which leaned even further into this aspect of impersonating an inherently unconvincing AI subroutine than the games already mentioned (which are excellent, by the way!) i think you could go take it to some really interesting places.


#15

Some planets in No Man’s Sky where sentinels will exterminate players on site is a wonderful example of this considering it becomes about scanning the horizon for sentinels and avoiding walking into one, and it makes ever bit of exploration and scavenging fell like a wonderful heist.


#16

I’ve played quite a bit of the ship a few years ago. It would just be a couple of my good friends then our friend’s brother and his friends. It was mostly because we made a social activity of it (shooting the shit over skype while we played) but the gameplay was still a ton of fun. This is just making me super nostalgic for it.