For years, I have kicked around this silly hypothetical question in my head. “In a world where characters are scored based on their abilities within each video-game-related skill, how would I score in each?” In this post, I pick a handful of genres that represent my strengths and flaws as a gamer and give them a score based on a 0-10 scale. Let’s try this out!
(Originally posted on splitkick.com. Thank you to the Splitkick team for the edits!)
Perched atop a lamppost, I spot my targets. Directly below me are three gun-toting foes who have no idea what’s coming to them. I could simply grapple to the adjacent rooftop to continue my mission, but my bloodlust is running high. I ask myself, “Do I want to cloud their vision with a smoke bomb, then stab each of them in the back? Or can I come up with something more clever?” Scanning my inventory, I find just the thing to liven up this party. In an instant, a swarm of ravenous insects showers down on one of my enemies. As the insects make quick work of his flesh, his partners freak out, and accidentally shoot each other in the commotion. Recognizing that my work was done, I slip off into the darkness to continue my quest.
Though it’s a stretch to classify Mark of the Ninja as a simulation, this 2D stealth platformer makes me feel more like a real ninja than any other video game I’ve played before. Marrying concepts from the NES Ninja Gaiden games with the Arkham series of Batman titles, it’s also one of the coolest games I’ve played in 2012.
Up until this point, I had never played a Sly Cooper game before. During its heyday, I was a big PlayStation hater and wanted nothing to do with Sony’s gaming endeavours. Since I bought a PlayStation 3 a few years back, I’ve been slowly making my way through the platform’s signature franchises. I can now cross Sony’s sneaky raccoon off the list, as I’ve played through Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Admittedly, I didn’t think I’d get much out of this stealth platformer, but it managed to impress nonetheless.
Dishonored‘s premise is as simple as it gets. Corvo, the empress’ bodyguard, gets framed as her murderer as part of a plot to take over the throne. In the process, the empress’ daughter gets kidnapped. Now he’s out to save the girl, avenge the empress and clear his name.
The game at first blush was far from that for me. Struggling to grasp the game’s systems early on, I fumbled my way through the first mission; killing everyone in my path. Despite eventually completing the mission, the game’s heavy hand on leading you towards the stealthy route sure made me feel like a failure. Having killed 14 bodies in cold blood and the chaos level on high due to those actions, I feared that this wasn’t going to get any better.
I hate stealth games. I hate the myriad of artificial fail states that oftentimes come with it. I hate the oftentimes fake openness that really boils down to 1 or 2 options you may have at any given point. I hate the trial-and-error nature of the gameplay. I even hate the very conceit of stealth in video games. When i play a video game, I want the power fantasy. In most stealth games, you feel like a weakling who has no other means of getting through a scenario.
I hate stealth games, but I love Mark of the Ninja.
Stealth games and I generally don’t get along. Most games in the genre require its players to figure out the ideal route through every scenario and execute to perfection. Anything less leads to instant failure. Even if you’re a stealth game savant, most of these scenarios require a ton of trial-and-error to master. This is a process I cannot stand.
So why would I even bother with Splinter Cell: Conviction; the latest instalment of arguably the premier stealth series? Over the last year or so, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Mark of the Ninja warmed me up to the genre a bit more. I’ve heard that this latest Splinter Cell has a more action focus to it, which is definitely a selling point to me. Also, it didn’t hurt that I scored it at the bottom of a bargain bin for a mere $10. Did the gamble pay off?
In the year 2027, cybernetics are challenging the definition of humanity. On one cybernetmic hand, there are powerful corporations who want nothing more than to profit from the sales of such augmentations. On the other fleshy hand, the idea of humans turning into any form of robot rubs some people the wrong way. You, as the new security director at a biotechnology firm, find yourself embroiled in a war over this, as an initial attack on your company almost takes your life. Now outfitted with augmentations – a necessity after the damage done to your body – your search for answers uncovers a plot far grander than a one-off terrorist strike.
Not too long ago, I played Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay for the first time. I was really digging its first-person stealth action in theory, but the experience fell apart for me very quickly. I got to a point early on where Riddick had to fight his enemies in a head-on manner and it just did not work out well for me. Even when I lowered the difficulty to easy, I kept getting smoked by the computer. It seemed like when I was forced to defend myself in a non-stealthy way, Riddick was seemingly useless.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not good at stealth games. But I think there’s something to be said about the way stealth is implemented in games, particularly when a player has to fight outside the context of stealth.
Released outside of the regular XBOX Live Arcade schedule, and with virtually no marketing, Mark of the Ninja was the talk of the town for a total of one day when the glowing launch-day reviews hit. If it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t have even know this game existed.
I’m so glad to have played it, because it is fantastic. As a guy who hates stealth games, that says a whole lot.
If you’d like to read my full review, head over to Splitkick to learn more!
SPLITKICK REVIEW: Mark of the Ninja