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The Year Ahead For Stealth


2012 is set to be one of the finest years for stealth gaming. Not only will we see the return of the series that started it all, but some incredible indie titles are beginning to explore stealth gaming in new and imaginative ways.


This is the year that will have you skulking through the shadows, unscrewing light bulbs, diving through plate-glass windows, performing co-operative heists and outwitting nature’s greatest predator. But it’s not just the year ahead for stealth gaming – it’s the year ahead for Sneaky Bastards, as over the course of it we’ll be covering, and eventually reviewing, each and every one of these games when they finally emerge.

Click the headlines to reveal the games within.

The Poster Boys

Thief 4

Eidos Montreal | Q2 2012 | PC, 360, PS3

That date above isn’t a release date, but rather the time we’re most likely to see Thief 4 revealed: E3 2012. A skeleton team at Eidos Montreal was working on it during the development of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but with that on the shelves work on Thief 4 is now steaming ahead. Expect the actual game closer to 2013. However, don’t expect this to actually be called Thief 4 (let alone the nonsensical Thi4f glyph adorning the official site) as a subtitle will ease in those unfamiliar with the series – much like Human Revolution. Whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, remains to be seen. Let’s just hope it’s a bit more inventive than “Deadly Shadows”.


Splinter Cell 6

Ubisoft Toronto | TBA | PC, 360, PS3

There’s actually less to go on for Splinter Cell 6 than Thief 4. The game has not yet been officially unveiled, save for these apparently leaked images from Ubisoft Toronto’s audio production room and a quick mention from Jade Raymond, who is heading up this new Ubisoft studio. The actual game itself falls under the direction of Patrick Redding, Narrative Designer on Far Cry 2 and the man in charge of the only good part of Splinter Cell: Conviction – its co-operative mode. In the same way Indiana Jones is his fur felt fedora, Sam Fisher is those tri-night vision goggles, so it’s nice to see them back along with, and this is an assumption here, a potential return to form for the series.


Hitman: Absolution

IO Interactive | Q3 2012 | PC, 360, PS3

I saw this at E3 last year – the same footage linked below, albeit with developer commentary. I also interviewed the developer post-E3. And everything I’ve seen and heard so far as me worried. The first few minutes don’t feel like Hitman, whilst the rest of the demo doesn’t feel like a stealth game. IO has stated that the scenario demoed can be completed silently, but they also told me the chopper encounter is scripted no matter what. Ugh. I’m eager to see more, but right now the game looks like Hitman: Conviction.

Back For More

Assassin’s Creed III

Ubisoft Montreal | Q4 2012 | PC, 360, PS3

No solid details, but we all know it’s coming – especially if Ubisoft wants to make the series a yearly thing. Revelations suffered a little because of this, and partially because the actual revelations were few and far between. And with series Creative Director Patrice Désilets jumping ship to the THQ studio working on Homefront 2, the direction Assassin’s Creed III ends up taking is anyone’s guess. I’d like to see it set entirely in the present, but rumours are flying about China, Victorian England and the American Revolution.


Syphon Filter 4

SCE London | Q4 2012 | PS3

Not much to go on for this one, but for another leak; this time, from Sony itself, who accidentally posted details of the game’s reveal at E3 this year and release around the holidays. Apparently the game will use a new internally-developed engine that will “revolutionise” stealth. I have no idea how it’s going to do that. In fact, I played a bit of the first Syphon Filter on PSX, and a bit of the PSP one (before my thumbs cramped up), and they felt a little more like third-person shooters than proper stealth games. Time to wait for E3, then.

Hybrid Heaven

Dishonored

Arkane | Q1 2012 | PC, 360, PS3

From Raphael Colantonio of Arx Fatalis and Harvey Smith of Deus Ex comes this first-person assassinate-’em-up. Players will sneak through an oppressed Victorian city riddled by plague and powered by whale blubber, sticking to the shadows or using their powers to possess rats and squeeze through tiny holes. I could take or leave the magic elements, because it’s been too long since a proper light and shadow-based first-person sneaker. Still… rats. They’re certainly a new dimension for stealth.


Far Cry 3

Ubisoft Montreal | Q2 2012 | PC, 360, PS3

Sure, it’s not strictly a stealth game, but Far Cry 2 – and, to a lesser extent, its predecessor – put out some pretty solid stealth, if you played that way. Far Cry 3 seems to be fleshing those sneaking mechanics out a little, aside from the now-customary stealth-takedowns. Pay attention to the visual indicators in the trailer below. Guards now have a much more defined “suspicious” state, as indicated by the expanding white directional arrow on the HUD – the very same indicator used in Splinter Cell: Conviction. Water also appears to act as a line-of-sight breaker, and can be used to slip away and reset alert states. The +10 XP and Skill Points have me a little worried, though. I wonder if any of those skills will be stealth-related?


Metro: Last Light

4A Games | Q3 2012 | PC, 360, PS3

I had the pleasure of reviewing Metro 2033, and I found it to be – above all else – a game that handles the transition from stealth to all-out firefights and back better than any other. From the footage I saw at E3, Last Light appears to follow suit. It’s not exclusively a stealth game, but it has the atmosphere of one, and I’m told a zero-detection path through key areas is much more possible this time around. And unscrewing light bulbs is damn cool. Just try to ignore the fact that shooting an iron pot would make one hell of a ding.


The Independent Contractors

Gunpoint

Tom Francis | March 2012 | PC

If you’re at all familiar with his work over at PC Gamer, it kind of feels inevitable that this is the sort of game Tom Francis would make. Ostensibly a stealth puzzle game, but perhaps more of a slapstick playground, Gunpoint involves the infiltration of high-security complexes by cross-wiring the building’s electronics to do the hard bits for you. It’s actually quite nuanced, and it takes Francis himself eight minutes to explain, so check out the walkthrough below for the complete schematic.


The Swindle

Size Five | TBA | PC

Sonic the Hedgehog meets Deus Ex. At least, that’s how the guys behind Ben There, Dan That describe their new game. It’s a steampunk cyber-crime caper, with physics-based platforming and a healthy dollop of infiltration. Like Deus Ex, there will be multiple approaches, with stealth being one of them, and well as upgrades to promote your chosen approach. I’m not sure where Sonic fits in though – probably in the escape phase…


Children of Liberty

Lantana Games | TBA (Alpha underway) | PC

Here’s a beautifully-animated stealth-platformer that takes place on the eve of the American Revolution, as seen through the eyes of four children. Each of these kids has different abilities; whilst one might be better at grappling and platforming, another will have a suite of free-running moves that play into kick-and-run combat. With a hitherto unseen premise and an already gorgeous art style, it’s something I’m keeping a close eye on. And, being of British descent, I’m keen to see if the Redcoats are portrayed as bumbling Saturday morning cartoon villians. Guffaw.


Warp

Trapdoor | Q1 2012 | PC, XBLA, PSN

I like this one; it’s a top-down stealth puzzler where you play as a cute little alien whose one ability allows him to warp through walls, or into solid objects. Such as people. Who he can then warp out of again, making them explode. The alien can’t survive direct gunfire, so the stealth aspect involves tactically warping out of the view of patrolling guards, into objects like explosive barrels and detonating them at an opportune moment. Originally slated for release last year, we should be seeing Warp any day now.


Beat Sneak Bandit

Simogo | Q1 2012 | iOS

A stealth rhythm game? You better believe it. You’ll sneak into mansions to steal a series of clocks, but everything in those mansions moves to the beat: doors, trapdoors, splotlights, security guards. Not only will getting spotted end the mission, but stepping out of rhythm makes one of the clocks disappear, so a puzzle element is introduced whereby levels must be perfected by collecting all clocks and achieving perfect musical synchronicity. If nothing else, it’s a contender for the most awesomely-named game of the year.


Qasir Al-Wasat

Aduge | Q1 2012 | PC

Possibly the only game in existence set in 12th-Century Syria, as well as the only game with an invisible protagonist. That might seem a little pointless for a stealth game, but the magical djinni thing you play as can still be heard, and can get covered in particles – such as the blood of its targets – that will affect detection. It can also die from a single strike of a sword. Maybe invisibility ain’t so powerful…

Two Spies Are Better Than One

Project Stealth

Project Stealth Team | Q4 2012 | PC

A free UDK remake of Splinter Cell’s Versus mode from Pandora Tomorrow and Chaos Theory? One, please! Project Stealth began when fans of Versus mode saw their favourite game type being “dumbed down” in Double Agent (personally, I think it’s still quite good – but very different). Since then it’s become the only remaining source for asymmetrical Spies versus Mercenaries action, seeing as the mode was left out of Splinter Cell: Conviction entirely. This game very much needs to exist.


Depth

Depth Team | TBA | PC

The devs list the first key feature of Depth as simply “Be A Shark”. But there’s far more depth (oh no he didn’t) to this game than the Jaws factor. It’s a competitive multiplayer game with asymmetrical stealth – you can be the hunter, or the hunted. The meatbag divers need to hide in seaweed and shipwrecks to recover treasure from the ocean floor, whilst the toothy predators hone in with smell and sound. As in, the sound of the divers’ heartbeats. Naturally, there is full body tactical dismemberment, accomplished as a shark by chomping down followed by a frenzied shaking of the mouse. Chilling stuff!


Monaco

Pocketwatch | Q2 2012 | PC

Perhaps the coolest thing about top-down, co-operative heist game Monaco is the way the environment begins as an actual blueprint and reveals itself as players explore and infiltrate deeper into the building. It’s a game that promises tension and hilarity through the inevitable collapse of teamwork when dealing with guards, alarms, locked doors and lasers. And don’t forget the all-important sense of self-preservation that comes when those blueprints start being bathed in neon-red when spotted.


SpyParty

Chris Hecker | TBA (Beta forthcoming) | PC

I saw this in GDC’s indie corner – unfortunately, I didn’t have time for a hands-on myself, so I just watched over people’s shoulders. Which is kind of appropriate, since this multiplayer game is all about the secret observation of other players who are trying to hide in plain sight. Targets are identified by subtle behavioural tells, which led me to refer to this game as “Sim Poker Face”. And when the observer has identified their target, he shoots them in their poker face with a sniper rifle. That’s my kind of party.


Link-Dead

Michal Marcinkowski | TBA (Alpha underway) | PC

STALKER meets Soldat in this multiplayer sidescrolling shooter from the creator of… well, Soldat, fittingly. This isn’t balls-to-the-wall gunplay like Marcinkowski’s previous title, however – Link-Dead boasts asymmetrical combat in a manner not unlike Splinter Cell’s Versus mode. The humans are armed with big guns and flashlights, whilst the mutants must creep through the shadows and ambush their targets. Marcinkowski positions Link-Dead “for hardcore gamers only”. From the trailer below, I’d have to agree.

Daniel Hindes

Further Investigation
Video: Gunpoint – Gadgets Trailer
Tom Francis' stealth-puzzle-platformer Gunpoint is coming to Steam - and it has a new trailer showcasing its gadgets to celebrate.
READ MORE
Video: Gunpoint – Story versus Gameplay
Stealth-puzzle-platformer Gunpoint developer Tom Francis gives lucid thoughts on resolving the title's conflict between story and gameplay.
READ MORE
Video: Project Stealth Gameplay Trailers
All-new gameplay footage from Project Stealth - the standalone multiplayer title inspired by Splinter Cell's Spies versus Mercenaries mode.
READ MORE
Eat And Grow Fat
From Pac-Man to Metal Gear Solid, we explore simplicity in stealth and the pursuit of consumption. It's time to take Snake Eater literally...
READ MORE
The Blackjacks: E3 2012 Stealth Awards
With E3 2012 a wrap, we bring you the best of the stealth titles featured on the show floor. These are the sneaky games to observe closely...
READ MORE
Bastards At Gunpoint
The Sneaky Bastards crew gets some wires crossed and convenes for a roundtable discussion of indie stealth puzzle-platformer Gunpoint's latest beta build.
READ MORE
Trade Secrets: Tom Francis
Gunpoint's Tom Francis sneaks in to the Trade Secrets stealth interview series to give us his idea of a Psychic Hitman.
READ MORE
Trade Secrets: Alex Quick
Depth Team's lead developer, Alex Quick, talks the thrill of multiplayer stealth in today's Trade Secrets stealth interview.
READ MORE
Trade Secrets: Andy Schatz
Our stealth interview series continues with Pocketwatch Games' Andy Schatz, developer of top-down heist game Monaco.
READ MORE
Hitman Developer Talks Change in the Stealth Genre
Speaking to GamesTM magazine, the Director of Hitman: Absolution, Tore Blystad, has commented on the current trend toward action in today's stealth games.
READ MORE
Video: Gunpoint – Gadgets Trailer
Video: Gunpoint – Story versus Gameplay
Video: Project Stealth Gameplay Trailers
Eat And Grow Fat
The Blackjacks: E3 2012 Stealth Awards
Bastards At Gunpoint
Trade Secrets: Tom Francis
Trade Secrets: Alex Quick
Trade Secrets: Andy Schatz
Hitman Developer Talks Change in the Stealth Genre

3 Responses to The Year Ahead For Stealth

  1. By Dan Silvers, January 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks so much for putting Children of Liberty on this list! It’s an honor to be mentioned alongside the likes of Thief, Assassin’s Creed, Monaco, Gunpoint, et al. Make sure to keep up with the game’s news on our website and at our indieDB page: http://www.indiedb.com/games/children-of-liberty

  2. By Linkage, January 23, 2012 at 6:20 am

    I hadn’t seen that Splinter Cell screen before, so it’s mildly exciting to see that even if it’s just a menu- but those goggles look to me just like the Sonar goggles from Conviction, so I’m not at all sure yet about the likelihood of getting my beloved night-vision goggles back.

  3. By The Taff, May 29, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Square-Enix’s list of games for E3 does not include Thief 4. It’s upsetting to say the least. Fortunately, if there’s one thing stealth game players have it’s patience. I’ll wait until its reveal; it’ll just make the pay off all the sweeter.

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