Splinter Cell: Blacklist & The Evolution of the Stealth Genre

Stealth games have experienced quite the evolution over the past few years...

Stealth games have experienced quite the evolution over the past few years. This can be highlighted in the Splinter Cell: Blacklist demo that was unveiled at Microsofts E3 Press Conference one week ago. The best way I can explain it is "The Cat and Mouse Dynamic". The prey, and the predator. In the early days of stealth games, we played as the mouse. Stealth went hand-in-hand with survival. Sneaking through the shadows, avoiding guards, hoping you're not spotted, because once you were, you were already dead. In recent years, this dynamic has been reversed. In games like Batman: Arkham City and Splinter Cell Conviction, you're the cat. using the shadows as a tool. You were no longer avoiding enemies, afraid of them, but rather you were a predator. Stalking your enemies in the shadows waiting for the perfect moment to strike. This change revitalized the stealth genre. Just a few years back, stealth was a very niche style of game. They were unforgiving, and required a lot of patience from the player. "I always felt weak, I want to be empowered in games." I was told by a gamer who had recently started enjoying stealth games. While stealth games were certainly successful, they were never smash hits along the lines of generic action game C. Stealth games have changed though, and with it came better sales. It makes you wonder, who wanted this change on the other end? Did developers want a change of pace? Or were the publishers pushing for a less niche experience that would sell better? Stealth games, or maybe more properly described as action-games-with-stealth-elements were hitting new highs. A wave of new people became fans of franchises' like Splinter Cell which had adapted to survive the modern market. But long time fans were not quite as impressed. Complaining their favorite games had been casualized, they were very clearly not happy with the new direction of stealth. Going so far to say stealth games are dead. And while that statement has truth in it, it's isn't exactly the most accurate thing one could say. Yes, the days of picking locks and avoiding confrontation out of fear may be gone. (at least for now) Stealth games are still pretty damn awesome. Sure, I will grant you that they don't exactly strike the same itch. There's something to be said about having a sense of danger, something lacking in recent games. But there's also something to be said about hunting your prey and feeling powerful. Powerful in a different way then your average shooter. I'll always miss sound meters and light meters, but a part of me is happy they're gone. There was nothing more infuriating then trying to sneak up behind a walking guard and you just can't catch him because if you move any faster you'll make too much noise. I'm happy you can move around faster and jump higher. So in the end, I want classic stealth to return, because I love and miss those games. But I also find new stealth games to be very satisfying. Unfortunately, we live in a time when AAA games are hugely expensive. Publishers aren't big on taking risks, and who would when it involves millions upon millions of your dollars? I'm willing to bet more than a few developers out there wish for a return of the classic stealth formula, but it's not something we're not going to see until the game industry as a large changes. As more fans enter the market, and development costs start to deflate, we're likely to see a return of creativity and diversity within the games industry. And with that, comes the opportunity for developers to make exactly the game they want, even if it isn't going to be a smash hit.

Nicholas Sarabin hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.