Whether we’re playing Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon, Far Cry or Watch Dogs, it appears that Ubisoft games that offer stealth/action follow similar gameplay patterns. The exception is perhaps The Division series which is more of a third-person shooter than a stealth/action game. Take a look at the following Far Cry 6 stealth gameplay video and you can see how the mission plays out. The procedure is as follows. From a vantage point scope out the area and mark any enemies and any technical equipment such as alarms and cameras. Move in undetected, and then disable all the alarms to avoid back-up arriving. Then take out all the remaining guards up-close-and-personal using sneak stealth attacks with melee weapons or a silenced pistol (obviously the latter doesn’t apply to Assassin’s Creed games). Watch Dogs allows hacking so you can disable guards from afar using a camera view, but the principles are the same.
The takeaway then, aside from how else would you make a stealth game is, if you’re good at stealth in one of the aforementioned Ubisoft games, then you will be good at them all. Is it time then for stealth games to offer new gameplay approaches? Far Cry 6 for example has guards being radio checked, and if they don’t respond (because you have killed them) raises the alert status. However this was a feature in Metal Gear Solid 2 twenty years ago in 2001.
We appreciate it’s hard to break away from traditional gameplay design choices, because not all players will gel with new mechanics which ultimately might affect sales – especially if gamers have specific expectations. However, game designers could introduce random elements when tackling enemies so that they aren’t going to die silently, or you might struggle to actually take them down without making noise. Perhaps if games are going to offer players stealth options, then add a proportionate amount of risk. Make players think “should I kill this person or ghost past them?” In the video you see a guard get shot and drop to the ground close to another guard. The guard fails to hear anything whereas in reality the noise would be quite substantial unless there was a ton of background noise. Sniper Elite games allow players to time their sniper shots with background noise which is quite a unique feature.
We would like to see games think outside-the-box more and possibly humanise the enemy patrols, have them talk about elements that play on the mindset of the player. Make the player think about killing or just knocking out a person blocking their path, or better yet, making avoiding them entirely the better option. Games like Hitman which are assassin simulators, allow players to take out and hide any innocents that get in the way and use subterfuge as a neat gameplay feature, but again, this is an old feature going back so many years. Games could offer more consequences for stealth players who just kill without fear. A system where as your body count rises, the enemies become far more resilient to stealth specific approaches, where rather than patrol alone, they patrol in pairs, and then groups depending on the body count. Or rather than follow predetermined routes, randomly do a 180 to check there is no one sneaking behind them (because they are now nervous from your notoriety). Anything to disrupt the repetition of those who kill by stealth successfully. Metal Gear Solid V (a game that is six years old now) offered enemy upgrades to disrupt the player approach, a shame then more games don’t use similar features or take the idea further with new ideas. Far Cry 6 attempts to do this with a wanted meter approach but this is tied to your action moments rather than stealth.
We would love a system where a game sends their own stealth agents/hitmen/bounty hunters etc, after the player. We see those systems a little in games like Watch Dogs Legion, Assassin’s Creed, Shadow of Mordor even Far Cry 6 employs this to a degree. Yet, developers could get really creative with these elements to keep stealth players on-their-toes. We think stealth becomes too methodical at times . It might be frustrating if an unknown element presents itself during a perfect stealth run, but surely the skill is learning to adapt whilst remaining undetected. If that was the case then as players we would need to rethink our stealth gaming skills. Currently, well at least in some of the Ubisoft games, stealth is simply far too predictable where the basics haven’t really changed that much over the last 20 years.