There’s a mechanic in Hitman Absolution that makes it impossible to look at your surroundings while you’re hiding a body.
For me, this moment captures the essence of stealth games. You’re wholeheartedly committed to a revealing action. You can’t back out. You can’t bluff your way to freedom. You’re just left praying that your quick wits and deceit left you enough time.
This kind of tension is one of the things I love about stealth games. It’s one of the reasons I’ve spent hours playing them. I love them. Probably a little too much.
But these wonderful experiences have been corrupted by one annoying habit I can’t seem to shake.
I’m a compulsive saver. If you set my keyboard up with a heatmap I bet you’d find I quicksave more than I jump. I love being able to explore every aspect of the challenges presented within a story. I like to replay until I craft the perfect moment. Only then do I progress.
In stealth games, this means I give up if I get caught. I don’t learn patrol routes, I sprint past them until I get lucky. I don’t scale the sides of buildings, I run in the front door again and again until nobody spots me.
This trial and error approach never lets me reach the different states and mechanics that are in place to save you once you’ve been discovered. No smoke bombs or disguises for me. Just quickloading and trying again.
Once I know I’m just going to be able to load or go back to a checkpoint if I get sprung, the process of hiding the body becomes much less exciting.
I can’t be trusted with a save feature in a stealth game. I’ll ruin it for myself. I’m an addict. If there were quicksave anonymous meetings, I’d be too in denial to go.
So, for those who suffer as I do, here are some games that might be instrumental in your recovery.
Guinpoint, released by Tom Francis, featured an amazing system where if you died, you’d be immediately given the chance to reload by a couple of seconds. Quicksaving is done for you. In fact the game encourages it. You don’t need to play through the same segments over and over, and you don’t feel guilty, like you’re using an exploit.
Heist, an indie game that just passed through Steam Greenlight is also addict friendly. When you’re spotted by guards, instead of entering a whole different game state, they chase you for a moment, then lose interest. It makes being caught not feel like a punishment, and more like an interesting mechanic to explore.
Stealth games are like horror games to me. Which is why I think the two genres pair so well. Once the tension is gone, they lose some of their fire. I love playing as the almighty stealth god. But the heart pounding fear of playing as a stealth amateur is just as exciting.
Playing Heist and Gunpoint will be the first steps on my road to stealth recovery.
Image credit: Gunpoint by Suspicious Developments on Steam.