Stealth in Multiplayer
I love it! There is nothing more satisfying for myself than sneaking up on an enemy player, taking them out, and escaping to safety without alerting anyone else. It's even better when I successfully take out the person who comes looking for them. This is why Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow is one of the best multiplayer experiences I have ever had to date. Released in 2004, Pandora Tomorrow introduced a unique multiplayer mode that has yet to be matched by another series. Titled "Spies Vs. Mercs", the gameplay style was drastically different based on who you were playing as. Playing as a Merc, you were placed into a first-person view with a fully-automated machine gun and were given various pieces of additional equipment like grenades and mines. As a Spy, you played from a third-person perspective with a Taser gun and had equipment like flashbangs and sticky cameras. Each team consisted of only two players, and every player had limited lives. Mercs had three each, and Spies had four. Once you ran out of lives, you were done until the next match.
Playing as a Merc was scary. The first-person view naturally limited what you could see around you, and there was always this constant fear that a spy was about to grab you from behind and break your neck. Thankfully, some of this fear was negated due to the greater firepower you had, but greater firepower doesn't mean shit when in a chokehold.
Playing as a Spy, however, was where the game really shined for me. As a Spy, you always felt in control. Any good stealth player knows the key to being successful is by staying hidden but always knowing where your enemies are. I was always filled with glee as I watched my enemies scurry about trying to locate me, knowing that they will fail and that in a few seconds, they'll be dead. When switching sides though, it was always unnerving knowing that somewhere, anywhere, someone was watching everything I do, just waiting for that opportune moment to strike.
When the sequel to Pandora Tomorrow, Chaos Theory, was released, I was excited to be able to take my stealth skills into a co-op story mode. None of my friends had Pandora Tomorrow, so I always had to play with randoms (and as usual, with mixed results). Playing through Chaos Theory with my friend Jarvis though was the first time I had played this style of game with a friend, and it quickly became one of my favorite co-op experiences ever. Deciding who will take which path, setting ourselves up so we can take out enemies at the same time without alerting anyone else, and helping each other reach locations otherwise impossible all added to the unique fun that Chaos Theory provided at the time. I am really happy to know that I can continue my stealth adventures in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Conviction.
Thankfully, I don't have to wait until February to get my fix. While not strictly stealth games, there are some titles out there that satisfy my need with a friend. Modern Warfare 2 is the most obvious one at the moment. Replicating scenarios from the campaign, there are a few Spec Ops missions in which stealth in the primary focus. Playing these on Veteran with a friend is a ton of fun, and if we mess up, we still have a chance to survive without having to start over. The real fun, though, comes from not getting caught. Situations often play out like this:
"Stop! You see those four guys over there?"
"Look to your right a little more."
"Ah ok, yeah, I see them."
"Ok, I'll take the two on the left, you take the two on the right, good?"
"Ok, on three. One...two...three!"
*All four enemies drop simultaneously. None of the surrounding enemies are alerted.*
It's immensely satisfying successfully pulling something like this off. You just feel so goddamn cool.
While quite different than the previous games I have mentioned, the Left 4 Dead series provides similar moments with a team. Playing as the Infected in Versus, staying hidden until the right moment and coordinating your attacks with your fellow players is key to winning, and getting the drop on two or more players that are separated from their team makes you feel just as badass as Modern Warfare 2 does, if not more so. In Left 4 Dead, you are usually dealing with real people and the execution requires more planning and is more difficult to actually pull off. Lining up a scope is far easier than lining up that perfect pounce as a Hunter!
As co-op becomes more prominent, we'll get to enjoy a greater deal of unique experiences that don't involve a basic first-person shooter where you just run around blasting everything in sight. I look forward to what 2010 will bring us, starting with a return to one of my favorite series: Splinter Cell.