Bald & Deadly
In games like Thief and Deus Ex, the stealth mechanics isn’t terribly realistic as guards in both games are almost comically nearsighted; only capable of seeing perhaps 20 feet in front of them. As mentioned in the first part of this series, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For gameplay purposes, this allows the player to make more mistakes, making the game more forgiving and enabling the player to perform more impressive stealth stunts. One popular stealth series has elected to burn its own path, eshewing the gameplay conceits of the genre for a somewhat more realistic approach.
Hitman: Codename 47 was released in 2000. The titular hitman – a bald clone named 47 – sneaks through dozens of missions throughout the world with orders to kill a variety of figures in the international criminal underworld. The first game in the series was extremely buggy, which unfortunately undermined the contributions that it made to the stealth genre. Instead of focusing on sneaking through the shadows, the enemies of Hitman could easily spot you from down a far hallway. Instead, you had to take greater care when sneaking or put on disguises hidden around the level or snatched from an enemy guard or bystander. Those disguises would work so long as you made sure to only go places where that type of person would be allowed and took care not to arouse any particular suspicion to your activities.
The game also featured a third person fixed perspective. It was equally possible to shoot your way through the levels, because the AI wasn’t terribly competent and the arsenal at your disposal was more than sufficient to take down any enemy in your way. The levels were large, open and full of bystander NPCs, but still relatively linear in how you could go about accomplishing your goal, which was typically to eliminate a particular target in any way possible. There were also some creative ways of taking out enemies like setting bombs in their cars or poisoning them.
The limited save system and more attentive artificial intelligence makes it challenging to use stealth effectively, but Hitman showed that the gameplay could be significantly varied from other games in the genre and still be interesting. The disguise mechanic was sometimes difficult to understand – enemies could become suspicious for seemingly no reason – but it still added an interesting touch to the game, as it added secondary goals of getting better disguises to make things more interesting.