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Game review: Stolen

01 Jun 2005

Sneaky sneakyIt isn’t easy to create a good stealth game. Only a select few titles have been able to correctly implement the distinctive elements that the genre requires, while still keeping a good amount of intensity to prevent tedium from setting in. The difficulty in pulling this off is evident in Stolen, which introduces new and interesting ideas but fails to capitalize on them. This makes for a disappointing game that, while not doing anything horribly wrong, had serious potential to be much better, instead of bordering on the edge of mediocrity.

Granted, the concept of Stolen is intriguing. You play as Anya Romanov, a thief who performs big heists in a city full of crime and sins. Aiding her are an array of high-tech gadgets and a man behind a computer named Louis who gives instructions from his apartment. Eventually, Anya is pulled into a large conspiracy involving the upcoming mayoral elections of Forge City, and through a series of sequential events, she comes to reveal the evils of the villain behind it all.

While the story is somewhat appealing, Stolen goes astray with the gameplay. As a platformer, the game is decent, but it slips up in almost all of the stealth portions. And although Stolen draws inspiration from the likes of Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, and Prince of Persia, it is never able to employ the factors that made the aforementioned games so great.True, the whole objective when playing a stealth game is to sneak around undetected and avoid getting into physical contact with enemies. However, you’ll find yourself fighting with guards up close more often that you’d like, which is annoying as well as dull, due to the fact that the game employs a punch-punch-kick combat system that uses only one button. It’s also a pain that guards stay knocked out for only around half a minute, then call for backup as soon as they get the chance to. Stolen does have a few mini-games, including hacking, cutting portions of metal, cracking safes, and - you guessed it - picking locks. They’re all marginally fun, and provide a bit of variety in the gameplay. Stolen offers four massive levels, including a museum, a prison, a company’s headquarters, and an observatory. In each stage, there are primary and secondary objectives to complete. Needless to say, the completion of the primary objective is mandatory, but players can choose whether or not they want to go out of their way to fulfill the requirements for the secondary ones. I’m torn on whether to say the game’s A.I. is good or bad. Sometimes guards are incredibly astute and can determine your exact location, then shoot at you with impeccable accuracy, but at other times they are just plain stupid, not being able to detect you even an inch from their noses.

With fair-to-mediocre gameplay and visuals, it is difficult to recommend a purchase of this game, even to fans of the stealth genre. While early impressions seemed promising, it ultimately feels like a missed opportunity. It had immense potential, but its greatness was, in a word, stolen.