In Stolen for the X-box, the new stealth/action game from Hip Interactive, you play a female thief named Anya. The gameplay revolves around acrobatics, stealth (obviously), and high-tech gizmos that you use to accomplish the various missions that are thrown your way. The missions, of course, all have to do with breaking into buildings undetected and stealing something of importance. The game has a good premise and some cool gadgets; but with clumsy controls and gameplay that mostly imitates similar games, it really doesn?t blossom into anything more than a mediocre game.
In each level or area, you have to use your available equipment, stealth, and acrobatics to successfully snatch whatever it is you?re after without being detected. There are usually guards and cameras that must be avoided. A lot of the time this can be achieved by sticking to the shadows. You have an on screen visibility meter that shows you how visible Anya is to nearby guards. If you stay in the shadows you are virtually invisible, but if you walk out in the open you become exposed. You can also use gadgets to distract guards, like sound emitters, that draw them towards the device and away from you. If you are old fashioned, you can just walk quietly, as that is an option as well.
Here is an example of what might be required in any particular level: first, you might start out on the roof of a building, needing to find a way to reach the rooftop of a nearby building, and gain access to one of its air vents. To accomplish this, you must jump between buildings, swing on poles and pipes, and scale walls, all while avoiding detection. Once inside the above mentioned vent, you gain access to the building. Now you must find the artifact that you are after, and avoid all the cameras and guards that are sprinkled throughout the complex. Using your night vision goggles, you sneak through the hallways, picking the locks in doors to open new areas. You use tracking devices to monitor the movement of cameras and guards, so you can stay in their blind spots. Your Sonic Visor lets you see what the layout of nearby rooms before you find a way in, allowing you to enter it into your mapping system, and thus plan a good strategy for tackling it.
This all sounds good, sure, but the truth is that game is rather clumsy. The gameplay is intriguing, but as mentioned above, most of it is just ?stolen? from other games. Now don?t get me wrong, if pulled off right, using gameplay elements from other titles can lead to great gameplay. The trick is improving on or at least matching the quality of what you are copying, and this is where Stolen loses some points. The game takes bits and pieces from the Metal Gear, Splinter Cell, and Tomb Raider franchises, but fails to utilize them successfully. The stealth elements come nowhere close to being as effective (and cool) as those in Metal Gear or Splinter Cell. The combat in the game is pretty lame. First of all, the guards can be standing right next to you and not even see you. It shouldn?t matter if Anya is in a shadow or not. If I am two feet away from someone, I?ll see them. If the guards do spot you, you?ll have to fight them. There is not a lot of variation here, and you end up trading the same punches back and forth until one of you drops. Anya does pepper in a few kicks, but that really doesn?t do much to make the combat any less boring, and it gets worse when the guards start shooting at you.
With below average stealth, doofus guards that are easily avoided, and a combat system that really stinks, the gameplay really doesn?t have much to offer. The only cool part, really, is some of the gadgets. The Sonic Visor, for instance, uses sound waves to map out nearby rooms for you. You can actually see the sound waves bouncing off of things, similar to the way Daredevil sees things in the film adaptation of the comic. It?s pretty cool. Mostly though, the gadgets are just cool ideas that don?t work entirely well in the game. It took me three tries to get a sound emitter placed that actually distracted the guard that was targeted. They all landed and registered that they were within range of the guard and they all made sound, but only one of them actually attracted his attention. Oversights like these really hurt this game?s chances of being a great stealth title.
The graphic style has an animated look to it, and is fairly decent, in that the characters all have unique appearances. Certain areas have much more detail than others though, which makes the game seem visually uneven. Some of the areas within the buildings you break into seem very plain and generic, for example. The game does have screwy frame rates from time to time, which is definitely a bad thing. This is especially noticeable when climbing through ventilation shafts. Aliasing is a big problem as well, even though in a game that is so dark, you would think it could be avoided. It?s the same story with the audio. While the soundtrack is decent, and does add some excitement to the game, the voice acting is not so hot and the game really could have used more ambient sounds. More sound effects in general would have been a big help. It seems like all you get to hear when you aren?t using your gizmos are footsteps and rain.
The game has some good ideas, but really doesn?t execute them well at all. The stealth gameplay has been done better countless times, and the combat is just plain bad. The gadgets Anya has at her disposal are pretty slick, but only work the way you need them to some of the time. With questionable graphics, sound, and gameplay, it is hard to spot any replay value at all. After playing this one, I agree that Stolen is an apt title for this game, mostly because it has stolen precious hours of my life that I can?t get back. This one is really only for the hard-core stealth gamers, who will buy this game regardless of what I say here. For everybody else, I recommend staying away from this one.