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Optional Stealth
So there we are: just outside the enemy base, guards are roaming around, looking for you, and the MacGuffin is on a table protected by several closed doors and a little maze you have to navigate throught full of guards. Sounds like your everyday stealth mission....

Except that you have also a decent amount of weaponry, good fighting skill and the enemy AI isn't too bright in regards of disappearing guards. And if you decide to simply charge inside and shoot on everything that moves, you don't suffer from Non Standard Game Over or other too unpleasant maluses.

Sometimes the programmers will be aware of the fact that obligatory stealth missions tends to be hard, frustrating and sometimes even bordering the scrappy status. So they'll decide to offer an alternate way to solve the mission. It can give some variety to the game, but has its disadvantages: the most common is that if you fail or ditch the stealth part you'll be penalized somehow (less points, the mission is listed as failed, don't get the 100%, less experience points, etc.), or a successful stealth action will grant you more benefits. In other situations the enemies will be very strong or dangerous and so the stealth approach will allow you to avoid fighting those guys.

Compare with Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth. Do not confuse with Useless Useful Stealth, which is about stealth mechanics being present, but very hard to use and even disadvantageous at times.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: To reach the Arbiter's Grounds, Link must pass through the Bokoblin Compound, a mini-fortress/guard station.
    • If Link is spotted at any time, the lookouts will call for reinforcements and swarm him. If you've got the combat chops to handle it, this becomes a Multi-Mook Melee. Entering the compound by day is nearly guaranteed to go this way.
    • If stealth is preferred, Link can enter the compound at night and get much closer to the lookouts without alarming them. The darkness makes Link harder to spot, while making it easier for Link to spot (and snipe) the lookouts since their eyes glow at night. Link can also douse torches with the gale boomerang, providing him with additional cover. Also, several of the guards who normally patrol the compound will be asleep. Link can either snipe them or, if you're good, sneak on by.
  • The video game adaptation of The Amazing Spider-Man allows the player to have plenty of opportunities to stealth-KO any opponents who don't see them, and is the easiest way to dispose of enemies as opposed to a normal battle.
  • In Metroid: Zero Mission, when you reach the Zero Suit sequence, you have the option of using complete stealth if you have the right skills. Being spotted affects the background music for the rest of the sequence (you can't kill enemies, only briefly stun them). It also means the Space Pirates will be actively running after you rather than just patrolling, but even then it is possible to get through the section.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones you could either sneak up on guards and deliver stealth kills or just run into the fray and beat them senseless with your piece of driftwood, depending on whatever mood you were in. Similarly there were also Press X To Stealth Kill sequences where if you hit all the right buttons you'd get a rather flashy stealth-kill scene while if you messed it up you'd be spotted and have to fight reinforcements.
  • Stealth was necessary in the first Boktai game since enemies would devastate you if you were seen, but the sequels greatly increased your own abilities while nerfing the enemies' attacks. Since the stealth element was still there you were free to choose if you wanted to take them down silently or just jump into the fray and beat them down.

    Action Games 
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, in most of the areas, if you feel lucky, you can bring down all the nearby mooks with violent means. However, stealth is safer, especially when gun-toting enemies are around.
  • In Hard Corps: Uprising, mission 5 has you sneaking into a laboratory. You can sneak past the Mooks, or just shoot them as normal.
  • The Matrix Path Of Neo has a martial arts equivalent, if in the first training mission you sneak up and stealth-kill some Mooks with a chokehold without the other escaping and triggering an alarm you get a bonus weapon...until it breaks.

    First Person Shooters 
  • Call of Duty:
    • The other characters hide against walls before entering rooms, and lots of the players do this. It's actually easier just to stand in the middle of the doorway and shoot, as while you're trying to navigate around the edge of doors (massive pain), your enemies can get shots in. It's also far too hard to make your player drop to the ground, but there is no additional penalty or chance of injury if you just stand up in the middle of the place. Being un-stealthy is, if anything, advantageous.
    • The Modern Warfare games have a few missions where your superior will encourage you to sneak past enemies or at least use silenced weapons on them. It's not required, though, and while you'll get mobbed, it is possible to fight your way out. Said superior will chew you out, though. Plus, the missions "All Ghillied Up" and "Cliffhanger" have achievements for not being spotted.
  • In the second Timesplitters game, some missions have an optional stealth objective. The Neo Tokyo level is the only one with a compulsory stealth objective (trailing a hacker) for every difficulty level.
  • Golden Eye 1997 for N64 had stealth elements, namely in silenced weapons and alarms that mooks could trigger. Some levels were impossible to complete in total stealth (think Control) while others were very difficult if you blew your cover (think Frigate). Most levels were easy enough to barrel through guns blazing even on the most advanced difficulty, though.
  • No One Lives Forever, for the most part. Technically, you can complete most levels in NOLF with guns blazing, but stealth is a much better solution. Breaking stealth is not as heavily penalized in the NOLF series as in other Stealth Based Games.
  • Halo 2: The Arbiter's Invisibility Cloak lasts for only about five seconds anyway, so ignoring it is a perfectly viable option if you don't like having to wear down all your enemies versus getting one free assassination. A bonus item lets Master Chief have invisibility too, but it lasts for the same amount of time and the second disadvantage of no visible timer.
  • Metro 2033 is essentially this trope. You have a (useless) knife and a (lethal) set of throwing knives, almost every weapon is silent or has a silenced variant, and you can purchase a set of black stealth armor that helps conceal you from enemy vision. On the other hand, you have an arsenal of grenades and can purchase such weapons as a belt-fed automatic shotgun if stealth isn't your thing. However, it's certainly encouraged to sneak around, as ammo isn't exactly plentifulnote  and neither is the money to buy it unless you know exactly where to look it up.
    • The sequel took this even farther. Sure, you can sneak your way through the game, face-punching every Mook you come across into unconsciousness and using silenced weaponry and throwing knives if you want...or you could get a drum-fed automatic shotgun and a light machine gun and waste every single person in your path. Your call.
  • Crysis allows you to pull this off thanks to the Nanosuit's cloak function. The official strategy guide for the third game even has two separate campaign walkthroughs-one for stealth-focused players, and one for those take a more head-on approach.
  • Ghost Recon: Future Soldier offers higher scores for sync-shots, neck-snaps, and stealth kills, but they're not necessary except for a few short no-alarm segments. And even then, unsuppressed weapons can be used stealthily by ensuring no one is left alive to sound the alarm.
  • Soldier of Fortune II: In the Mansion and Seaward Star missions, you have the option of either running and gunning, or sneaking through; although the latter is the easier option, you are later scripted to blow your cover anyways.
  • Most "stealth" missions in the Medal of Honor series do not require you to remain under cover, and blowing it is often unavoidable.
  • A slight variation with the Spy in Team Fortress 2, the class is intended to use stealth and is indeed pretty weak in direct combat, that still doesn't stop players from just running around with the Ambassador trying to score headshots.
  • Havoc from Command & Conquer: Renegade has to use stealth in one mission to sneak into Raveshaw's mansion but not only is it easier to run-and-gun every Nod guard you find but this kind of rash tactic would be something Havoc would do anyways.
  • In most of Far Cry, stealth is not explicitly mandatory, but on the Hard and Realistic difficulties, it is essential, as running and gunning will get you killed in seconds.
  • PAYDAY 2 has Plan B approaches for almost every heist: if you want to go in dressed in heavy armor and carrying a huge gun, feel free: you'll be assured of having to fight it out with the cops, but at least now you have the equipment to handle them. The only exception is "Loud-Only" heists, where you start under siege already or there's functionally no way to avoid setting off an alarm, and Shadow Raid, which is Stealth Required: trigger the alarm and you have 1 minute to flee.

    Hack-and-Slash 
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: In the prison infiltration level, you can easily charge through the prison killing mooks on Mild, since they die in one hit. Averted on Bitter setting.

     Platformer 
  • There was a hyped-before-release segment of Silent Forest Zone 2 in Sonic Lost World that involves hiding behind an owl robot's beams of light. However, it is possible (but difficult) to keep Sonic moving so fast that the owl robot's lights never catch up to Sonic. This is necessary for 100% completion, as the game grades Sonic's performance based on time taken to finish the stage, and he can't afford to lose precious seconds standing behind a bush waiting for the owl robot.

     Real-Time Strategy 
  • In StarCraft, all three races offer a substantial variety of units, so you can employ a Zerg Rush, use stealthy tactics, or More Dakka. For example, in the final mission in the original game, the nominal strategy is to wage a war of attrition using stealth as a secondary tactic, but a more spectacular and equally effective (though more costly) method is to simply build a massive force for an all-or-nothing battle. Additionally, the terrans and protoss both have units that can cloak, and all three races have ones that can detect cloaked units, adding another layer of complexity.
  • Similarly, in Homeworld II, you can choose to develop cloaking technology, which can be highly effective against opponents who don't plan for you developing it, but it isn't a necessity. In general, a winning strategy requires developing a mix of forces that allow units to defend each other and win the resourcing battle, regardless of your actual combat tactics.
  • In Satellite Reign, it's perfectly feasible to go in guns blazing, but many times you can use stealth to accomplish objectives without firing a shot, and early on it's probably the better choice since your guns and Agents are weak.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In Drakensang, there are a couple of missions where you're encouraged to adopt a stealthy approach:
    • In the first one in the Blood Mountains castle, you'll have to navigate the whole dungeons without being seen or activating traps. If you fail, the mission changes and you'll have to fight a lot, and the boss fight will be harder.
    • If you're discovered while trying to recover the Duke's hammer in the Dark Eyes hideout, you'll have to fight your way out and will receive less reward from Cano.
    • Later, in Grimtooth castle, you'll have to avoid orcish patrols, or you'll have to face a whole garrison of them.
    • The sequel too has one, but is completely optional and much more easier.
  • In Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs, at one point you have to navigate a forest of wandering Dusclops; if they spot you, you get warped back to the entrance and have to try again. On the other hand, you can wait for one to turn its back and then attack it from behind to take it out.
  • Stealth is possible in Deus Ex. While certain NPCs will react positively or negatively based on whether you primarily use lethal or nonlethal force, it usually doesn't matter if you take a stealthy approach or not (although playing stealthily makes nonlethal runs easier for obvious reasons). However, there's a mission near the end where you have to rescue a scientist's daughter from the Majestic-12, in which getting caught results in an M.I.B. killing her, causing you to fail the mission and miss out on a reward. It is still possible to complete the game, though.
    • Also entirely possible in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Using lethal or nonlethal force does change how a couple characters react to you, and there are achievements for being nonlethal, not setting off any alarms, etc. On the other hand, nobody who matters is going to give you real trouble for slaughtering everyone in your path
  • Mass Effect
    • The first part of "The Arrival" DLC for Mass Effect 2 gives an achievement for stealthy completion, but is perfectly doable by killing all the guards instead of sneaking past them.
    • In the beginning of "Citadel" for Mass Effect 3, you get a silenced pistol which can be used to kill enemies without alerting the rest. It's also insanely overpowered, so feel free to blast anyone in your way.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • During ''The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's tutorial, you and your companion come across a sleeping bear. The NPC will advise you to sneak past it (thus teaching you the Sneak mechanic), but he also hands you a bow and suggests you could just try and kill it.
    • Also in Skyrim, the Thieves Guild questline. In Oblivion, the Thieves Guild quests encouraged stealth by having guards put a bounty on your head if you got caught, and by fining you if you killed anyone while engaged in a mission. The Skyrim branch, by comparison, doesn't mind if you choose to hack or blast your way through the areas where you're supposed to be stealthy.
    • Boethiah's quest in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is stated by the goddess herself to be a stealth mission, with her telling you to kill all the bandits in the mine without them seeing you, but it doesn't matter if they see you or not, as once you get the Ebony Armor, the quest ends with Boethiah using the same dialogue.
  • The "Mark of the Assassin" DLC for Dragon Age II gives you an achievement for sneaking undetected past all the guards up until a certain point.
  • In The Last Story, there are many battles where you are encouraged to keep out of sight, attract enemy scouts from a distance, and pick them off one at a time when they're alone. Attracting attention just means you have to face their entire group at once.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, on the 60th floor of Shinra Headquarters you have the choice of sneaking past the guards or getting caught and fighting them.
  • Tales of the Abyss has a stealth mission, but if you fail enough times, the game lets you kill everyone.
  • In Alpha Protocol, if the enemy doesn't see you, they don't try to blast your brains out, and if you manage to get right next to an enemy without being detected, you can take them down in one hit. And since The Dev Team Thinks of Everything, a fair amount of dialogue will change if you stealth your way through a level. Still, going in guns blazing is also a valid solution, and you will want some investment in combat skills for the unskippable boss fights.
  • In Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas people specializing in Stealth can play in this way, sneaking about and using a silenced pistol, but breaking out a BFG and Power Armor whenever things get hairy.
  • A low-level Dungeons & Dragons Online quest is called "Stealthy Repossession", and involves stealing a special gemstone back from kobolds without killing more than a few kobold prophets. Appropriately built rogues and rangers really can sneak the entire way through, but other classes have little choice but to madly blitz through the dungeon, or else play normally but carefully kill every kobold except the prophets. A handful of other quests become easier with some stealth, but are never impossible without it.
  • Chrono Trigger has two examples:
    • One is escaping Guardia's dungeon. Since you're fully armed (Seriously, what the hell guards?) and the guards aren't exactly tough, you can just tear through swinging your sword to get some tasty experience points. However if you take them down silently you get Mid Tonics for your trouble, an (at this point) valuable and expensive healing item.
    • Later aboard the Blackbird you actually are stripped of your gear and are forced to use stealth or be thrown back into the cell. However if you bring Ayla along she can fight like normal since she doesn't equip weapons to begin with.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Stealth is usually a case of Useless Useful Stealth, but there are a few exceptions, like sneaking past the rancor in the Taris sewers, using Mission for the jailbreak, or disarming a minefield. It can also be handy on large bases - sneak past the enemy to a computer terminal, hack into the security system, and cause mayhem with gas traps and overloaded conduits, decimating the enemies with minimal effort.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: Jedi Shadows, Sith Assassins, Scoundrels, and Operatives all have stealth capability. While it's not much use in Flashpoints and Operations, it is an excellent way to save time and effort navigating over enemy terrain and running daily missions.

    Simulation Games 
  • One mission in Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere advises you to stay under the radar net as you proceed to the enemy base. It doesn't matter if you are spotted or not, it only determines when you end up fighting more enemy planes.
    • Same for a mission in Ace Combat 2; the only bonus to reaching the target without breaking stealth is an easier time at destroying a pair of cargo planes that take off as soon as you're detected, which give you the option of an alternate mission if you shoot them down.
  • Multiplayer missions in Silent Hunter 5 have the players in a wolfpack ready to attack a convoy. The convoy is always protected by escorts that will react to the sudden destruction of their charges by aggressively seeking out the players. It's possible to dodge the escorts and avoid direct confrontation, but it's much easier to throw a torpedo up their tailpipe and knock them out of the fighting immediately.

    Stealth-Based Games 
  • In Shinobido all levels are supposed to be stealthy, including duels, kidnappings and assassinations. You can still try to use a more direct approach, but it will be much more dangerous, and you'll get less reward if you're spotted. And the Golden Ending pretty much require absolute stealth.
  • In the Thief series, you can also ditch stealth and kill everyone in sight, but is a lot more dangerous. However, there are some missions where killing or even simply getting spotted results in a Game Over. The hardest difficulty setting pretty much forces the player to play as stealthy as possible.
  • In the Hitman series, you can play the game like a typical Third-Person Shooter; however, you get a better rating (and thus unlock better weapons) by using stealth and deception to off your targets.
  • Metal Gear is a stealth-based game series — Rather, it's the stealth-based game series. The games have varying difficulty levels. If one chooses the easiest difficulty, then it's a valid option to plow through the game without really needing to use its stealth elements. However, selecting anything above "Normal" makes using stealth absolutely necessary, as guards will be vigilant and difficult to take down, and using stealth is far easier than trying to macho one's way through. The most extreme gameplay modes in the Metal Gear series actually force the player to restart from the beginning if they are so much as noticed by one guard.
    • If you decide to save the militia in the beginning of Act 2 of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots instead of use their execution as cover to sneak past they'll be friendly towards you and you'll have an entire squad to approach Vista Mansion with, making stealth completely unnecessary until you reach the mansion grounds.
  • Perfect Dark Zero, but only on the lowest difficulty setting. It is a stealth title, but on the easiest setting stealth is mostly not required.
  • The original Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. It was a good idea to sneak through as much of the castle(s) as possible, because fighting German soldiers was a good way to get killed. However, you could fight them if you wanted to, and at times it was actually necessary (e.g. before you got a uniform or passes, or to "clean out" the room where the alarm box was located).
  • Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, despite being a stealth game, allows the player to just run through the game if they want, going so far as to let players choose an "assault" loadout that gives them extra ammunition and grenades instead of stealth tools.
  • Dishonored gives options in how you want to play the game. You could, for example, play through the entire game undetected... or become a whirling dervish of supernatural death. Notably, there's the Ghost achievement for playing through undetected and in a Pacifist Run.
  • In Stolen, you're supposed to use the shadows to sneak around the guards. In practice, GameSpot's reviewer found it was quicker and easier to just beat them senseless.
  • Assassin's Creed:
    • The series is like this most of the time. There are some missions that desynchronize you for being detected, but by and large it's just as doable to fight all the guards as it is to sneak past them or stealth-kill them.
    • There's also the first Assassins Creed game, and the second one, for the most part. Later ones have tended to avert this by punishing being caught with game overs.
  • In most of Syphon Filter's sneaking missions, being spotted immediately results in mission failure, but in a few, such as Rhoemer's Base, you can still continue the mission guns blazing if detected. In Omega Strain, although you can continue after blowing your cover in most missions, you won't be able to get 100% Completion for the mission.

    Survival Horror 
  • As soon as you get your hands on the weapons in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, you can still complete some puzzles in the stealthy way, but is much easier (and satisfying) to just whip out guns and crowbar and kill all those fishmen around.
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, you're free to solve any kind of situation in the way you're most comfortable with, but a stealth approach will always grant you more points.
  • In any of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. titles, you could get silenced weaponry (including a VSS Vintorez, a silenced sniper rifle that hits like a freight train) and attack from a distance, killing with silenced headshots. Or you could just sprint up close and open up with an assault rifle or (in the second two titles) a light machine gun.
  • Resident Evil 6 has the Submarine Sequence in Ada's scenario. There's plenty of ammo and cover to go More Dakka with her machine pistol and exploding crossbow bolts and mow the J'avo down, but it is possible (and a lot more satisfying) to sneak through without ever firing a shot and never being seen.

    Third Person Shooters 
  • In Freedom Fighters, stealth is crucial in earlier missions, and mission descriptions typically warn you to stay out of Soviet floodlights, but with a large enough squad and some good weaponry, you can easily just charge straight through enemy defenses.
  • Most shooting levels in the James Bond game Everything or Nothing are like this. It is almost always possible to complete the levels all-guns-blazing, but it's often very punishing on the highest difficulty setting. You do carry silenced and non-lethal weapons, however, and you also have a few EMP grenades which can disable security cameras and alarm systems. Sneaky actions, such as disabling the alarms or killing the guards so it seems like an accident, often give you "Bond Moments" which unlock extra content.
  • Gears of War 2 DLC campaign add on "Road to Ruin" gave you the choice between using stealth or going in all guns blazing. There's an achievement for successfully completing the stealth element.
  • In Second Sight, the very broad selection of Psychic Powers available to the main character means you always have the option of sneaking through a level vs. running through with guns blazing, though there are points where only one or the other is feasible. The game keeps a "morality" statistic and humanises some of the mooks in order to encourage stealth via Videogame Caring Potential.
  • 007: From Russia with Love strongly encourages use of stealth in many missions. Bond is by no means invincible and it's frequently easier to watch Mooks' patrol patterns so you can take them down silently than trying to run-and-gun your way through the on-foot levels. You also get more points towards your level ranking for hand-to-hand kills and Bond Focus shots than for run-and-gun. The latter is possible, though, and the vehicle levels are more of a "blast everything in sight" type deal.
  • Max Payne 3's third chapter has a several rooms where you can either directly engage the enemy, or wait in hiding until they leave.
  • In Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, chapters where you control Cliffjumper and Starscream might encourage stealth due to their particular special ability being an Invisibility Cloak and certain chapter-exclusive enemies whose only gimmick is becoming much more powerful and aggressive the moment they spot you, but it's by no means mandatory. If you're so inclined, you can go into these situations with guns blazing, which actually isn't out of character for Cliffjumper. It's entirely possible to charge into even these stealth-preferable fights head on and win, and the game still provides plenty of ammo pickups in these levels to keep things fair.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas:
    • When infiltrating Area 69, you're told to sneak past the soldiers: you must head to a control tower to open the gate to the base interior some distance away from the tower, then enter that gate. The problem is, it's much easier to just kill any soldier in your way, ignore the gate (which becomes impossible to open once you're detected), and enter through an air vent near the closed gate.
    • This happens many times in this game; for example, earlier in that game, you had to infiltrate a Vietnamese boat, and a bit later, a dam. The only time where stealth is strongly advised is when you must infiltrate an aircraft carrier: getting seen will make soldiers run to the stationed jetfighters and flee with them, before you can steal one of them, thus failing the mission.
  • In the mission Gator's Yacht in Driv3r it's possible to destroy the yacht without a shootout by killing the guards with the silenced pistol.
  • Red Faction Guerrilla technically has a stealth system; for instance, certain weapons will take out a guard without alerting others. Good luck getting anywhere with this, though. There are only a handful of missions where you can stay undetected for long, and the EDF will jump to yellow alert at the slightest provocation. The Badlands Liberation mission really rubs it in — the commander tells you to get as far as possible unnoticed, but you are guaranteed to be spotted as soon as you enter the base.

    Other 
  • Geocaching is one of these activities. Some members use stealth, others think it only attracts more attention.

     Real Life 
  • World War II submarines. They quite regularly attacked by surface. While this was normally by night, sometimes it was by day.

Not the Intended UseNot the Way It Is Meant to Be PlayedOutside-the-Box Tactic
Nobody Here but Us StatuesStealth TropesPerception Filter
One Stat to Rule Them AllVideogame Tactical IndexPath of Greatest Resistance

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