A Look at All of the Stealth Games Available on Vita - ArticleAdam Cartwright , posted on 02 June 2019 / 4,993 Views
This is the eighth entry in a series of articles I’m writing that will look at all of the games available in a particular genre on the Vita. The articles will highlight all Vita-native games, as well as any backwards-compatible PSP and PS1 titles that can be downloaded in English (i.e. from the EU or NA stores), and will include some commentary on how well those games run on Vita and whether they fill any missing gaps in the library.
The stealth genre is one that some would argue doesn’t even exist – many titles include stealth elements, but actually fit into one of a number of other genres like action, platformer, or third-person shooter. Ever since the breakout success of the Metal Gear franchise (in particular Metal Gear Solid), though, the genre seems on much more stable footing and it demonstrated that you can have a veritable blockbuster on your hands relying only on stealth mechanics as the main gameplay element.
In recent years we’ve seen other things like Assassin’s Creed, Hitman and Splinter Cell continue to push the genre forward, although it still has somewhat limited appeal. Thankfully, the Vita has a healthy selection of stealth games available (and even more with backwards-compatibility), meaning if you’re looking to do some sneaking on the go then you’ll be well served with the console.
Ever since the release of Metal Gear Solid in 1998, Hideo Kojima’s stealth-action epic series has gone from strength to strength, and two of the most well-received entries landed on the PS2 – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Both were ported to Vita in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection in 2012, which provided a fantastic way to play them on the go.
Based on the expanded versions of each (Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance and Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, respectively), the games followed the further adventures of Solid Snake (and Big Boss) in the increasingly-convoluted storyline about patriot control and individual freedom. The stealth elements are incredibly well-developed, allowing you to cling to walls, camouflage to hide in tall grass, and take down foes silently – in fact you can even go for a no-kill run in both titles. It received very positive reviews from critics, who commented on the extremely solid porting job, although many were disappointed that Peace Walker wasn’t included, making it an incomplete package.
Despite its resounding sales success, few games have attempted to copy the style of Metal Gear Solid aside from spoofs like Never Stop Sneakin’ (aside from Konami’s own Nisekoi Yomeiri?!, a visual novel with a few stealth elements thrown in). One title that did attempt it is Volume, an ambitious indie from Mike Bithell (famous for Thomas Was Alone) that apes the formula of the PS1 title Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions. Including elements such as cones of vision and corner-peaking, as well as using sound as a hook to allow you to sneak past guards, it received a similarly positive critical reception (and a limited physical release through Limited Run Games for those who like collecting hard copies!).
The Vita’s other tentpole AAA stealth release was Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, a bespoke entry in Ubisoft’s epic open-world saga that was designed specifically for Vita. It had you hiding on rooftops and silently assassinating targets on the go. The was one of the big holiday titles for 2012 and was sold alongside a limited edition console, ensuring that it sold well enough despite reviews commenting on its cut-back features and technical shortcomings. It was enough of a success for the company to release Assassin’s Creed Chronicles on the handheld a few years later, introducing a 2D take on the formula to mixed results.
Speaking of turning open-world 3D stealth games into 2D handheld counterparts, another series which did this on Vita was Batman with Batman Arkham Origins: Blackgate. Switching up the gameplay to more of a metroidvania with a heavier emphasis on stealth takedowns than before was a unique proposition which offered a fun experience. However, its shared development with the 3DS was evident and resulted in a title that didn’t make the most of the console it was running on. If you’re looking for something closer to the home console Arkham games, you could try The Amazing Spider-Man, which has plenty of optional stealth for its indoor sections.
Offering a completely different take compared to other stealth games is the Sly Cooper series, which consists of the Sly Trilogy and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. All four games are 3D platformers at their core but encouraged stealthy play as you’ll need to do things like avoid guards, pick their pockets, and make your way through laser grids. The first is arguably the best of the bunch and offers the purest sneaking experience, but they’re all worth checking out.
Offering a similarly cartoony aesthetic but just as enjoyable stealth gameplay, Spy Chameleon is a puzzler where you play as a chameleon able to change his colour to avoid detection. It’s a neat idea and is similar to Level 22, where your goal is to sneak to your office desk after being late to work without your boss spotting you’re missing. The latter provides predictably fun and hilarious results. There’s also Hitman Go, which again offers puzzles, but with turn-based gameplay as its base and it works surprisingly well - it won over a lot of reviewers.
Some stealth games in the Vita’s library got completely overlooked – one of the biggest for me is Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen, which I continually argue is one of the console’s hidden gems. Pitting you as a ninja in the midst of a war between clans, you undertake missions that invariably involve sneaking behind enemy lines and assassinating targets. It’s janky as hell, but incredibly enjoyable and offers arguably the best sandbox stealth experience out there. Another overlooked gem is Counterspy, a Cold War-inspired espionage thriller where you have to stop a nuclear war by collecting launch codes. I absolutely loved it thanks to its mix of platforming, stealth and shooting elements.
In fact, there are plenty of indie games out there like Counterspy that blend stealth elements with other ideas, the obvious one being Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark and its sequel Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones. These titles have you escaping test facilities in a 2D platformer hybrid which works pretty well. Meanwhile in The Swindle your goal is to break into banks and steal all their gold, for which you’ll of course need to deploy a variety of sneaky tactics to succeed.
Then there are the games that really belong to other genres but include light stealth elements. For example, Unit 13 is a squad-based third-person shooter, but you’re going to need to hide in the shadows if you want to succeed. The lands of Oddworld are filled with horrendous creatures you’ll want to avoid too, which means plenty of sneaking around is required in New ‘n’ Tasty, Munch’s Oddysee and Stranger’s Wrath.
You’ll also find stealth elements present in horror games like Resident Evil Revelations 2 and Yomawari: Night Alone (and its sequel, Yomawari: Midnight Shadows), where it’s better to hide from monsters than engage with them. There are elements of this in the rather abysmal NightCry too.
Backwards-Compatible PSP Games
As is usual in these articles, backwards-compatible PSP titles are able to help give Vita a much wider range of games than just those that are available natively, including a number of franchises that skipped the handheld altogether. There’s no better example of this than Syphon Filter, Sony’s own take on the genre.
Sony’s first handheld housed the two most recent – and arguably greatest – entries, entitled Dark Mirror and Logan’s Shadow respectively. Following super-spy Gabe Logan across the globe as he attempts to stop the spread of a deadly virus, the series’ trademark third-person shooting elements are still present here but there’s a much greater emphasis on hiding in the shadows and taking out enemies without them spotting you (plus, both games play much better on Vita thanks to the ability to map controls to the second analogue stick).
Of course, the grandfather of the genre is here too (it wouldn’t be a Sony console without it) and you can get both Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (plus its expansion pack Portable Ops+) and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker through backwards-compatibility. Acting as prequels to the mainline series and providing a trimmed-down version of the core experience, they still received rave reviews and introduced some interesting new gameplay ideas to the formula (my particular favourite being the ability to kidnap tranquillised enemy troops to have them work for your squad).
Another franchise that wasn’t present on Vita but showed up on PSP was SOCOM, whose three Fireteam Bravo entries offer some of the best handheld tactical shooting on the market. In them, you order round a squad of troops while controlling your own player from a third-person perspective, but stealth is hugely important – a single bullet can mean death, meaning you’ll have to carefully plan your route to the target without being detected.
If you’re looking for a similar taste of tactical shooting with a heavy dose of stealth, you could consider one of the many Tom Clancy titles. The obvious pick is Splinter Cell Essentials, the original espionage thriller series following black ops agent Sam Fisher as he carries out undercover missions without being spotted. There’s also Ghost Recon Predator that plays like an inferior version of SOCOM, or you could try the fairly terrible duo of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Rainbow Six Vegas, both of which were massively chopped back from their console counterparts.
Then, for something completely different, there’s Manhunt 2, Rockstar’s hugely controversial sequel following a mental patient as he attempts to escape the asylum he is sectioned in. While it garnered a large amount of press coverage for its gruesome execution scenes (which were censored in the final release), you can expect some tight stealth gameplay in between that has you stalking the corridors of the asylum before finishing off your targets.
You can also get Assassin’s Creed: Bloodlines and Shinobido: Tales of the Ninja, prequels to their respective Vita counterparts, although the more primitive gameplay means you’re likely better off checking out the sequels unless you’re itching for more.
Backwards-Compatible PS1 Games
While there’s precious little in the way of PS1 games which offer stealth elements, there is one key title that absolutely should be a part of every Vita owner’s library.
That is of course the original Metal Gear Solid – the origin of tactical espionage action and a title that holds up just as well now as it ever has, casting you as Solid Snake as he takes down terrorists on Shadow Moses Island. You can also get the expansion pack VR Missions (which offers plenty of timed simulation missions), as well as the heavily-inspired imitator Syphon Filter and its two sequels, which offer a dated but still enjoyable experience.
Of course, there are a handful of other things that offer stealth elements – the two Oddworld titles, the original Rainbow Six and a number of Spec Ops games, but none hold a candle to MGS in my eyes.
As a genre, stealth has remained a niche that rarely achieves mainstream success, likely due to its slower pace and the methodical thinking needed, which doesn’t offer a particularly accessible experience. Despite this, when a stealth game gets made it tends to be made extremely well, crafted with a tonne of love and care.
You don’t have to look any further than the Metal Gear Solid series for this and the fact that Vita has access to 8 entries (if we include the visual novel) makes it basically the ultimate MGS machine on the market. When you throw in all the other series here – blockbusters like Assassin’s Creed and Manhunt, cult classics like Sly Cooper and Syphon Filter, and overlooked gems like Counterspy and Shinobido, then you’ve got a veritable goldmine of variety in the palm of your hand.
While it is disappointing to see things like Hitman (aside from a spin-off), Tenchu (despite the possibility of the games being added to PS1 classics) and Thief absent, there’s more than enough here to satisfy fans of the genre, making Vita a brilliant way to take your sneaking on the go!