by Matthew Thompson
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
Every generation of gaming sees new talented developers burst onto the scene. Klei was one such dev for me in the seventh generation. Their unique artstyle and attempt at Devil May Cry-style combat in two dimensions is what attracted me to Shank and it turned out to be a solid downloadable revenge romp. The sequel managed to grab me in the most unexpected of places, their stab at the Horde-style cooperative modes that became such a popular addition last gen. But it was their take on the stealth genre, Mark of the Ninja, that remains their greatest accomplishment.
In truth, I’m not the biggest fan of stealth games, but Mark of the Ninja tackles the genre in a way to minimize its shortcomings. It starts with the way your unnamed ninja protagonist controls. You don’t feel hampered or slow while you creep around because of the game’s slick movement controls and before long you’ll be clambering around with proficiency and speed. As a result, you’ll feel like a real badass ninja, something I personally welcome when I pick up a controller. Klei also did an amazing job with the user interface by making it easier to understand how your actions would affect your surroundings. Like showing how far the sound of breaking a lamp would travel or making it apparent when you are concealed from your enemies. With everything made so clear to the player, they can more efficiently carry out their objectives.
Along with these tweaks that make for a faster more fun stealth experience, I appreciated the different options you had while remaining sneaky. You can be the ghost slipping by enemies without them ever knowing you were there. You can be an assassin, quickly dispatching your opposition from the shadows as you remain undetected by anyone still living. While these are fairly standard options in a lot of games, they had a third style of play that involved scaring foes which I thought was a lot of fun and acted as a nice change of pace. For example, hanging a dead body down in front of a guard who becomes frightened and proceeds to accidentally shoot his fellow patrolman is an option here and it can be pretty damn entertaining.
They also make all these options quite viable and rewarding. Different costumes, traps and weapons can be equipped to tailor your ninja’s skills to your particular playstyle. A point system that rewards these different manners of play helps to provide incentive to replay the game and try new things. It adds value to an already beefy singleplayer adventure and more bang for your buck is never a bad thing.
Mark of the Ninja is one of the real underrated gems of the last generation of consoles. And while this might make those who swear by Metal Gear Solid or Sam Fisher’s earlier adventures scoff, Mark of the Ninja is my favorite stealth game of all-time. One that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the genre or even those like me who were never that into stealth games.
A few more things:
- I really love the artstyle employed here. It’s a great-looking game as a result, but I think these style of character designs were probably a better fit for the tone of the Shank series. Still Mark of the Ninja is a looker.
- I kept putting writing this one off because I don’t currently have a way to play this. Remembering some of the finer details without being able to give it a quick play again wasn’t as easy as other games so far. A quick look at my list reveals this is the only time I will have this issue. Also damn your faulty hardware Xbox 360!
- Didn’t get as many of these done in my first year on the site as I’d have liked, but I’m still hoping to finish this countdown by the end of 2015. I might even add in a mini-countdown of handheld games from last gen (PSP and DS) soon. That will surely speed up the process!
- Clue for #16: It has some of the best art direction of last gen and was one of my most anticipated games coming into the generation.