PS2 REVIEW: STOLEN

Stolen is the perfect example of good ideas gone bad. It's a stealth action game that borrows heavily from Metal Gear and Splinter Cell but is unable to even pay tribute to these classic due to buggy gameplay and low production values. Stolen would need to spend more time in development before I could seriously recommend it.

Even if you're a hardcore stealth fan it's hard to overlook the problems inherent in this game. The various gameplay elements are just too shallow to hold your interest. You only have one button for combat and once you learn how to sneak around guards you've pretty much aced the game. About the only time you'll trigger an alarm is when you get bored of doing the same old thing and decide to take a few risks just for the hell of it. For a game that should always keep you on the edge of your seat, it barely keeps me from getting up and ejecting it from my console.

Along with stealth, Stolen utilizes combat, acrobatic moves, puzzle solving, exploration and collecting - none of which are challenging or rewarding. Most of the game is played in the shadows. Even though the focus is on stealth the darkness becomes overbearing after a while. Except for the odd lit room and guard post, most of the interiors are indistinguishable from one another. The darkness that is your greatest resource seems to become your worst enemy after time. In this way, Stolen tends to make me SADD.

Anna is the protagonist. She's a professional thief. With moves that allow her to jump, swing and climb she gains access to various buildings to steal unique items. For each mission there is one main item to steal but Anna is at liberty to collect anything of value. The missions are haphazard and like the storyline, are vague. You have only the roughest of idea of where you're supposed to go. There are no clear paths. I find it unrealistic that a professional thief wouldn't have clients that could provide a detailed map of the layout of the interior of a building.

With the light meter, Anna can determine her level of invisibility. As long as you're in the dark part of the ballpark you won't have any trouble passing the guards. You can even make plenty of noise and you won't alert these idiots to your presence. If they do manage to spot you they will run after you but all you have to do is shoot the lights out and plunge them into total darkness. In an unsuspected twist the guards actually pull out flashlights to continue looking for you. I thought this was a great idea but all you have to do to foil them is keep moving around to avoid the cone of light and they'll give up after a superficial search. These guys are so lazy I wonder if they used to work in our offices.

You can't kill the guards in Stolen but you can knock them out. Unfortunately they don't stay down for long. After a few moments they will begin to stir and sound the alarm if you don't get back there and throw another punch or two at them. That brings me to the combat system which consists of only one button. As you button-mash the controller you will alternate between punches and kicks. There are no blocking moves, dodges or combos. I'm all for simplicity in control systems but this is just downright ridiculous.

With a spotty and confusing storyline and poor voiceacting, Anna comes across as an unlikable thug instead of a sexy, elegant cat burglar. Graphics suffer from the jaggies and a low framerate, not to mention the relentless lack of color. The soundtrack is good and is about the only thing in the game that could be considered top-shelf although we could have used more of it since ambient sound effects are sparse which makes the game feel too stark.

If you're not already feeling isolated from spending so much time in front of your TV set playing videogames, Stolen may be able to take you directly into a state of clinical depression. Even at half price, Stolen still wouldn't be much of a steal.

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System: PS2
Dev: Blue 52
Pub: Hip Interactive
Released: April 2005
Players: 1
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.0
GRAPHICS
2.5
CONTROL
2.0
MUSIC/FX
2.5
VALUE
1.0