Suspicion Shapes the Story and Gameplay of Stealth Video Games

Alekhine's Gun video game with film noir elements conversation in hall
Alekhine’s Gun is a stealth video game taking place during the Cold War, so suspicion is present in both gameplay and story.

Suspicion in a stealth video game is more than just an atmosphere. Used in different ways, suspicion can add whole new dimensions. From visible meters to distrust and wariness built into a game’s plot, it can be a valuable tool. Games can create a unique atmosphere that leads players to question everything they encounter, encouraging greater caution and secrecy as you progress through the challenges a game presents.

Stealth Video Game
In Alekhine’s Gun, suspicion meters encourage you to take a stealthier approach rather than barging into each instance of combat.

Suspicion Mechanics Urge Players Toward Caution and Careful Planning

Guard suspicion is one of the most frequent places you find this reaction in games. Most stealth games require players to navigate carefully, avoiding guards by not attracting attention as they go. Rather than letting you sprint by with impunity, games often force you to find a way past an obstacle like a guard, increasing the chance for you to attract suspicion.

Metal Gear was one of the earliest games to introduce suspicion as something that could change depending on your actions. While guards were openly hostile at first encounter, Metal Gear included different levels of suspicion. One exclamation point above a guard’s head meant that they were suspicious of your activity and would investigate, alerting other enemies on the same screen. Players could move to the next screen to erase suspicion, unless two exclamation points appeared over their heads—in that case, guards would be alerted throughout the level and the player would have to eliminate all the enemies, go outside, or get into an elevator to avoid them.

While the mechanic was simplistic at first, games have since developed more nuanced approaches to suspicion meters. Metal Gear’s simple meter evolved by the time of Metal Gear Solid to include several different modes. Alerting an enemy to your presence would enter you into an alert mode, in which enemies would actively try to hunt you down—successfully avoiding them meant you transitioned into an evasion state, with a time that ticked down slowly as you avoided attention. When the time reached zero, you returned to the original infiltration mode, in which enemies were not aware of your presence at all. The existence of these three separate modes meant that players could effectively ghost through levels—unless an objective required it, you never actually had to kill any guards to progress.

As technology improves, we’re seeing increasingly sophisticated suspicion mechanics. Alekhine’s Gun builds on the system that the Metal Gear series created with more intelligent enemies and a disguise mechanic that isn’t foolproof. While wearing an appropriate disguise can help you progress through a level, it won’t eliminate suspicion entirely—enemies in Alekhine’s Gun are smart, meaning they’ll see through erratic behavior or a poor disguise that reveals the player isn’t who they’re pretending to be. A disguise that covers up a face is more believable than one that doesn’t, and acting like the person you’re impersonating by pretending to guard a wall or deliver food is less likely to attract suspicion. These improvements make for a richer experience, leading players to think more creatively and experiment in their approaches.

Stealth Video Game
Because Agent Alekhine is a Soviet agent during the Cold War, his CIA colleagues are suspicious of his motives and loyalties.

Story-Based Suspicion Keeps Players Guessing

But suspicion doesn’t have to stop at being a game mechanic. Because many stealth video games feature spies or assassins as protagonists, there’s often an element of suspicion about the player character’s role as well. Blending both story and mechanics together in this manner creates an experience that makes the player constantly feel under siege.

Treachery and double-crossing are a big part of the plots of the Metal Gear series. Because of the game’s sometimes convoluted narrative, characters often change alliances. Revolver Ocelot is particularly known for being a double and even triple agent, varying between friend, rival, and enemy depending on what game you’re playing. He’s far from the only character to swap sides, meaning the Metal Gear series constantly keeps players on edge as they wonder who is trustworthy and who isn’t, particularly when so much is at stake from misplaced trust.

Alekhine’s Gun, set in the historical Cold War era, plays with suspicion a bit differently. As a KGB agent in the employ of the CIA, Semyon, codename Alekhine, is the subject of suspicion himself. Though some of his fellow CIA agents welcome him into the fold in the interest of combining skills to root out the anti-government conspiracy threatening the world’s peace, others are inherently wary of a man who represents an opposition to the American ideal.

This means that suspicion comes from both the gameplay and the story—part of the fun is never knowing which core characters can be trusted and which are threats. Heightening that suspicion keeps players guessing, ensuring there’s never a dull moment in any interaction.

Including Suspicion in Gameplay and Story Incites Curiosity and Tension

Suspicion is particularly valuable in a stealth video game because it’s so often tied into both the gameplay and story. By finding more than one way to create an air of mistrust, games keep players on their toes in a way that’s fun and exciting. Ensuring a player never knows who to trust often leads to a tense, exciting game as players become more involved in the story and gameplay, trying to figure out what’s going on ahead of their characters—while not arousing suspicion in others.

With a perfect blend of suspicion in both story and gameplay, Alekhine’s Gun ensures that players must rely on their own wits to succeed. Purchase your copy today!