Mark of the Ninja Review
Klei Entertainment’s latest game gives the stealth genre a much-needed wake-up call.
Not since the Thief series has a stealth game been so immediately and consistently gratifying. For some reason, the rest of this genre seems to be stuck in a rut of overcomplexity. To illustrate, let's consider a similar scenario—say, taking out a guard—in both Metal Gear Solid and Mark of the Ninja.
In any MGS game, downing a guard begins by deciding how to do it. Will you choke him out from behind? Maybe you'll shoot him in the neck with a tranquilizer. In fact, sure, let's go with that. So to shoot this poor sap, you must first aim with L1. Then you might want to swap to first-person view with the triangle button. At this point you can aim with the right stick, and pull the trigger with R1. Either that, or you could swap shoulders with R3, zoom in by pressing up on the directional pad, or use your secondary fire with R2.
In Mark of the Ninja, you sneak up behind him and sword that fool in two seconds.
We could do the same thing for player movement. The Splinter Cell series requires complex inputs that allow Sam to do all sorts of crazy things, most of which involve hiding. In Mark, you'll be jumping and flying through the air with your grappling hook, performing complex equipment combos in midair without struggle, pulling off devastating executions from every angle, or simply bypassing entire squads without even raising suspicion.
While other stealth titles have trouble avoiding the gray area of "I hope they don't see me," Mark gives you total battlefield awareness. Light and dark, enemy vision and hearing range, safe zones and secret passages, these are all made clear to the player, ridding them of confusion.
This self-evidence, this fairness, and this simplicity, is what makes Mark of the Ninja a study in player empowerment. You are an unstoppable badass from the moment you pick up the controller, and the feeling never ends until the game does. Even then, you'll find yourself going back to try out New Game+, justifying that steep $15 price tag. This game earns our full recommendation, and belongs in every gamer's Xbox Live Arcade library.
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