Through repeated plays of many games that require you to overcome enemies to progress through a narrative, I’ve come to a conclusion: save for a game that actually punishes you for it, by dint of its overall treatment (e.g. Metal Gear, Thief), the best way to win is to Rambo, not stealth-play, the situation.

This all could be because of the particular games I’ve chosen. Maybe I’m just not playing the right kind of game. Regardless, when a game gives you the option of either 1) blowing someone away to solve a conflict versus 2) sneaking around them I will most likely end up choosing option 1. Why? Unless I’m purposely trying to lengthen the game, it just takes too damn long to out-maneuver an enemy when I could out-gun them.

Sure, I will admit that donning some kind of camouflage and carefully, tensely, walking in a crouched stance through an environment infested by bad guys, narrowly escaping detection ends up being a more rewarding experience when you actually accomplish it. Viscerally, it’s not the same rush, but it’s a more complex, long-form felicity. However, in a game where there is a lot of conflict between you and the world, stealing your way through trouble eventually gets tiring. It really is easier to just pull out the machine gun or explosives and lay waste. You get the adrenaline of combat plus the efficiency of hubris, charging into a room and unloading all you got until the dust has settled. No analysis. Just success.

Last night, that domineering philosophy failed me, though. If you don’t want to read about a non-primary mission in Fallout: New Vegas that has no real bearing on the plot (that I know of yet), then avoid the next few paragraphs.

Caravans roam the wasteland, visiting settlements that dot the land, and bringing goods to trade. The main organizing institution that manages most of them is the Crimson Caravan Company. At some point in the game, they want you to break into the Gun Runners facility, an organization that builds some serious weaponry, and steal their weapon schematics. There’s a guy named Isaac who fronts the public-facing part of the company, a gun store hosted by a robot, situated just outside the fenced and walled-in headquarters. He won’t give you a tour of the place, citing intellectual property paranoia. There’s one, and only one, locked gate that allows access to the front door of their establishment. Armed guards are on patrol, of course. The proprietor of the Crimson Caravan Company wants the job done…quietly. No alerting anyone, no deaths. In a word, stealthily. My plasma rifle and recon armor could’ve easily let me barge in, but that was not an option now.

All of the missions up to this point that necessitated violence have been Rambo-able. Gunning down any adversaries was not a problem. For once, I actually needed to think about how to approach my objective. The guards had a patrol that lead them away from the gate and front door, thankfully. The locked gate was of average difficulty, so my average lockpicking ability was up to the task. However, Isaac was always just around the corner, causing my Detect-o-Meter to keep registering as “[DETECTED]”. What to do? A long neglected single Stealth Boy, obviously!

For those who chose to sneak more than butcher, Stealth Boys essentially make you the Predator, replete with a “scrambled” visage. As soon as I applied the item to myself, my “[DETECTED]” went right to “[HIDDEN]”. I picked the lock, silently crept through the front door, found the schematics (among several useful weapons), and got out, just as my ‘Boy ran out. For once in my 42-or-so hours of playing, that acute nervousness with a subsequent rush of I-got-away-with-it came over me and I remembered how awesome it is to creep instead of annihilate.

Every once in a while it’s nice to have a mission like this. Making them sporadic makes them special. Games like Metal Gear Solid and Thief are fun because they’re almost completely comprised of moments like this, but the tenseness can wear on a person like me after awhile. If the game were only a few hours long, it might not be so bad. Usually, though, we’re talking tens of hours of gameplay, so back to Rambo I return since the game almost always allows for it. I just can’t bring myself to sneak around every corner when I’m given enough firepower to not.

In related news, Cazadores are scary as hell, require insane strategy to not end up being overwhelmed by a pack of them, and are SCARY AS HELL.