Earlier this year when I found myself replaying last year's amazing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I realized how much I hate to choose between lethal and non-lethal style of gameplay. It's never an easy choice, but the developers are definitely not helping us with the decision we have to make. Two other stealth games this year also put a huge emphasis on non-lethal combat, Dishonored and the new-released Hitman: Absolution and both have the same case of ill-advised decision-making between killing a person or simply knocking them out.
I can see how most of you are already saying: "What the F is he talking about, this makes the game deeper and more engaging..." Yeah, you might be right, but the main problem I have with "lethal vs. non-lethal" is that the developers often want you to go non-lethal and support you with that decision with additional experience (Deus Ex), a better ending (Dishonored), a better final score (Hitman) and thus making you bypass all the parts of the game that are sketchy or not done well. This is particularly noticeable in Dishonored, where you get tons of achievements/trophies after finishing the game with no kills or with no one seeing you. It's entirely possible to finish the game without ever fighting a group of guards or ever using one of your powers (Blink being the exception), which is fine, but with supporting non-lethal combat you do what the developers wanted you to do. To skip the clunky combat system and realizing how easy the game actually is. Now, they may say in developer interviews that the player has all the choices (and oh boy, they did that a lot), but you really don't. And if you somehow mistakenly decide that you want to go all Rambo on the world of Dishonored, it's practically impossible to conclude the game with a good ending, which is something that makes my blood boil. Like in Mass Effect, the conclusion should be a consequence of your own decisions throughout the story, not your style of gameplay. If you kill to many people, the world turns into a gruesome place filled with rats, the undead (or whoever that was) and everyone is even more depressed than before. Well, great, so now I have to go all choke-y!
That pretty much goes for Deus Ex aswell. Adam Jensen knocks everyone out and you get additional experience for being all subtle. When no one sees you, but you kill now and then, then you can't afford that cool enhancement you always wanted for your eyes but couldn't buy. Off course, I'm exaggerating here a bit, the experience bump is fairly low and doesn't change the game that much, but on the other hand, I should be able to play how I want... right?
With all this hate towards developers that encourage you to do non-lethal combat, I just started playing Hitman: Absolution and after I few hours of gameplay I feel that it´s done right in this case. The game punishes you for any kind of violent interaction with the world and because of the newly implemented score system, you feel like you´re competing with someone. Blending in and walking through the level incognito was always a huge part of Hitman and the joy of completing level without being seen is followed by a great sense of accomplishment. Not so much in Dishonored and Deus Ex, where you feel like the game strips you of some fun mechanics and just leaves you with the most basic gameplay that becomes repetitive after a while. And when the shooting mechanic isn't that stellar (and it isn't), you have no choice but to go back to non-lethal.
Back in the day, nobody bragged about how many different choices you have, they just gave you a tranq gun a regular gun and let you do whatever you wanted to do. That wasn't that long ago...