I knew Undetected (opens in new tab), a new indie stealth game from Mexican developer Antonio Freyre, and I were on the same page when a pencil-pushing, no-nonsense general immediately started on with a mission briefing over scenes of the hero, Tenoch Kaan, sneaking through the jungle to his deployment point. I'm not 30 seconds in before proper nouns like "Raptrix units" and "Perpetual Energy Station" are thrown around.
That's the good stuff right there. Don't even tell me what Raptrix means—I don't want to know. It sounds cool. Give me that absolute minimum context. There's someone that needs saving in a heavily fortified complex and I'm the only one who can do the job.
Except, Undetected's Metal Gear Solid-inspired setup (not to be confused with last year's MGS parody game UnMetal (opens in new tab)) is actually worth listening to. I had to watch it twice before I realized that general is actually briefing the bad guys about me, a former corpo spy who defected to an "extremist" organization to fight the corporate rule of the united Mexico-American Federation in 2063. Tenoch Kaan is no military dog—he's the guy they'd send Solid Snake to kill.
Undetected's first few levels continue to flip the script on what I'd expect from a faithful Metal Gear Solid throwback. For one, the "no murder" switch is always set to on. My silenced pistol is less a gun, and more a launcher of Thief-like distraction tools.
The default ammo is rubber bullets that are useless against guards, but perfect for flipping off light switches. Sponge bullets can knock out guards, but you have to hit them twice and I've found a total of four. I haven't found any goo bullets yet—the inventory screen promises that these can blind guards long enough to slip by. I have thrown a few stink bombs, which are basically just smoke bombs, but appear to be literal cans full of farts (or, heaven forbid, something worse). I respect the potentially contentious decision to go full non-lethal. Guns are an easy solution to almost every problem in most stealth games and, damnit, Undetected wants you to sneak.
And sneak I did, in MGS1 fashion. That means you can basically run right past guards as long as you don't pass their line of sight. In place of a minimap, Kaan can use his robo eye to scout ahead, zooming out your view far enough that the whole screen becomes the map. I like the cool cyberspace-y effect, but I sometimes found it hard to pick out the guards from the foliage. I think it's smart to ditch a traditional map that gives me too much feedback. The problem is Undetected doesn't have quite enough feedback. Kaan is basically invisible when he's in a shadow (you know it's working when his arm is glowing), but I've already gotten killed several times because I was standing in a perfectly dark spot that didn't count as dark.
It's interesting to discover which elements of MGS Undetected holds dear and which it totally upends. Undetected embraces (understandably, for a throwback) old MGS mechanics that I'd happily overwrite with modern conveniences. Like, a crouch button would be cool, as would tiered alert statuses that give me some leeway to jump back into a shadow when a guard spots me. Some things just never change, it seems. At first I committed to ghosting through rooms like the tutorial suggests, but eventually I discovered dodge rolling straight into unaware guards is a quick and easy way to knock them out and cheese past an encounter, just as it is in MGS1.
I'm gonna put a little more time into Undetected to see where it goes. Right now I'm hoping for more story—I've finally arrived at the facility where I think most of the game will take place, so fingers crossed that a bug-themed war criminal will try to impede my progress soon.