Suspension of disbelief is ignoring the man behind the curtain. It's not even acknowledging there is a curtain. Even in the most carefully formed narratives, there are moments that sometimes defy logic or reason that the viewer just has to accept. Like a stage magician distracting you with his lovely assistant, the movie director or novelist will compensate these small failings with engrossing characters or gripping action to the point that someone wielding a huge sword they couldn't possibly lift doesn't matter.
Stolen asks the player to give his disbelief a nice long vacation, perhaps somewhere sunny like the Bahamas, at least until this eight to nine hour air duct crawling adventure is long gone. Instead of offering incentive via plot or protagonists, it dares you to continue with shallow characters and a story that's more like road accident than a narrative. Here's a paraphrasing of the conversation that leads into the second mission:
"Hi. I'm a menacing stranger in a hoody who obviously set you up to take a fall in your last mission. Now I want you to break into a new high security prison and steal a data disc. There's absolutely nothing suspicious about this job, and I'm certainly not going to set you up to be captured for a second time. So how about it?"
I had no choice but to go along with it either. It's hard being a game reviewer sometimes.
The context-sensitive controls are the furthest thing from being intuitive and are often compromised, depending on the circumstances. But what’s even more disappointing is its lack of open-ended design, ultimately leading the player through a fixed method to complete each mission. Stolen isn’t very forgiving when you make a mistake either, which quickly turns the whole experience into a needless guessing game. Even if you finally figure out precisely what to do to progress, it’s inevitable that you’ll mess up elsewhere. To make matters worse, should you fail to reach a nearby checkpoint, you’ll have to repeat the process all over again.
What about all the high-tech gear that is bizarrely scattered all over each level, as if the enemies want to make it easy for any potential burglar that happens to come along? There's actually little call for going through the trouble of using it, especially when it's quicker (and easier), to sneak up behind a guard, give them a quick throat massage, and move on. Of course, on the final level where these gizmos might actually be useful, they take all of them away, but they always leave the air vents hanging wide open.
Unless you’re seriously starved for an alternative stealth game, it’s hard to justify Stolen as a recommended purchase. The logic is non-existant – why is it that choking a guard won’t bring him down? And would it have killed the developers to incorporate more intelligent AI parameters? Clearly, a lot of development was poured into mirroring pre-established stealth games. It’s too bad the game lacks the enjoyable gameplay elements to make playing worthwhile. With its relative short length and “son of Splinter Cell” gameplay, Stolen ends up being nothing more than a rainy day rental.