Since the title does nothing to suggest what the game actually is, let’s start by explaining that The Slater is a first person stealth/shooter with some similarities to the Hitman series. You play as grizzled former cop Mark Slater (hence the title), who is trying to avenge the death of his father and wipe out the production of “D-Pain,” a highly addictive designer drug that has become a scourge on the city. Over six or so missions, you gradually infiltrate deeper and deeper into the belly of the D-Pain beast as you investigate and mostly kill those responsible.
Despite the ambiguous title, the game description sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, while premise suggests a Hitman-like expedition into crime and punishment and stylish stealth, The Slater misses the mark by a disappointingly large margin. From its generally awful graphics, models and textures to its inconsistent gameplay, The Slater desperately needs a refresher course in what was fun about games in the genre.
Fundamentally, stealth/action games need to nail two things: stealth and action. Both need to feel fluid, logical and satisfying. In the case of The Slater, though, general movement is painfully slow (the only other option is running) and the “stealth” elements mostly consist of tailing a subject into a room, killing them and then hiding the body. Short of attacking a guard or main character in front of another guard, no one pays the slightest attention to Slater. He can be stopped by a guard, go knock out a waiter and change into waiter’s clothes and then pass by the same guard a minute later without remark. Even weirder, Slater can kill a guard and steal his clothes and pass himself off as a guard, no questions asked. He can break into a house and steal a party invitation — again, in plain sight — and then waltz into the party with the invite. In other words, the enemy AI has two settings: off or kill. Since there are no mid-level saves, failure means replaying the entire level. The Slater would like us to believe that there are multiple solutions to every situation, but that is hardly the case. The biggest set of options comes in discovering some shortcut or access point.
I realize that games like Hitman — heck, all games—require a suspension of disbelief and an acceptance of some logic that contradicts the real world. In The Slater, though, we have to accept brain dead AI, terrible combat and distracting, ugly figure models that stare longingly into the uncanny valley. With the exception of Mark Slater, most of the characters look like they were crafted from soft wax, with lifeless eyes and barely functioning mouths. While the spare voice acting is on the acceptable side, the actual writing is mostly artless and heavily laden with tough guy cliche and The Slater contains not a shred of humor, ironic or otherwise.
Sound design is probably the least sophisticated I’ve encountered lately, with pallid weapon and fighting effects, nonexistent area or musical transitions and little sense of a defined aural space. The disappointing presentation extends beyond the character models to the animation and textures, most of which are adequate at best, but it wouldn’t matter if the core gameplay was good or the graphics didn’t pull us out of the experience. There are three basic character types: cookie-cutter guards, mission targets and space-filler characters — easily identified by the repeated models that the game barely tries to conceal. Attending a party where all the female guests are wearing the same red evening gown suggests that either they belong to a neighborhood cult or the developer couldn’t be bothered to re-skin or re-color the models.
Assuming one doesn’t fail too many missions, The Slater is a relatively short game with virtually no replay value as trying to get a better overall score isn’t much of an incentive to laboriously move through the same sequences again. Somewhere deep down I think that The Slater has a decent premise, but there is so much wrong with the execution I had a hard time finding it.