GRAND VALUES: MONACO
A stealth game for scoundrels put off by the genre’s complexity
Grand Values: Monaco PS4, Xbox One
We’re crouched behind a large seated man in a white suit, trying to move some bottles on a perilously rattly dumbwaiter so that we can get at the guy’s fancy gold watch. The risky pickpocketing attempt plays out as a series of minichallenges as we carefully guide protagonist Amy’s hand through the narrow path outlined by the game’s UI, align a circle while squeezing the triggers to shrink it onto a dot and trace a pair of arcing lines with both sticks simultaneously. A thumping heartbeat and brooding ambient soundtrack up the tension, before Amy’s shaky breathing concludes with an exhalation of relief as we successfully unclip the timepiece. Now all we have to do is get back out of the building.
It’s a wonderfully tense climax to our subterfuge and a particularly effective, and involved, representation of pickpocketing. Each time we nearly make a mistake, Amy’s hands recoil in step with our analogue stick withdrawal, and the mark’s occasional coughs and shuffling make us pause mid-movement. Bearhands Games wants each steal to feel like a scene from a movie and, going by this example, it’s succeeded spectacularly.
The plot scans like something you might expect to see in an Oceans film, too. Morally dubious Amy is a young cat burglar and pickpocket who, along with her partners in crime Joe and Frank, has recently pulled off a daring job on soon-to-be retired gangster Magnus. Flushed with success, the trio head off to Monaco to enjoy their riches in the sun. But, of course, Magnus delays his retirement and tracks them down, turning up with henchmen and threatening retribution unless Amy and her friends steal £50 million for him. With no other choice, the group embarks on a crime spree to raise the cash.
Ahead of our watch heist, we made our way through a mansion and its grounds, avoiding patrolling guards along the way. There’s no combat in Grand Values, so if you get caught it’s game over. But Bearhands has worked hard to ensure failure isn’t too punitive, so you’ll instantly start again just metres from where you were eyeballed. It’s a pleasant change from the usual loading-screen wait and serves to both keep you in the zone and encourage experimentation. The first area we attempt is a picturesque courtyard with a fountain at its centre. One guard patrols around the centrepiece, while another stands in the corner. A locked gate prevents our exit, so we set about working our way to the imposing-looking chap in the corner who holds the keys. The controls are lightweight and simple, a deliberate attempt to appeal to players put off by most stealth games’ complexities, and Amy is silent in all situations unless she breaks into a run. It’s a readable and accessible setup, lent a little dynamism by dash and slide moves that enable Amy to escape alerted guards. After a few attempts we lift the key from the guard – a process that uses the same pickpocketing mechanic we eventually deploy on our mark – and progress farther into the compound.
The core business of sneaking and stealing will be accompanied by what Bearhands describes as “climbing puzzles”, which will have to be negotiated to break into your target property – in the finished game, the watch heist we play will be preceded by a climb up the cliff the villa is perched on, for example.
Grand Values: Monaco will be released episodically in three parts next year, each with two marks and around three hours’ gameplay. The breezy art style, the approachable take on stealth gameplay and the smart pickpocketing mechanic make it a game we don’t intend to let slink by unnoticed.
It’s a readable and accessible setup, lent a little dynamism by dash and slide moves