Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Thief

16 years ago Thief: The Dark Project was released on PC to critical acclaim, and was later followed up by two worthy sequels; The Metal Age and Deadly Shadows. However, since Deadly Shadows was released, and its developer Ion Storm went belly up in 2005, the series has been crying out for a sequel. But who best to do it? After all, Thief was quite a praised and celebrated franchise, and whoever took over development would need to have a track record of quality behind them. In steps Eidos Montreal, who previously brought us Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that successfully resurrected another classic franchise. While they did a fantastic job with Human Revolution, is Thief a worthy successor to what came before it? Simply put, not really, but pulling off a successful sequel to Thief wouldn't have pleased many gamers anyway.


Developed by Eidos Montreal for the Xbox One, PS4, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, comes Thief, the forth entry into the series of the same name. In many ways it's more of a complete reboot than a sequel though. That means the series leaves behind some of the great visionaries and world builders from the original trilogy, such as Randy Smith, Warren Spector, Terri Brosius and Stephen Russell, original voice for Garrett. While I'll always welcome change, it seems the series was in better hands a decade ago. You play as master thief Garrett in a world that is a mishmash of Steampunk, Gothic and Victorian era influences. Upon returning to his home, a place simply known as The City, Garret finds that it is now ruled by The Baron; a tyrant who is living a life of luxury while his people are ravaged by the plague. With a class war beginning to erupt, Garrett decides to make the best out of it, and do what he was born to do - steal.


Thief is a first person stealth game that occasionally incorporates some third person action set pieces. As Garrett the player will need to sneak their way through environments, stealing objects that can be in turn sold, all the while steering clear of guards. The games opening few areas are presented in a very mini-sandbox kind of way, and give the player a fantastic sense of freedom. This freedom also extends to finding loot, which can be huge fun. Once inside a house or building, you'll find yourself almost rubbing shoulders with oblivious soldiers, and it's in these epically tense moments in which Thief can sometimes shine. Whether it's sneaking at ground level and using water arrows to extinguish lanterns to carve out a path for yourself, or taking to the rooftops for a bird-eye view of your surroundings, the key here is choice. That said, while movement and climbing should be pretty fluid here, there are times where certain objects just can't be interacted with. For instance, I was stopped by two guards, and because Garrett can't really take a beating, I had to flee. Nearby I saw a wooden box against a wall. My plan was simple; jump up on the box, and either scale the wall or simply shoot fire arrows down at my pursuers. However, as soon as I sprinted towards the box, which was a type of box I climbed time and time again, nothing happened. I was just standing there waiting for Garrett to do something! Then I died. Trust me, after seeing the loading screens for the 10th time in a row because of a failed climbing/interaction system, you'll be sick of even trying.

But if that wasn't enough of a problem, once you dig deep into the game the stealth mechanic isn't exactly that difficult. While past Thief games demanded that you literally crept through a level at a snails pace, in this game guards won't really hear you unless you're jumping up in down in front of their faces. Furthermore, the “focus” upgrade system, which allows the player to unlock special abilities, is not just a completely boring and tired addition, but ends up breaking any sense of immersion the game started out with. From slowing down time to highlighting objects and loot, the upgrades take away any sense of challenge in Thief. And this is before mentioning the almost Uncharted-esque third person sequences requiring you, quite literally, to only hold forward on the analog stick. These scenes tug you out of the experience and are generally dreadful.


But don't get me wrong; there is fun to be had. If you haven't played any previous Thief games, and perhaps look for a less challenging gaming experience, you may enjoy it. But what remains here is a game that looks absolutely beautiful and contains some rather incredible visuals, but is doing it's best not to be a true stealth game. While I believe Eidos Montreal did the Deus Ex series justice with Human Revolution, this is not the case with Thief. Perhaps they thought a hardcore stealth experience wouldn't appeal to a mass market? Hard to say really, but rather than Thief 4 this seems more like Dishonored-lite.

Thief is clumsy in the dark and gets a 2/5, []


Denis Murphy


Thief at CeX



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