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Thief Review

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Graphics:

 

8.0

Gameplay:

 

6.7

Sound:

 

7.3

Control:

 

6.9

Replay Value:

 

6.5

Overall Rating:       7.0

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

Square Enix

Developer:

Eidos Montreal

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Stealth/Action

Release Date:

February 25, 2014

Despite its inherent ponderous nature, Thief is actually a rollercoaster ride filled with lofty peaks and disappointing valleys. One minute you're gleefully looting a powerful individual's most precious treasures; the next, you're staring in consternation at yet another technical misfire. If you qualify as a stealth aficionado, you might be willing to overlook the slipshod manner in which this adventure is portrayed. The atmosphere definitely works and stealth is indeed rewarded. But unfortunately, when a game feels rushed, it's always noticeable.

The environment really is quite remarkable. Sure, it's a little dark and oppressive - okay, it's a lot dark and oppressive - but that's sort of the point. "The City" has fallen on hard times, as the few seem to have everything while the majority of the populace is dying of hunger and an unnamed illness that ravages the streets. Strictly from a presentation standpoint, Thief excels and in many ways, the overall graphical palette is a triumph. The detail isn't especially amazing and it's a tad claustrophobic for my taste, but above all else, the atmosphere is highly effective.

That effectiveness is partly due to the ambient audio, which continually infuses this adventure with a sense of hopelessness and urgency. Many civilians are in dire straits and every conversation you hear, every random vagrant you see shuffling past, reminds you that in fact, this is a diseased metropolis (literally and figuratively). I actually think they went a little too heavy on those conversations, though, and the balance between the soundtrack and effects is a little off. The sound category is another example of a fantastic idea with plenty of appeal, only to be dulled by a less-than-impressive technical performance.

The protagonist Garrett returns. Franchise fans have been awaiting his revival for many years, and I don't mind that he's mostly faceless. I don't mind in the slightest that this story is more about The City and the evil that infects it, rather than the main character. Master thieves are supposed to be shadows, after all; keeping his deepest desires and motivations secret complements the spirit of the Thief series. The foreboding city takes center-stage, as does the gameplay. This is exactly the way it should be, in my estimation, and I'm not about to cast aspersions on the writers who didn't fully unveil the veiled night stalker.

What I do have a problem with is the way this story unfolds. At first, it seems intriguing because you're going to learn more about the socioeconomic issues affecting The City. The plot starts out with promise, too, as Garrett's pupil, Erin, meets her demise during a bizarre cultish ritual. How does that cult operate? Is it responsible for what's happening to the town and its residents? How are the rich avoiding these problems? These are all legitimate and interesting questions. Too bad they're all lost amid a pile of mystical weirdness in the latter half of the game. Somewhere along the way, the thread of this narrative unravels.

Well, all right. That's no catastrophe. If the gameplay is compelling enough and I can lose myself in that fitting, absorbing atmosphere, I won't mind so much. And in fact, I did indeed have a blast looting everything in sight, taking down unsuspecting enemies, and earning new skills. To the dedicated stealth fan, there's nothing quite so satisfying as stealing precious heirlooms out from the under the noses of twenty heavily armed guards. With multiple missions and a variety of shiny trinkets to snag, there's always something fresh to plunder. This is the essence of Thief and make no mistake: If you can focus on this, you'll probably enjoy yourself.

However, that brings me to the following point: Focus. It's a great ability that is, for all intents and purposes, overpowered. This reveals interactive objects in the environment, but it also slows down time, thereby giving you the automatic edge in confrontations. The good news is that if you're a purist, you can turn off this feature. If you leave it on, you may realize that in fact, the challenge has disappeared and you're just breezing through the game. You may start to rely on Focus too often. Then again, you do get that old-fashioned feeling of invincibility when you use it, which isn't in the spirit of the Thief IP but remains undeniably attractive.

Another nifty ability that may feel a tad like cheating is the Swoop, which basically allows Garrett to avoid dead giveaways like treading upon broken glass. Used tactfully, this can be extraordinarily useful, and adds to the mystique of the protagonist. General movement isn't always precise and pristine, and the wrong movement can alert nearby guards. But again, even if you do garner unwanted attention, losing your pursuers isn't that difficult. Because the AI is so mediocre and the technical elements are outdated, enemies will often get stuck running into a wall, or they won't be able to follow you up or down. Just climbing or descending is often enough, and that's disappointing.

Exploration is a big part of the game, and that's hindered by the closed-in feel of the city. Worse, it's nearly crippled by the incessant loading screens that continue to interrupt the flow of the adventure. Even just opening a window can result in yet another seemingly interminable loading screen. It's amazing how the mind works, though; the load time aren't awful but as you keep running into them, they start to seem a lot longer than they really are. In this day and age, you just can't get away with such things. It's actually somewhat ironic that this Thief reboot has some of the technical misgivings of a time when...well, when the last Thief released.

And yet, despite it all, I kept playing. I really liked some of Garrett's super-cool gadgets and abilities, even if they're hardly realistic. Water arrows work very well to add more shadow to your environment (remember, you're in a time period when fire is used to heat and illuminate) and their counterpart, the fire arrows, are also awfully handy. Yes, it can be argued that the Focus and Swoop abilities turn Garrett into something of a superhero but we had fun doing that in Dishonored, didn't we? Yeah, well, the latter title didn't have the same foundation as the Thief franchise, and it was also much more stable.

Like I said, it's a rollercoaster. "Hey, the AI just noticed I left a door open and now they're investigating. That's pretty cool." "...hey, that guard can't seem to avoid a simple crate." "I just stole all this great stuff without anyone raising an eyebrow!" "...okay, I had several unfair advantages." "This atmosphere is wicked immersive." "...this atmosphere makes me feel like a rat in a maze." The contrasts are just everywhere but luckily, the gameplay is dynamic and engaging enough to counteract many of the downfalls discussed here. It made the game worthwhile to me, but it won't be the same for everyone.

Thief was one of my most anticipated games of 2014. I have to say, I'm disappointed in its lack of cohesiveness in terms of story, its lack of stability and solidarity in terms of technical stuff, and the missed opportunities. At the same time, I never seem to tire of looting the most difficult-to-approach treasure caches, and Garrett is a suitably entertaining character. Also, don't forget that if you think it's too easy, you can alter the experience so it's more of a challenge. That shouldn't be overlooked, even though it's obvious that the designers want you to use slick skills like Focus. Thief needed a bit more time to cook but all in all, it's a decent experience.

The Good: Highly effective atmosphere. Nice ambient sound. Garrett has some great skills. Looting and sneaking never gets old. Lots of cool missions to tackle. Control is mostly solid and responsive.

The Bad: Environment starts to feel cramped. Story has promise but remains jumbled. AI is dated and even stupid at times. Way too many loading screens.

The Ugly: "Wow, really? I'm seeing these sorts of errors in a ‘next-gen' game?"

3/3/2014 Ben Dutka

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Comments (14 posts)

DIsmael85
Monday, March 03, 2014 @ 11:53:06 PM
Reply

This isn't really a "next-gen" game per se, just a port up from current gen stuff. I'm not too surprised about the score on this, though this sort of had that Dishonored feel to it and I didn't much enjoy that game much.

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Geobaldi
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 12:51:31 AM

Yeah I wasn't impressed with this one that much either. It does try to be a bit like Dishonored, but then again, Dishonored tried to be like the other games of the Thief franchise. So two instances of identity crisis going on.

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berserk
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 8:32:56 AM

Except one of them ( thief ) failed miserably at trying to be like the other one .

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Big_Boss90
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 12:58:19 AM
Reply

I kind of knew this one would not do so good.

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Knightzane
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 1:21:26 AM
Reply

Great review

I like it a lot though and would personally give it an 8. It does a lot right and a lot wrong. Is worth around a 45$ purchase though. Do kinda wish they would have stuck with the original story line.

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frostface
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 2:11:19 AM
Reply

I'm returning my copy today. There were times I was able to over look the technical flaws of the game, in some cases I got some laughs at enemies running into walls trying to catch me or at how off sync the voice acting was, and some other small stuff. But imo Garrett is as depressing to play as the 'gloom' that's infecting The City. And as mentioned in the review, the excessive amount of loading screens that drag you out of the experience and not having the ability to jump off every ledge. The game unfortunately for me personally felt like a last gen mess. But I can see some people getting something out of it, buy second hand or wait for a sale but don't pay full price for it.

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___________
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 3:36:40 AM
Reply

so disappointed by this its just so poorly put together its not funny.
you have so many gadgets but your never really taught how to use them.
ive wasted god knows how many rope arrows thinking oh it should work here, nope.
same goes with the water arrows.
this would be allot more fun if you were able to recover arrows that way your not treating them like water out in the middle of the desert!
you never want to use them because you have so few and rarely find them, but the whole game revolves around them so not using them is pretty boring and frustrating.
its far too open at times too, quite a few levels ive actually found areas where there are zero enemies whatsoever!
i mean im all for finding ways around enemies, thats the point of a stealth game, but when you start off a level and theres 100 enemies, so you take a right down a alley way and can get to your objective from there without a single enemy sighting, you know your in trouble.
they just need to work allot more on the level design, and a few tuts would not hurt for the weapons.
even when you reach a checkpoint you can still roam back to where you were before, for instance i started a level and looted a specific room, than got to the first checkpoint, wondered around for a bit, than ended up in the same room.
i went through 3 different checkpoints, multiple objectives completed later, and still found myself in that dam room several times!
its so easy to spend forever just walking around and around in circles.
cant help but feel this would be a heck of allot more fun if it was allot more linear and confined.

its a shame the level design is not up to snuff because the rest of the game has amazing attention to detail!
i love the fact how its all about light, most games are about line of sight so even if your in pitch black, if a enemy is in front of you he can see you.
this you can walk stright up to a enemy and as long as your quiet and in darkness he wont see you.
adds SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much more tension!
makes hiding behind crates so suspenseful, most games if your hiding behind a crate and a guard walks past you he will see you, but not in this as long as its dark, giving you the opportunity to follow behind and subdue him.
or the dogs and birds in cages, if you get too close or make too much noise they alert the guards, or the glass on the ground if you walk on it that will alert guards, or the hidden traps.
theres so much attention to detail with the stealth system, its a shame the rest of the game did not receive the same attention.

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kraygen
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 3:51:58 AM
Reply

Not a terrible score, but was hoping for a little more. Will still play it at some point, maybe with my love of stealth I'll still get plenty of enjoyment out of it.

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berserk
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 8:30:17 AM

I m sure you will if you love stealth ( heavy on that ) games , just not at full price .

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PlatformGamerNZ
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 4:18:31 AM
Reply

yeah well i'm sry but i'll save my money for the other big games comin in the nextlil while cough cough infamous watch dogs destiny cough cough

happy gaming =)

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Beamboom
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 4:48:22 AM
Reply

Seems I much better off continuing the campaign in Dishonoured.
Disappointing...

What puzzles me the most is that this is made by the same guys who made one of the best games of the former generation - a game that also were a resurrection of a great franchise from the past: Deus Ex Human Revolution. They could have just reskinned that gamebase and they'd have a winner?


Last edited by Beamboom on 3/4/2014 4:49:49 AM

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 11:15:32 AM

Maybe.

But it proves that to continually output greatness at such a high level takes a LOT, and remains rare. Only select studios can manage it...

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berserk
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 8:28:17 AM
Reply

Can only agree with the good and the bad cause that s all i read :)

Well , that is beside the looting that do get old in my opinion .

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Cabalavatar1
Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 11:00:01 PM
Reply

I'm still enjoying Thief but only because of when it's like Dishonored. As mentioned by others, the ongoing loading screens really break immersion. Considering that we're supposed to be in next gen, the loading screens are unforgivable.

The AI is rather unbalanced. I play really stealthy in most games like this, but I've played Thief aggressively: I can't be certain if some guy is going to see me when I'm far away and invisible, so I just take him out. When the AI is unreliable, I can't count on my stealth strategy working.

Anyway, I understand that this gets only a 7. I think I'd rate it a 7.5 for what I'm getting out of it. I am, however, thankful that I bought it for $40 as a bundled preorder at E3. I would've regretted paying $60+taxes for Thief.

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