It’s been a long time between jobs for Garrett, master thief from the iconic Thief video game series. In fact, it was almost ten years ago that Thief: Deadly Shadows was released on the original Xbox and PC, and while the announcement of a new Thief game got old-school pickpockets excited, the excitement was also met with caution. Was rebooting Thief really necessary? How could Thief be brought back after such a long hiatus? Worry not gamers, for this is indeed a new breed of Thief, but it also happens to be one that any gamer can enjoy, despite a small amount of bland features.
‘Thief’ once again casts players as the master thief, Garrett, as he steals from the corrupt rich and gives to…himself. Garrett is not your classic hero, in fact, he is more of an anti-hero, similar to Batman, although with slightly less gadgets. Now that I think of it, this newly-rebooted Thief also bares a very Nolan-esque atmosphere. The city is cluttered with cobblestone streets, uninviting high-rise buildings, abandoned marketplaces and dank slums.
While it may sound like a stealth fans murky cup of tea, it does in fact feel rather bland, thanks to a repetitive design and an extremely limited colour pallette. Where other developers have realised that if a game is predominantly made up of greys, blacks and browns that it pays to have some unique design choices (such as a unusual palace, factory or the odd trip to an asylum), Eidos Montreal have chosen to stick with a dark and grimy theme, which works, but doesn’t “wow” the player, not even for a second.
The game’s story also takes a backseat to the stealthy gameplay (which I will address in moment), and while the Thief series has always felt more gameplay-focused, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Garrett bares almost no redeeming or unique qualities of his own, and instead feels like a boring mash-up of several other established characters.
At the beginning of the game, Garrett meets up with fellow thief Erin in order to steal a particular item for a client. Why they bother to team up is beyond me, as they never work together, or even get along. Instead, it feels like a race, which is ultimately very silly of two master thieves to be doing when there is delicate work to be done.
After successfully obtaining the item, the two witness a supernatural ritual being practised by a mysterious cult. Erin’s curiosity gets the better of her, and in an attempt to stop her revealing their presence, Garrett steals her climbing hook. As one would expect, the two begin to wrestle for possession of the hook, with Erin falling into the ritual area itself. A large explosion decimates the area, with Garrett and Erin both being enveloped in the arcane destruction.
A year passes, and Garrett awakens on the back of a beggar’s cart, with no memory of where he has been since the incident. The city was no paradise to begin with, but there is an even greater divide between the upper and lower classes, with the streets littered with beggars who are infected with a deadly disease known as “the gloom”. Bodies are gathered on carts and sent to a factory for processing, and guards patrol the city harassing citizens and eliminating anyone who has been in contact with the infected, even if they are healthy themselves. After regaining his bearings and contacting a former contractor, Garrett re-enters the thief-for-hire business, discovering a sinister and shocking conspiracy that leads all the way to the city’s ruler himself, the Baron.
There’s something not quite right about the story’s execution in Thief. It is entertaining, that’s for sure, but like the environment design and most of the characters, it feels rather pedestrian when compared to other games. While fun and addicting gameplay should arguably be the focus and main draw of a stealth game (and in that regard Thief does more than deliver), other recent stealth games have managed to present interesting environments, characters and plotlines as well as addicting gameplay, such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Hitman: Absolution (also both Square Enix titles).
Stealth mechanics and strategic gameplay is what Thief is all about, and this is where the game really shines. Garrett (in the right hands) is a ghost’s shadow, able to pilfer and loot the shiniest trinkets in the blink of an eye. He can also be a deadly rogue, stealthily and brutally besting even the toughest of guards. Or (as I often did) he can simply play each situation by ear, and use his instincts to guide him. He is also able to purchase a variety of skills and equipment to aid him throughout the game, and while the environments may seem stale at times, there is a huge amount of ways you can infiltrate certain buildings or complete your missions. There is loot to be found in the darkest corners of some buildings, or even in secret stashes that require exploration keen observation, as well as challenges that reward experience and initiative such as “steal all the loot” or “lockpick every lock” in a level/chapter.
Movement-wise, Garrett traverses buildings, fences, ropes and other obstacles with fluid grace, and while the simple use of the left trigger as a run/vault/slide/whatever-maneuver-you-need button initially felt cheap, it did help illustrate Garrett as the nimble master thief he is. It also makes for some really cool running sequences that are almost on par with the brilliant Mirror’s Edge (in terms of style).
Should Garrett inadvertently draw the attention of guards, he can hide in the shadows or attempt to escape the situation. Far too often though, the A.I. hones in on one particular spot and fails to look nearby or beyond that area. Whilst looting a house, I clumsily knocked over a glass and shattered it. Guard ran to the area, and while I was only hiding on the opposite side of the table, they were transfixed on the remnants of the glass, and did not once look up or even bother to peer into the shadows with their lanterns. I must have been a metre away, and had managed to completely elude the guards.
Stealing is similar to getting around the levels, as the press of a single button usually opens a container and snatches the loot within. If there is no loot, Garrett closes the container and moves on. If there is loot, Garrett automatically pockets it and then moves on. It makes for quick and easy gold, as well as keeps the stealing aspect of the game from becoming annoying or boring (imagine having to look for a container, then it’s lock or handle, and then finding the contents within, and then having to close that container). Some gamers may find that Garrett’s initial skill makes simple tasks feel rather easy, but he is a master thief. Hell, he is the best thief that there has ever been in a video game.
Just as Sam Fisher (Splinter Cell) can now mark and execute multiple enemies and bust caps in their collective heads in half a second, Garrett can steal an entire room’s worth of loot in a minute or so. He’s just that damn good.
If one does find the game difficult at times, they are able to make use of the upgradeable “focus” skill, which highlights various routes, loot, enemies and also enables different skill moves, such as quicker lockpicking or more skillful combat maneuvers. Use of the focus skill is limited, but the focus gauge can be refilled by potions or by eating special flowers which can be found throughout the game or bought from vendors.
If at any time players wish to take a break from the main story, they can compete in various challenge levels against other players for a spot on the levels’ leaderboards. Some of these offer a unique experience from the story while utilising the same mechanics.
- Rewarding gameplay
- Boring story and characters
- ‘clumsy’ A.I. (at times)
- Some textures are slow to load, lip sync during some cut scenes is off.
Ultimately, Thief is a good stealth game with solid mechanics that last for the length of the game’s story and beyond. While it lacks some of the excitement of other Square Enix-published stealth games, it is quite possibly the most accessible currently available, and well worth checking out (particularly on the PS4, PC and Xbox One) despite the slight lack of a polished narrative.
Score – 7/10