Thief Review

March 9, 2014

/ by Tin Salamunic

"The new Thief may not live up to the brilliance of previous entries, but still provides a thrilling and deep stealth adventure."

Thief is a perfect example of why I never trust aggregate scores. With a Metacritic average of 69 (PC), I expected a flawed, disappointing, and underwhelming venture, yet what I experienced with Eidos Montreal’s latest resurrection of Garrett the master thief was anything but. While the reboot doesn't redefine stealth by any means, nor does it raise the bar any higher than what we’ve seen in Dishonored, It’s still a remarkably immersive, gorgeous, and fun adventure that’s only held back by annoying load times and odd design quirks. Eidos’ revival of the long forgotten classic is quite impressive, even if some of the charm and challenge is lost along the way. Whether you’re a franchise veteran or newcomer, Thief is a treat for anyone who enjoys slipping through darkness and looting everything in sight.

Narrative is where Thief falters most and it’s why it doesn't make the best first impression. A series of linear sequences and unimpressive cinematics set the stage for a convoluted and clich├ęd plot that lacks depth and intrigue seen in the series’ predecessors. Waking up with amnesia, Garrett returns to his plague stricken hometown, The City, where he sets out to collect bits and pieces of his past…and naturally loot every chest and drawer in his path. Of course, the story grows deeper (and is best if experienced without any narrative spoilers), but does little to immerse players into its Victorian Gothic/Steampunk world. Poor voice acting and uninteresting characters don’t help either and it’s a shame that the talents behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution are responsible for such a messy storyline.

Luckily, the gameplay fares significantly better. The City is a semi-open world hub, packed with narrow passageways and unlockable doors and windows. When given missions, you can derail from current objectives to explore each area and seek out its secrets. To fully enjoy Garret’s thievery, it’s best to turn off “Focus Vision” that highlights every interactive object within the environment. It’s an annoying gimmick that seems to pop up in nearly every action game these days and really needs go away. Valuables have a “sparkle” to them anyway, so it’s not like they’re easy to overlook.

"Thief's world is dark and beautiful, but its linearity is a step back from the predecessor's sandbox-style levels."

Where Thief truly shines is in its sense of interactivity. You can touch, open, and slide nearly every chest, drawer, and desk in sight and this feeling of being present gives Thief remarkable immersion. However, the same can’t be said for navigation and platforming. You can only climb designated areas, even when standing next to an obviously reachable obstacle. This somewhat takes away from Thief’s openness and gives the stealth gameplay less sneaking options when trying to avoid or engage your enemies.

Nevertheless, sneaking around dark corners and taking out enemies silently is as fun as ever. It’s incredibly satisfying to be able to take down several guards in a small dense alleyway. Aiding you in combat is the ability to swoosh in and out of shadows, which makes pick pocketing very gratifying. You can purchase upgrades as well, but they seemed somewhat unnecessary. The only worthy purchase was a wrench tool and a wiring tool, but I didn’t feel the need to upgrade my health or focus vision.

Garrett is a thief, so when engaged in combat things get a bit clunky. He can bash opponents with his club, but it feels stiff and makes group encounters nearly impossible. I actually enjoy the fact that Thief discourages combat and wants you to take out foes from behind. There are also environmental traps that can be triggered with Garrett’s blunt arrows and they help you take out up to three guards at a time. Personally, my biggest gripe is the loading between city sections. It occurs too frequently and breaks the immersion, which sometimes discourages exploration and makes the world feel much smaller. For a 2014 release, this is unacceptable and is simply the result of sloppy programming.

On a brighter note, the game is gorgeous. It’s dark, atmospheric, and the sense of death and despair lurks around every corner. Lighting has always been a highlight in Thief games and it’s no different this time around. When you’re tucked away in shadows, you really feel invisible and playing cat and mouse with the guards is indescribably awesome. Sadly, the game is a bit choppy. We ran Thief on a high end gaming rig with a GTX780, an Intel i7 CPU, 32GB of RAM, completely maxed out…and even though it ran at 60fps, the image had odd stuttering problems when panning the camera and there were occasional small fps drops in the strangest places.

Overall, the Thief reboot is a fun stealth adventure that doesn’t live up to the legendary predecessors, but still offers enough thrills and sneaky action to warrant a purchase. Fans might be saddened by the overall simplification of game mechanics and linearity, but there are still moments of brilliance worth experiencing and there’s still hope that the inevitable sequel could right some of the reboot’s wrongs. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC


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