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Thief - Review

Updated on April 7, 2014

Ten years after the series' previous outing, the reboot to Eidos' cult-favourite has finally made it onto shop shelves almost six years after being announced. That long development time, which saw several prototypes scrapped and the game stuck in temporary limbo, hasn't done the title any favours. This is a game that, even in its finished state, is riddled with bugs, awkward freezes and an assortment of other annoying problems.

Rather than continue with the story laid out in the original trilogy of games, Eidos Montreal have decided to set this reboot several centuries after the events of the previous installments...but still call their new main character Garrett, who's also a master thief . The only answer to this bizarre creative decision is brand recognition, but it's odd nevertheless.

That's all you'll need to know about the game's story as well because everything else is either poorly told or lifted straight from other games. The plot is essentially the same as Dishonoured albeit with a hint of Bioshock Infinite in their too. Much like both those games, Thief pretends to have a compelling and interesting plot but fails to convey the complexities of politics and revolutionary change. As the game progresses, the rebels take over Garrett's city, and are shown to be just as bad as its previous rulers, relegating the entire plot device to little more than a colour palette swap as the guard's clothing is changed from blue to red.

Garrett meanwhile, manages to be a miserable bore right from the start. With almost no personality, he murmurs things here and then but none of it is of any interest. Cut-scenes are also incredibly poorly made, with odd stutters in performance and poor audio mixing that leaves the dialogue drowned out by the game's soundtrack. The script is just as bad, with some awful expository dialogue and numerous conveniences, the worst of which sees Garret's main adversary, the Thief-Taker General, conveniently turn up at the end of nearly every chapter to almost thwart your thieving attempts.

Guards have several alert states before they become fully aware of your presence. The A.I. overall is rather twitchy though, and not very consistent.
Guards have several alert states before they become fully aware of your presence. The A.I. overall is rather twitchy though, and not very consistent.

Unfortunately for Thief, the gameplay doesn't fare much better either. For long time Thief fans, this isn't the same game they grew up with, and there's many concessions that have been made to draw in newer players. Objects that can be interacted with now glow, ensuring players are almost always aware of the various routes that they can take. Hopping around the city in first-person, keeping an eye out for the tell-tale blue signs calls to mind Mirror's Edge with its clever colour-coding. To their credit, Eidos Montreal have done their best to cater to every kind of Thief player, with the option to turn off focus abilities all together and being forced to rely on your wits alone.

That would be great, if the world wasn't such a bore to explore. The hub city is divided into several districts with plenty of houses to plunder and operates, in a general way, much like Assassin's Creed's overworlds, with rooftops offering a safe and stealthy passage around the city. Problems quickly arise though when you notice the abundance of load screens that get in your way. Sneaking from street to street can sometimes mean sitting through several load screens just to get there, and this is a game world which, overall, isn't very large, nor densely populated. The attempt to disguise some of the load times by having you squeeze through gaps and move planks of wood, might have worked had the developers not chosen to repeat that same animation multiple times throughout the game. The lack of a fast travel encourages you to learn the layout of the city but is scuppered by a poor map system that doesn't take into account the area's vertical topography.

The game's main quest line works a little better by avoiding the less than stellar hub world. Each chapter is typically set in a different location. Creeping into an old architect's house is perhaps the most memorable, primarily because it's the level that most similar to the older Thief games. By providing you with multiple routes into the building, the level rewards players that play smart and adapt to their surroundings. Other areas are essentially A to B routes with little flexibility on how you get there. Many levels involve either going the direct route, and risked getting caught, or hunting for the one lone ventilation grate that'll help you bypass a corridor full of guards. It's a poor approach to level design and results in a game that frankly doesn't seem to want the player to explore and instead bottlenecks them into a series of limited options.

There's various different arrows that can be purchased throughout the game. Several kill/incapacitate guards whilst others enable you to interact with the environment.
There's various different arrows that can be purchased throughout the game. Several kill/incapacitate guards whilst others enable you to interact with the environment.
Caged birds operate like low-tech security cameras by making noise and alerting guards if you disturb them.
Caged birds operate like low-tech security cameras by making noise and alerting guards if you disturb them.

The title of Thief is something of a misnomer too, it should have been called "Scavenger". This is a game where you can only carry around five metal arrows but can collect all the golden cutlery that you want. Many of the game's later chapters have very little to do with actual thieving and instead will usually have a special item that you can steal listed as an optional objective instead.

Chapter five highlights the game's lack of focus better than any other. It's a horror level set in an abandoned asylum, being incredibly reminiscent of the recent Outlast. On the whole, it's one of the game's better levels, with a great control of pacing as you slowly descend into the bowels of the mental institute, complete with creepy giggles and manikins that move about when you're not looking. It's a memorable level, and easily elevates itself over the rather bland and tawdry environments that populate most of the game. There's the nagging feeling however, that it's out of place. A Thief game is about thieving, not searching horror film locations for scraps of dull exposition.

Thief is a Frankenstein's monster of a game; stitched together from assorted parts of other titles but without any spark of originality to give those mechanics a unique twist. It's clear that the long development time has been the main cause of these problems but there's also the issue that the game is clearly unfinished; filled with bugs and weird glitches that make the experience even less exciting. Much like Square Enix's attempt to reboot Hitman, Thief falters when faced with the pressures of modern game design. Where Hitman: Absolution was a creative misfire however, Thief risks being an outright failure.

Thief was released in February for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.

This review is based on the PS4 version.

© 2014 LudoLogic

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