Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release Date: NA February 25, 2014 AU February 27, 2014 EU February 28, 2014
But we were hooked, regardless, not for the story, but for the mechanics of stealth and exploration. Finding routes through the levels peaceably and intact is a genuine challenge on the normal 'Thief' difficulty - and with the aids turned off, it gets much, much harder. Add in the custom difficulty modes, which allow you to recreate old Thief - indeed, which allow you to make a much harder game than any Thief - and it's an enjoyable, challenging customisable sandbox. It's just sad that the main story and The City itself don't match up to the toolset Eidos Montreal has created.
If you’re content to save your game every couple minutes and enjoy a slower-paced stealth game, then Thief rewards you with plenty of moments so tense you might catch yourself holding your breath. Eidos-Montreal may have adhered too closely to the series’ roots, resulting in a reboot that suffers from classic problems like simplistic combat and trial-and-error sneaking missions. However, locked behind this old-school game design is a gem that stealth fans should eye up for their collection.
Thief is best when it sticks to the involving, slow-paced stealth that made its ancestor such a tense affair. In its subtle moments, Eidos Montreal gives your creeping a sense of closeness and texture, in a game where you almost always have your nose pressed against things. Much like Garrett, Thief succeeds while quiet, fingers reaching out and almost – almost – touching an irresistible spread of glittering prizes.
Thief is a great escape for those of you who yearn for more stealth experiences, but it doesn't really offer up anything exciting. The story and characters are somewhat forgettable, most of the missions are straight-forward, and the locales tend to blend together after a while. Having said that, there's a lot of potential here if you dig deep down into the game's ingenious difficulty sliders and challenge modes. In that sense, Thief succeeds as a bold stealth game, despite its bruises.
Thief has some strong stealth mechanics going for it, and getting away unseen with a big haul of loot can be an enormous challenge, but doesn’t always put that to good use. Between the hit-or-miss missions is an extremely annoying city hub map and a weak story full of bland characters, and Garrett himself isn’t as sure-footed as a master thief ought to be. Ignoring the story and cherrypicking the best side missions is the best way to approach it.
As Thief seesawed up and down, my enjoyment of it followed suit. Each time I thought I might fall in love, the game doused my passions with a new annoyance. There was the bug that had me swimming in place on top of some boards I'd leapt to. (Thank goodness for reloadable checkpoints!) There were the times I scratched my head wondering why I couldn't take cover behind one crate but could behind an identical one. (The rules of locomotion are never absolutely clear.) But then the love affair was rekindled the moment I pinched out a candle's flame and yanked a dowager's earrings from her lobes unnoticed. (Unrealistic, certainly, but joyful nonetheless.) Whether you are new to the series or cut your teeth on Thief's particular brand of stealth when it was still novel, I'd wager your feelings will waver as often as mine did. The Thief-franchise-inspired Dishonored waves the stealth flag far more confidently than this reboot does. Garrett is not yet on his way out, but he's been shown the door.
At times the game suffers from a lack of ambition, placing far too much importance on the tiresome looting of endless cupboards and dressers in the vain hope that this will be enough to propel you forwards. In other places, Thief suffers from too much ambition, unable to draw its systems into a cohesive whole. Whether the game simply needed more time or entirely different foundations is never quite clear. Either way, it's a game that adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Undeniably, Thief suffers greatly by comparison to Dishonored - its more coherent, more thoughtfully and successfully designed cousin, in whose shadow Garrett and his game now cringe.
There are elements of a better game in Thief — maybe even a great one. I enjoyed Garrett's adventure when it was about stealing, when it was about getting into a structure creatively and sneaking away, about accumulating and spending loot. But I wanted much more of that breaking and entering than it was willing to give me. Thief never quite pulls it together. Instead, too often, I felt like a mouse in a narrow hallway filled with cats.
For the vast majority of the time, I had so much fun. It didn’t need to match its predecessors to achieve that. I have spent the last three days crouched in shadows, terrified of light, giggling with glee as I evade the gazes of patrolling enemies (some of whom even deliver a proper Thiefy “Doo be doo be doo”!), and stuffing every twinkly candlestick and golden pair of scissors I could find into my trousers.
Some will be furious about one aspect or other, and they will be loud about it on the internet. The context sensitive jump/climb/swoop button is going to be the launch pad that fires a lot of people out of the game in abject fury. But the truth is, I’ve had a fantastic time playing it. For where it falls short, it far more often had me crouched in a shadow, heart racing, waiting for the perfect moment to dart past a guard’s routine. It may be the fourth best Thief game, but it’s a damned fine game in its own rights.
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