Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Format: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
When it works, it’s great.
Starting off THIEF’s nosedive is the plot, which is by far the weakest point of the game. It’s a whole new story so all the ties to the older games have been cut. You venture off to a simple snatch and grab mission, but of course things go wrong. Your apprentice Erin screws thing up and it results with you slipping into a coma for a year, the city becoming even more of a hell hole of the menacing Gloom and Erin going missing. Who will save the city now, I wonder..? At first I was okay with the story. It had some predictable moments, but the main focus was on stealth, which I liked. Only towards the end of the game, when the stakes got higher the focus quietly changes from stealth to action. And if you are still thinking you could get behind these plot points, then the end will finally make you cringe of how bad this story is. Though, it was a nice little tweak seeing how the city changed in looks when things got darker.
The story is divided into chapters, each chapter is ranked with one of three: Ghost, opportunist or predator. The rank depends on how you play the game. Sneak all the way, you are a ghost etc. The system doesn’t give you any bonuses on your achieved rank aside from gold, so playing through the missions multiple times isn’t really encouraged.
When beginning a mission it mostly has three approaches. The obvious one, one high route and one low route. All roads aren’t accessible without your equipment and the game really gives you a feeling of accomplishment when you find a sneaky tunnel avoiding most of the guards. Unfortunately these levels consist only in the first half of the game. Towards the end of Garrett’s journey you will scavenge through more linear paths and more increasing enemy hordes. It’s a challenge, but the bugs described later make it a bit frustrating, especially if you want to be a ghostly thief. That isn’t saying that the action sequences where you leap from building to building aren’t great, but compared to the freedom the first levels give you, it feels disappointing.
All of the missions happen in the city which also serves as a HUB world for the game. It has a very grim tone it on purpose, yet it feels dead in a wrong way. The city is divided into districts and the entries to these are annoyingly random. “Use the door? Sure. Now you can’t use it, use a sewer. No, no sewer. Find the house which connects the districts and go through there” Then throw in loading screens that always happen when you change districts, sometimes even when breaking into a house! The in-game map tries to show you the way, but it’s just a bunch of small layout maps colliding into each other resulting in a mess.
But at least once in the city you’re free to explore its secrets (mostly empty streets), progress the story or complete various side missions the city has has to offer. Side missions are one of the best parts about THIEF. Short or medium in length get-in-find-loot-get-out jobs that sometimes require brains, but always reward you in the form of gold, which then can be used to purchase upgrades to equipment or supplies.
A thief is nothing without his equipment and Garrett does have a worthy arsenal at his disposal. A wide variety of different arrows like fire, water and explosive for diversion purposes and straight up big bang arrows for combat. But the bad combat play will still encourage you to stick to the shadows. Other equipment include a razor tool for valuable paintings, a wire cutter for disarming traps and a wrench. I would suggest getting these as soon as possible, since they will open more paths in the missions. And they’re also needed, if you want to just goof around the HUB city and find every secret area and collectible.
THIEF also has in addition to the three basic difficulty settings a custom setting which lets you tweak various parts of the game. It starts from easy tasks such as ‘no reticle’ or ‘no focus’ (THIEF’s supervision) and goes all the way to ‘no kills’, ‘no alarms’, ‘no damage’. If any of the above should happen, then restart from the last savepoint or, if you have the appropriate setting turned on… start the whole game over. Each task has a score and by the end of the your playthrough all points and bonuses are counted and you are ranked. There’s nothing more to it than leaderboards, but for the long THIEF fans this is a great option, if you think the game’s too easy and want a real challenge.
Then again, challenge and frustration are two different things. Challenge is sneaking around guards without letting them know you were ever there. Frustration is when these said guards can spot you from the shadows unbelievable far away or guards bugging out and having an animation loop in front of the door you must access. The only way to get the guard moving is either expose yourself or reloading the previous save. Beyond these bugs there are less angry, minor ones. Audio is frequently off-sync and NPCs speak all their dialogue at the same time, thus confusing the player. Addition to that sometimes the levels load the textures a bit slow, resulting in small lag at the beginning of the level.
Overall THIEF is sadly mediocre. If you can forgive the annoying HUB city with its frustrating map, numerous glitches and straight up bugs for that brief moment when everything just clicks… go for it. Otherwise, wait for a price drop.