Thief 4 Review
Way back in 1998 “Thief: The Dark Project” arrived on PC . This game did for stealth games what Wolfenstein 3D, and to a greater extent Doom, did for FPS. The premise was simple; Garrett the master thief went slinking through shadows to achieve his objectives silently and without violence where possible. His handy blackjack made all sorts of good thunking sounds though when employed judiciously. The original game was followed up with Thief 2: The Metal Age in 2000 and Thief: Deadly Shadows in 2004. Fast forward ten whole years and the much anticipated Thief hits the shelves on 28 February 2014.
So the big questions is: Is it any good? I’m coming down on the side of saying yes, it is.
From the moment the game loads on PS4 the high res graphics look quite impressive. Not exactly “next-gen” but the lighting and atmospherics are good enough to draw you in with crisp detail on textures. We also get some nice rain and water effects accentuating the torches lit during the night time thunder storm. Quite impressive looking and it sets the mood nicely. We start with a simplistic prologue that introduces you to the mechanics, it does feel a little disjointed to be honest, and it sets the story up somewhat haphazardly. One thing of note is that for the first time in my gaming history – and we’re talking 1977 for consoles (Atari 2600) and 1982 for computers (ZX Spectrum) – the video cutscenes are actually less well rendered than the game itself. The other thing of note here is that Garrett, our main protagonist actually looks a bit like a butch emo chick. The voiceover is also not the original actor and for fans of the first series of games sounds a bit like he’s trying too hard. However, not a deal breaker and not too much to put up with.
The gameplay mechanics are really what Thief is about though. You’re introduced quite blatantly to Garrett’s preference to avoiding killing, and combat if he can, in the Prologue. Your best Thief experience will be sneaking from shadow to shadow and avoiding detection. Ramp up the difficulty if you want to try to regain what the original was about. Given you play in first person you’ve got a great sense of immersion which you don’t really get with the likes of Splinter Cell and Assassin’s Creed, fans of which will get what Thief is like to play quite quickly. In fact, Garrett’s running mechanic is quite Assassin’s Creed-esque. The Peek mechanic is really nice and as you’re playing in first person doesn’t break your immersion at all, rather it adds to it. You do feel like a sneaky so-and-so as you prowl about. Thieving does feel genuinely good though. From pickpocketing to rifling through drawers and cabinets, finding hidden safes and searching for clues for their combinations, you’ve got nice variety to your ways of filling your pockets.
The AI is one of the let-downs for me. Quite early on as you attempt to break into a particular establishment I found that you could literally run in circles around a small path and jump up on some boxes leaving your would-be killers totally flummoxed. And this is on Master difficulty. There is no doubt that should they catch you that they will kill you in a couple of blows but their reluctance to search or climb to obvious places is a bit of a let down.
Combat and associated mechanics are acceptable but nothing revolutionary. There is a rudimentary capability to dodge attacks but that’s not great if you’ve got two or three guards on you. Running away seems to be the best option and maybe that’s what the developers intended. Sneaking up to bosh someone with your cosh still doesn’t get old though.
The story, well it’s a bit of a muddle. I’ve found the game satisfying enough overall to brush over some obvious plot holes and just enjoy the ability to perfect my sneaking and stealing tomfoolery.
At retail of £55, this game would be too expensive but it can be had for around £35 online and at that price represents some good gameplay value. I’m keen to see what a patch and the follow up game might be like.
Pros: graphics, atmosphere and general sneakiness Cons: Iffy AI. not a great story