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'Thief' Video Game Review: Is It Worth Your Loot?

27/02/2014 14:55 GMT | Updated 03/03/2014 16:59 GMT

'Thief' (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, PC) is a stealth-action adventure out now.

Key Features:

  • Tense, thoughtful stealth gameplay
  • Fully customisable experience for experts and casual players
  • Huge number of side-quests and missions
  • Varied tasks and excellent next-gen graphics

The Pitch:

"Become one with the world thanks to ground-breaking visual elements and a truly tactile and visceral first-person experience. Through jaw-dropping Next-Gen technical possibilities, THIEF delivers unprecedented immersion through sights, sounds and artificial intelligence."

square enix

Verdict:

'Thief' is a reboot of the classic stealth-action video game trilogy which first appeared back in 1998, and instantly won a die-hard fanbase for its difficult, no-compromises gameplay and focus on hiding in the shadows rather than over-the-top violence.

Set in a sort of dark, rainy, Victorian-medieval steampunk fantasy world, though one populated entirely by American voice actors, you're cast as Garrett - master thief, denizen of clock-towers and general goth-about-town. Your task? Sneak about in the first-person, steal coins and jewellery from people's homes, and stop some kind of alterna-world disease apocalypse from having ever occurred while avenging the life of your former apprentice/romantic interest, also a thief, who disappears into a weird magical cloud at the start of the game, for some reason.

That might sound like a dismissive summary of the game's story, but it isn't really, because the story - and the writing overall - is total rubbish, and by far the worst thing about the game. Generic twists and lazy dialogue aside, it's also horribly thoughtless and crass. Take the guards. Since Garret spends a lot of his time watching guards from dark corners, you'll also end up listening to a lot of their chatter. But instead of atmosphere-deepening context, or funny interludes, their conversations are just banal. In one early moment, two guards have an enthusiastic discussion about"dongs" (their word) and how to tie them in knots. It's like an American Pie script filtered through an episode of Ripper Street.

There's also a range of audio bugs that mean NPCs repeat dialogue endlessly, and you can hear it in totally random places. It wrecks the game's sense of tension and has to be fixed, as soon as possible.

Where the game succeeds, and it does, mostly - is in its core gameplay. Everything which is crucial to the game - stealth, problem solving and escaping over rooftops - is fun and well executed.

Most of the levels involve infiltrating a building - through any means you can think of - stealing something important and getting out. The tools you're given to do this are broad, and range from different types of arrows and weapons to the environment itself, and you do have freedom to build your own 'style' of gameplay. You can turn off everything from waypoints to mission prompts, and no one should be afraid that they'll be forced to play in a certain way. Proving divisive for fans so far is the fact that the movement is contextual - there's no real 'jump' button, though you can usually 'swoop' into dark corners at moments of panic - but problems aside it's fluid and simple. The levels are massive and intricate, too, and there's a real sense of progression. But it can be frustrating - you'll fail, and fail often, and figuring out what to do is by no means always obvious.

And, alas, the core mechanics are also not without bugs. Guards don't appear to collide with each other properly, and if you hide in a closet they'll run and stand in front of you, unable to open the door, merging with each other into one multi-armed mess of pixels. This is one example, but it's not an isolated one. There's never a sense that this is a real world with real, intelligent actors - it's a video game, and it's buggy.

Despite that, it's also quite interesting and deep in its best moments, and fans of stealth games will find a lot to love. It's not as innovative as Dishonored, but it's more focused, and it will probably last longer in the minds of those who forgive its flaws.

3starstechdarkblue