Thief PS3 User Review
Super Gamer Dude
As a genre, it has always seemed like stealth came and went as it pleased, much as the characters within these games often do to elude detection. Right now, we seem to be in a rather good phase for the stealth game in general. Between the introduction of new mechanics in independent games like Mark of the Ninja, the creation of exciting new franchises like Dishonored, or the return of storied franchises of yore like Metal Gear Solid or Splinter Cell, there is a lot for Stealth gamers to love. Sadly, the latest version of one of the older stealth franchises there is, Thief, is not one of these games.
The Thief games have been going for almost a full decade, and in the early days of preview coverage, it looked like Thief was going to be able to implement new mechanics from games such as Dishonored while still maintaining the feeling of a Thief game. Sadly, it seems like the constant rumors of serious development problems were well-founded, and there are countless issues that plague what is a game that maintains an interesting concept at its core.
Drawing a comparison between this game and the still somewhat recent Dishonored is almost a bit eerie. Both games involve rather similar plots involving a plague and some sort of dark voodoo magic behind everything, and Thief borrows quite a few ideas from Dishonored, including the existence of several small hub worlds within which are story missions as well as a selection of different side missions that the main character Garrett can choose to undertake or not.
The problem with Thief trying to use these mechanics is that it uses the same high roofs and narrow walkways without considering the fact that it is lacking the one thing that made traversing Dishonoreds world fun, the magical powers. Sure, at the core of Thiefs story lies some magical conspiracy that even after finishing the game remains a bit murky to me, but none of that really manifests itself within the gameplay, leaving you to clumsily search for ways to get up on roofs using context sensitive button presses.
Those button prompts are just the beginning of how Thief seems to constrain you, though. Whereas the older Thief games, particularly the first one, created a sort of open world even within the enclosed spaces of homes and sewer tunnels, every time the player enters a mission in this new Thief, they make a transition from a semi-open hub world to a painfully linear set of hallways and rooms. There is some freedom to how you deal with enemies, but the easy way out is always just to sneak up behind them and knock them out, which isnt hard thanks to the awful enemy AI.
Even stealing things in this new Thief feels wrong. Every time you would steal something in the older Thief games, it felt like a big score, like you were really achieving something. Here, Garrett is stealing literally everything that he can get his hands on from single gold coins to handheld mirrors. Instead of feeling like a master thief, Garrett instead feels like an insane kleptomaniac roaming through the city looking to steal garbage.
Even though the franchise is older than that of Dishonored, everything about this new Thief game feels like it was cribbed from Dishonored and then immediately made worse. Thief feels like what a cheaply produced knock-off version of Dishonored might feel like, and that is its biggest problem. If you like any number of the ideas that Thief puts forward, try out Dishonored.
When it comes to first person stealth games, Thief is always one of the first games that people think of. Among the PC audience, Thief is considered a timeless classic, a game that despite its rather advanced age is still very playable today. The series declined over the years somewhat, but they remained passable. Sadly, this new Thief game has not done much to stray from that passable moniker and if it has shifted in quality at all, it has certainly moved into the realm of the bad game.
Thief is set in the same environment that it has always been set in, a monolithic Victorian/steampunk city known only as The City. The entire aesthetic, everything from the visuals to the sound feels very similar to old Thief games. That said, this is about where the similarities to older Thief games end.
Instead, the moment you begin playing Thief it stops feeling like a classic Thief game and begins to feel like Dishonored through and through. You could argue that Dishonored came after all of the older Thief games, and youd be right, but there is just an unshakable feeling that the new Thief is somehow an ersatz Dishonored in everything from the world to the gameplay.
Far worse than that, even some of the best parts of Thief, such as the environments, have some pretty serious flaws. These flaws include strange glitches in collision as well as the frustrating inability to ascend to the roofs anywhere. Everything about the agility of Thiefs traversal has been made contextual, and that makes the game feel extremely limited in scope.
The audio design is fantastic when its working properly, but there were countless times as I played through the game that the mixing of the audio tracks seemed to be nonexistent. I would be forced to listen to background music instead of dialogue and environment noises wouldn't seem to come from anywhere in particular. The lack of sound placement in particular seems to happen throughout the game, making many of the stealth sections unnecessarily difficult.
The voice acting thats found is almost always awful, everyone from the main characters down to the most basic guards alternatively seem to have absolutely no interest in what theyre doing and are far too excited about doing their job. There is no middle ground, and every single character stays at the same basic level of emotion throughout the entire game despite the state of the story.
Getting around in the game often feels like an awful chore. Each main story mission and side mission is linked together in a series of small hub worlds, but navigating through these hub worlds is nightmarish, there are no markers on the map, even when you mark a mission as active in your mission log. Instead, you are forced to use on-screen markers in gameplay to try and decipher how to get to your destination.
As a cross generation game, there are quite a few concerns about performance on the older consoles, but the fact is that Thief runs badly on every platform except the PC. At its best moments, the game looks stunning on PS4 and Xbox One, but those moments are few and far between.
In a world sorely lacking in first person stealth games, the idea of a new Thief game was very promising to a lot of people, but it seems that the torch is being carried by other games now. Fans of the series past will find very little to like and new fans will find even less.