I’ve been looking forward to Thief since 2009, back when it was revealed as Thief 4. I went into Thief with an open mind. I really did, but what I ended up playing was the opposite of what I was expecting. From the start, Thief is somewhat of a mess, and a lesson on why polish matters.
Thief is a first-person adventure stealth game in which you play as Garrett, a master thief, tasked with, well, stealing jewels, coins, trinkets — all kinds of valuables that reward you with money. You sleuth around in a city called “The City,” and try to avoid getting caught by enemy guards. The City seems ominous in a fascinating way at first because of its expert use of shadows to create a cloaked and stealthy atmosphere, but you’ll quickly learn that everything about this game is tightly isolated and locked down.
In true Square Enix tradition, Thief is an incredibly linear game that feels unnecessarily restricted in terms of level design. Why do windows and doors close shut on you once you enter rooms? Why can’t you go back out the window you just snuck in through? Instead of letting Thief’s Victorian/steampunk-inspired world breath, Square Enix has choked it to the point where I almost wanted to quit playing it before finishing the game’s eight chapters.
Thief’s stealth mechanics are a hit or a miss throughout the game. There will be times where you can easily sneak up and attack a guard and other times where multiple enemies will just seem insurmountable. And then there are times when the AI is just flat out unintelligent; like when enemies get stuck on walls or round corners after chasing you, but end up stuck on one another. Buggy doesn’t even begin to describe this game.
By far the most offensive aspect of the game is its inconsistency. How come I can climb certain walls and not others? Hide behind one crate, but not another? Or scale one fence and not other? It just doesn’t make any sense.
That said, there are some elements that stand out in Thief. For instance: swooping. Swooping is basically a quick dash which lets you speed by. Another feature I enjoyed was firing bows, but it too was very inconsistent in gameplay use.
Right off the bat, I found the controls to be too sensitive. I had to immediately tighten up the analog sensitivity just to stop myself from getting nauseous. (Adjust this if you feel the camera swings around too quickly.) Interestingly, using the touchpad on the DualShock 4 to bring up the item menu became intuitive after a few hours of play. I also found the use of the lightbar (it glows white when enemies detect you) was a nice subtle feature.
If the last generation of console gaming was defined by its excessive use of brown and gray in an attempt at pushing photorealism to its limit, then Thief is decidedly last-gen. It’s a muddy and shadowy game that uses lighting particles to create some quick pizzazz, but it quickly becomes bland and uninspiring as you progress through the game’s seemingly lazy sea of brown levels.
While the game runs at 1080p resolution on PlayStation 4 (only 900p on Xbox One) and at 30 frames per second, there are frequent glitches and frame stutter issues that pop up randomly. I hate to ask, but did anyone actually do quality tests on this game?
To add more insult to the glitchy graphics, the audio syncing is just shoddy. I haven’t seen dialogue this badly synced to character models in a big budget game in a long time.
THIEF falls short of all expectations. It’s incredibly confusing map levels and gated design make this game worth a rent, and that’s only if you don’t end up with a headache, angrily throwing the controller on the floor at the oftentimes brainless AI and annoying loading screens.Buy it!
The Good: Decent graphics if you don’t mind the lack of color. DualShock 4 lightbar feature is nice addition.
The Bad: Locked-down, linear design. Frequent loading screens. Poorly synced audio and music. Buggy enemy AI.