It's been a long time since gamers got to sneak through the shadows as master thief Garrett. With the introduction of a new line of powerful consoles comes powerful technology, which helps breath new life into some long lasting franchises. Garrett gets a new lease on life through a 2014 reboot that places him in the type of dark and gloomy atmosphere that he thrives in.
Garret's new setting is simply known as "The City," a downtrodden place that's rife with poverty, sickness and ruled by a totalitarian individual known as "The Baron." Garret and a fellow female master thief start out together during a typical job, but things go awry when that female thief seemingly dies. Garrett ends up unconscious and soon finds himself back home. Things have taken a turn for the worse though, as the ruling Baron has turned Garret's hometown from a once thriving locale to a depressing environment. Garret has no recollection of what occurred during his last botched heist, so he now sets out to find out what happened to him, his partner and his city.
The plot is simple and Garret's motivations for discovering the truth are easy to comprehend. The majority of Garret's stealthy romps through the city are interesting enough and move at a manageable pace. What keeps the overall story from getting you more involved is the subpar voice acting and boring nature of some of the cities' denizens you'll interact with. Garret himself is a cool character to follow throughout the game as you lead him towards his goal, but stopping along the way and speaking with such bland allies and enemies may keep you from getting too invested in "The City" itself.
Thief is a dark and atmospheric game that adopts the architecture associated with Victorian and steampunk design. "The City" looks and sounds as it should. It's filled with cobblestone streets, dark alleyways, street lamps lying around in rare parts of each hub world, officers on duty trailing the streets, homeless and sick citizens suffering in dark corners etc. These factors makes Thief's settings feel more alive, as NPC's talk amongst themselves and most buildings allow you to enter them and search for valuable secrets/treasure. You'll find yourself in several varied locations that all look even more amazing on a next-gen console and powered up PC. Thief simply looks great and adopts its environmental theme quite well.
Thief works pretty well in the audio department as well. A game that's based on stealth lives or dies by its audio capabilities. Luckily, Thief stays alive in that department. Garret's slow and steady walk is reflected by his quiet footsteps and his quick glide yields the "whooshing" sound effect that you'd expect to hear. When you let off an arrow, lockpick a door or sneak behind a unaware bodyguard, the audio works well in conjunction with the gameplay mechanics itself. What you see and what you and your enemies hear are all of equal importance in Garret's new quest. The only gripe that you'll have with the game's audio is the annoying use of repeated lines of dialogue for most of the game's NPC's.
Thief is the type of game that awards creativity, stealthiness and discovery. Garret is a top notch thief, which means he has access to a slew of moves and gadgets that allow him to move through the shadows unscathed. Controlling Garret takes some getting used to at first. Thief moves away from the traditional control scheme of modern FPS's by moving the run button to the left trigger and the aiming/shooting to the right trigger. Once you become acclimated with these controls, the rest should come easy. You'll be hopping and climbing up on rooftops with ease.
The bulk of Thief revolves around main story missions, sub missions that are given out by several characters and various heist jobs that are handed out by Garret's close confidant. There's so much to do, see and steal thanks to the healthy offering of jobs that come your way. One minute, you'll be sent to retrieve a mechanical hand for a local technician. Another minute, you'll be inside someone's home as you look to steal some random collectibles lying around in wait. There's never a dull moment as you take control of a master thief.
Hardcore enthusiasts of the Thief series and newcomers will both be pleased by this reboot. The difficulty can be set to custom parameters and offer the type of adventure that vets and beginners will have no problem enjoying. The game's new "Focus" vision, which allows Garret to spot highlighted enemies/locations/items, does make the game an easier and more approachable affair. But with great risk comes great rewards. Most of the newer features can be turned off, which grants players a higher placing on the leaderboards when they don't use them. The addition of isolated missions, sub-challenges within those missions and the grades that players receive after completing them lends some competitive qualities to the single-player campaign.
Thief feels satisfying in several ways. It ultimately feels great when you wipe out a house of all it's treasure without alerting the guards. You'll feel a rush of urgency as you quickly dodge some militant cops after you're spotted. You'll crack a smile every time you come upon a secret alleyway that houses a massive treasure chest. And you'll get your "AH HA!" moments when you locate the switches lying behind portraits and bookshelves. What isn't as satisfying is the sometimes inattentive nature of the AI. Sometimes you'll lay right in their line of sight and they won't even spot you. And the sense of realism gets taken away when the cops you just laid out in an area before are magically restored once you leave that area for a short while. The game's loading times are also a detriment to the Thief experience. It takes far too long to hop back into the game quickly since it takes forever to load a new area.
Thief's reboot is an overall success. The stealth heavy gameplay is still intact, the dark and damp atmosphere looks great and Garret handles like the expert thief that he is. Getting to the bottom of "The City's" descent into depression will lead you into a fulfilling plot that pushes forward at a smooth pace. What keeps Thief from being a truly top-tier release is the sometimes blind AI, long load times and abundance of bland characters. Nevertheless, Thief is still a worthy adventure worth sneaking into.