Thief is a much needed revival of the Thief series, which many fans of the franchise will take with open arms. It may not be the Thief 4 that many fans were hoping for, but it does however show some of the capabilities of the Xbox One, in particular relation to the appearance of lighting and shadows within the game, which forms a large proportion of the gameplay mechanics.
Stealth is the core mechanic behind the title as you play as master thief Garrett, a mysterious character who plays a role similar to Robin Hood, stealing from the rich but for his own gain. The plot doesn’t really thicken much more, other than what you already know from the start. The only other addition to the storyline is that there’s some bad guy who goes by the name of ‘The Baron’ is out to stop your stealing ways and a suspicious journey as you learn about your former apprentice Erin.
Set within a dark city that reassembles Dishonored’s Dunwall, the settlement is crawling with disease known as ‘The Gloom’. The city is in turmoil and you’ll come across citizens who are sick and regularly refer to the plague and the harshness taking over the city. It’s what you come to expect from the plague, as the rich prosper and the poor are left to deal with the burden of it. It might seem harsh, but Garrett is left to witness and walk on by as a bystander, as he has more important matters to deal with, one of them being the rich.
Initially, the game does start off slow for the first half hour or so, but once you get past the prologue section, the action really starts to pick up as you’re let off into the city to explore and complete quests. If you have the patience for it, the game can be very rewarding for a stealth game, especially for fans of the franchise or genre who have been waiting a long time to get stuck into some Thief action once again.
The game is divided into chapters for the main story, which take place across various parts of the city. After completing a chapter, you’re then returned to your hideout in the tower where you can look at your collection of stolen items and various documents you’ve happened to come by on your travels. Thief offers players some freedom, but it’s not quite on the scale of a Mirror’s Edge free running experience, but rather shoot a rope arrow at the glowing spot and you’ll be able to climb up to a ledge to gain some additional loot or access to a secret room.
There are plenty of secrets to discover within the city and although they’re not always obvious to spot, you can use your focus mode to highlight them if you suspect there’s something nearby. This will display any traps in red and anything else of interest such as items to steal or hidden switches in blue. You also have a focus bar which you can fill by collecting a glowing blue flower, which are scattered all over the city.
Thief’s stealth element comes straight into play as soon as you’re dumped into the grubbiness of the city. Shadows form the largest hiding spot in the game, but the clever level design also allows Garrett to hide above ground on ledges or inside a conveniently placed cupboard ready to pounce out on a passing enemy guard. In addition to this level design, the AI are also well adapted to the environments presented in front of them and will attempt to hunt players down if they catch sight of you. Shadows will always be your best friend and even though that may not seem too realistic, it’s necessary to act as a form of stealth otherwise there just wouldn’t be any at all other than hiding behind a crate.
One of the main issues with the AI though comes in the form of spotting. Very often than not, guards will attempt to chase you if they discover you, but you can lose them inside a cupboard instantly, as they’ll just stand outside the door for a few seconds, and if you’re quick enough you’ll be able to knock them to the ground using the force of the door to hit them down. This method was adopted several times for dealing with detection; in fact I think I even managed to get a triple kill using this method all in one attempt, so it shows a particular flaw in the AI mechanics. Another area to focus on are their walk paths, which are very predictable, therefore making it easy to bypass guards just by watching their patrols for a minute.
In terms of replay value, there is just about enough to keep you playing for around 15+ hours. If you’re a hunter of collectables too, then you’re probably going to spend even longer exploring the city for that last hidden gem. The main story though is very short and you’ll probably only spend at least five or six hours at max, however there are numerous side missions to carry you onwards.
Having only played this title on the Xbox One, there were a few occasional performance issues in relation to the shadow and lighting, which is understandable considering the newness of the hardware and unfamiliarity that this would pose to the developers Eidos Montreal. And then the number of loading screen also hindered the experience.
Overall, Thief manages to capture the majority of the gameplay back from the 1998 title Thief: The Dark Project, but it also injects a shot of liveliness into the experience to give players something fresh. Some of the action goes a little over the top sometimes in a Call of Duty fashion, which is a shame because Thief was never on that scale, but as a first stab in the dark on the Xbox One, it isn’t a bad attempt. Think of this as a learning curve ready for future titles in the series, whenever that will arrive that is.
- The harshness of the city is portayed well
- Plenty to build on for future Thief titles
- Good level design
- Too many loading screens
- Short main story
- Performance issues