Destined to bring new life into an old franchise, Thief fails to bring life to anything.
The main problem with Thief, is that it lacks polish. The characters lack emotion, the city itself looks bland and uninspiring in any way and the frame-rate dips during fast paced cut-scenes. Hell, one of the very first cut-scenes in the game that can be seen within the first hour, is one of the most choppy scenes I’ve ever watched in a high budget video game. Nothing about this world is attractive to look at. Even though it is a plague ridden city, you couldn’t tell by looking at it. Everything corridor in the city looks the same. The bad design left the game feeling like it was rushed out the door with the publisher not caring about the quality of their product.
The visuals are bad, the characters are bad and the audio is bad… Good lord, the audio is bad; like, ridiculously bad. Our thief, Garrett, has a monotone voice. Its like he’s putting minimal effort into a basic task: speaking. Words are barely secreting out of his mouth, as if he is uninterested with basic human contact. I guess that sort of makes sense for a thief who sticks to the shadows, but man is it boring to sit through. Don’t expect more depth from other characters either, mundane voice acting plague and bog down an already abysmal story. The audio woes don’t stop there though; subtitles don’t always match up with the spoken dialog, the soundtrack’s volume will spike at times drowning out any dialog at all, and the soundtrack is generic and bland. It seems as if the game only has two scores: one while you are sneaking, and the other when you’re being chased. You don’t notice it initially, but after the eight to ten hours it takes to beat the game, you’ll never want to hear those sounds again.
The level design of the chapters are boring and unimaginative. To compare it to another stealth-action game like Dishonored, Thief is deceptively linear. The game makes you think you have options as to where you want to go, but it isn’t close to being as open as it should be. You can only climb certain objects and rope arrows can only be used where the game wants you to use it. Entering new areas will always be slowed down by loading screens disguised as a quick time event. You’re not actually prying open a window, you’re pressing a button until the game loads the area. Side missions are hidden behind these windows and become the bane of your existence; you’ll be avoiding the better designed side missions because the game is basically stone-walling you. The same thing applies when you navigate through narrow pathways. The game slows down significantly and you always have to lift the same wooden plank out of your way to get to the next area. There is no avoiding this. Why? Because the game is loading the next area. Limitations like this constrain Thief, making it feel like a closed-open world.
Now, I know the optimal form of enjoyment in this game is found when you try to sneak through it all, but I experimented with my play style throughout the game. On normal difficulty, you can literally run through the entire game and get away with it. In chapters 4-6 (the game has eight chapters), with the smallest application of stealth, I managed to “Leeroy Jenkins” most of those three chapters. Staying to the shadows is the most effective method, but it feels cheap. You’re almost invisible as long as you’re sitting in a shadow; no matter how close the A.I is to you. They should still be able to see you if they are looking straight at you from two feet away, even if you’re in the shadows. This leads me to my next complaint about Thief: Its horrid A.I. Enemy guards couldn’t detect their own mother in broad daylight. Even if they do detect you, they’ll get stuck behind a box, lose you within seconds or you can simply out run them with no effort. If guards do engage you in combat, get ready for an inadequate time. Combat is ridiculously clunky since Garrett has nothing more than a baton to knockout his sword-wielding enemies. You can only dodge then counterattack with the nightstick until your foe is down (usually takes five hits or so). Again, I know this is a stealth game, but there is no excuse for poor combat mechanics.
And finally, the most important element of Thief, is of course, thievery. Garrett will steal everything that isn’t nailed down, but that isn’t always a good thing. Garrett will go through countless cabinets and drawers only to find spoons, letter openers and small coins. More valuable objects are harder to find, but picking up these small trinkets every five seconds made Garrett feel nothing more than a petty thief. Using “focus” is almost required since you’ll be fumbling around to find switches, valuables and pathways. Focus highlights important things in the environment but hardcore players will no doubt want to turn it off. If you can stand searching every brick in a room to advance, turning it off and increasing the difficulty is recommended for a more realistic experience.
You can tell within the first hour of the game that Thief lacks basic polish needed to make a standard video game. The visuals will make your eyes lazy, audio will make your ears sad and the story will make your brain rot. Decent stealth mechanics are hindered by dumb enemies and poor level design. I’m aware that Dishonored came after the original Thief and took elements from that game, but this version of Thief isn’t even close to matching the greatness of those two games.
Overall: 4.5 out of 10
Thanks for reading. I know I was very harsh in my review but I know that other folks will disagree with the lower score. If you can, give me some reasons as to why Thief deserves a higher score. Have a swell day!