Modern Review: Thief (Xbox 360)

Review-Thief-360The Thief series has been lurking in the shadows since 1998 when it debuted to huge success on the PC. It was the thieves knees of stealth 'n' steal skulk aroundom. After its decline which consisted of two more sequels, the imaginatively titled 'Thief' was announced in 2009. Some how five years passed by and the game was eventually released in 2014 and was initially regarded as one of the big AAA next generation titles to grace the Xbox One and PS4. The press and bandwagon YouTuber comments alike turned on it and copies upon copies were ironically pawned off faster than lead protagonist Garrett could shift ten candlesticks all in one go at Cash Converters. That doesn't mean that this first person action stealth game is bad however...

The story consists of Garrett and his emotionally angst ridden female sidekick Erin who are snooping around a manor rooftop on a job, happenstance being they come across some sort of ritual taking place. Erin being the generic 'Rage you I won't do what you tell me!' breaks rank and falls through the glass ceiling and gets enveloped by the magic gathering. Garrett awakens a year later (who fed him or scrubbed his undies in that time is anyone's guess) and in that time a plague called The Gloom has spread across the Victorian, Steampunk vista. With little clues to follow, he sets off in search of the missing Erin, stealing absolutely anything shiny in the process.

Controlling Garrett around the open city is a breeze. He can glide in and out of shadows with ease and free running has been cool since 2008 so there is plenty of that thrown into the mix. Holding the trigger will have him sliding, climbing and scrabbling across rooftops and it feels satisfying. The player has a bow with a variety of arrow types to use - standard pointy stabby things for murder, water to douse torchlight for easier stealthing, rope to attach to specific points above for climbing and explosive ones which do severe damage but warrant attention of patrolling guards. All come in handy at different points, the fun is in the experimenting. To get him out of a tight spot, Garrett has a blackjack to knock assailants out, so once you are done being a kleptomaniac on a guards' purse strings, you can then bop him over the head, carry him off and chuck him in the sea. So long as no one sees right? A bit of a cop out, but it does come in useful, is Garrett's thief vision. It highlights stealables and other interactive parts of the scenery that can be used. This can only be used sparingly though as it has a meter that runs out so it is wise to use quickly or when absolutely necessary. Garrett takes on missions and side quests by talking to various NPCs around the city, of which can't decide if they are cockney or American. Why the moment something Victorian in style immediately connotes cockneyisms in gaming is beyond me, the poor dialogue and even worse lip synch luckily doesn't deteriorate the main fun of the game... stealing.

Review-Thief-360-Screenshot

There is nothing more satisfying than looting an entire building without a guard noticing whilst extinguishing candle light, searching for secret safes, picking locks, disarming traps and opening every cupboard drawer and secret passage imaginable. Most missions have numerous ways of completing them offering a decent chunk of replay value for those ever impressive speed runs. There is a moment of zen that doesn't happen often, but when it does feels like the player is one with Garrett. That is until the map screen is needed, the city being split into various parts with objectives being strewn amongst them. What isn't on the map are the exits to get to the next section. It could be a door or a high up window - it becomes frustrating navigating around especially opening the wrong window and forcing the game to load. A marker on the map would have been a welcome addition as this really lets the hub section down. I can put up with AI looping and respawning as the game would fast become stale with a lack of interaction, but simply getting about can be a chore when you have gone the wrong way for the fifth time.

Luckily Thief makes up for it with the missions and their locales. From brothels, bank vaults, studio apartments, shops and prisons each is varied and looks the part. The game even ramps up during a trip to the local offshore mental asylum where it becomes a really atmospheric horror game for an hour! For every positive however there are bumbling negatives that follow. I love the fact that Garrett doesn't have a sword and that the best defence is escape, but the guards just give up chase the second he is out of sight or when the incidental music finishes. The game world looks great but the character models are flat and ugly looking. The music is haunting and fits the misty dank streets perfectly, but then an NPC's dialogue will loop and loop and then loop on top of itself whilst looping - the game was in development for five years! My biggest gripe though and this is more sarcastic than an issue, but if the townsfolk are all so poor, homeless or desolate then why do I keep finding money everywhere? There's always something to buy in the shop and you never stockpile cash but seriously people go on a scavenger hunt instead of complaining, sat in a ditch full of coin! Stupid taffers.

Considering Thief is now at a bargain bin price, I happily recommend it. If you are into stealth with a few puzzles chucked in for measure then it won't disappoint. Also if rummaging for collectibles is your bag, Thief has it in spades. It won't set the world on fire and it isn't on par with Dishonoured, but at least its something to pass the time before Dishonoured 2 is out.

Thief (Xbox 360) Gameplay


 

James 'ewjim' Evans

Jim is a self confessed know it all when it comes to 16-bit gaming. With a strange fondness of playing rubbish videogames for the fun of it, there is no stoop too low he won't go to for entertainment.

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