Despite the singular title, Thief stands as the fourth game in a franchise that has lain dormant since 2004. This long mooted revival of the cult classic has fallen under the domain of Eidos Montreal, the team that brought us 2011’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a notable progeny of the original Thief series. Yet despite those seemingly safe hands, it’s notable just how much Eidos have fumbled this particular iteration.
After a forgettable first hour of oppressive funneling, along with a pretty flimsy central plot, Thief eventually gets started on what is the first of eight core chapters. While these chapters have a main goal and multiple strategies in which to achieve it, the overall feeling is, again, one of containment. It’s rare that you feel you’re approaching a mission in any kind of novel way which is a real pity for any stealth-based game, let alone one that lays claim to having birthed the genre.
Further issues arise with enemy AI, which is routinely ropey, uneven and often game-breaking. In-game dialogue also suffers from poor writing and some notable glitches, leading to multiple guards talking over each other in an obviously unintentional way. Combat, meanwhile, is a cumbersome chore. Perhaps this is intentional in order to propagate stealth play, but when you are inevitably spotted by a psychic, owl-eyed guard, don’t expect to fight your way out of your pickle with any style or grace.
However, the main hub of ‘The City’ offers a little more scope for broad play, while returning protaganist Garrett’s new parkour abilities are a welcome and fun addition. Furthermore, modern gaming’s predilection for ramming a single-player campaign with oodles of useless, game-extending junk actually makes some sense within this world; you are a thief after all, and one in a quite opulent city. Levelling up also feels quite organic, with Garrett eschewing the typical ‘feeble novice’ starting point that such games often command.
It’s perhaps unfair to compare and lambast Thief against games that the series itself has spawned. Yet ten years in obsolesence is a long time in the gaming world, especially one bustling with the likes of Splinter Cell, Deus Ex and even Assassin’s Creed. Long-term fans may gain more enjoyment from this revival, but in the main, Thief seems unlikely to steal many hearts. [Darren Carle]