GET YOUR GAME ON: Despite its problems, ‘Thief’ steals back stealth genre

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First Posted: 3/17/2014

The “Thief” series is one of the grandfathers of the “stealth” genre of video games and has been away from the public eye for over a decade. Now “Thief” is back in a new reboot on next generation consoles.

The original “Thief: The Dark Project” (released in 1999) pretty much created this genre of games; it was the first game to use both light and sound as gameplay mechanics and one of the first to only use a first-person camera view. Not only did it create a genre, but it really challenged what people thought of first-person shooters. “Thief’s” influence can be seen in later stealth/action games, such as “Splinter Cell,” “Hitman,” “Dishonored,” “Assassin’s Creed,” and countless other games.

The protagonist of the original series is back. Garrett is a “master thief” who is on a mission to steal from the rich; he must stick to the shadows and use any stealth tactic at his disposal to sneak in and get out without getting caught. Garrett is not very good in a fight, so violence should be a last resort. You need to be patient and observant to figure out how the guard patrols are moving around, allowing you to sneak in undetected. Similar to last year’s “Dishonored” game, one of the extra challenges you can undertake is completing missions without killing anyone. Having a nonlethal play-through is a really difficult challenge, but you have several tools and abilities to make it possible.

Every guard you come across has a mind of his own; they all have their own AI and move around independently, so each guard you encounter is like a puzzle in itself. All of the gameplay is choice-driven; each level has several different paths and ways to approach each challenge. Players may use the environment to their advantage and have the ability to pickpocket from guards and other characters. If you are caught, the guards will use whatever means necessary to flush you out of hiding, and they know where the hiding spots are.

Garrett is truly a master and has several tools at his disposal. The most handy of his abilities is the “focus” ability, which enhances his vision, allowing him to spot things that can be climbed, candles that can be snuffed out to create darkness to hide in, and even important things in the room you want to steal. Focus can also slow down time, allowing you to pickpocket easier; later on in the game, you can buy focus upgrades that let you push enemies over and even do brutal attacks. Garrett’s main weapon is a compound bow, which can be used to kill guards, create distractions, or even as a grapple to give you a way to climb. You can also use the money you collect throughout the missions to upgrade your weapons and buy new tools to help you along the way.

The story in “Thief” is not really its strong suit, but it is interesting. Garrett has a companion named Erin. During one of his heists to collect a magic stone, things go south and his friend is sucked up by the stone and he is knocked out. Garrett wakes up and decides he needs to find out what happened and where Erin went. It isn’t the best plot, but it does work to string together each of the missions, making you want to know what is coming next. Also, the voice acting isn’t great, but it’s passable. Another interesting thing in the game is that there are some cat-and-mouse sequences where you have to run and hide; these sections are spontaneous and can become very intense. There are also several hidden gems and collectibles to find in each of the missions, creating a ton of replayability.

Overall, I liked “Thief.” My biggest concern is it seems a bit dated because most of the gameplay feels like it has been done before, but that is because so many other games have come out that steal from the “Thief” series. I was reluctant to get this game because it is so much like “Dishonored,” but it does differentiate itself and is fun to play.

If you like stealth games, then you should definitely play this game; “Thief” has some of the best stealth mechanics around. If you are looking for a hardcore action game, this isn’t for you; it is very slow-paced and methodical. If you are looking for something interesting to play on a next-gen console, you might want to check out “Thief.” It is one of the best stealth games released in a while, and it is a great reboot of a classic series.