Critics Corner: Thief
The only thing more dangerous for a game developer and publisher than a sequel to a recent hit is a sequel or reboot of a classic game from yesteryear. It is a guarantee that not everyone will be happy with the results. Whether you’re making the next edition of an annual franchise, the second part of an uber popular trilogy or rebooting a classic from over a decade ago, you’re going to piss someone off. It’s just a matter of how many people are happy.
And that bring me to this week’s release of Thief. Some critics really liked it despite its flaws. One critic already gave it a spot on his top 10 games of 2014 list. Many considered it sort of “meh” while a few absolutely hated it. We’re used to opinions running the gambit with the truth lying somewhere in the middle. I’m not sure that applies to a 60-point spread in review scores.
So here’s what the critics thought of the rebooted Thief.
“Like [its] forebears, Thief is a first-person adventure game that casts you in the role of a larcenous leather-wearer named Garrett, a legendary thief who prefers to stick to the shadows, grab the loot, and avoid being seen whenever possible.” – Kotaku (No – PC)
“One fateful night, Garrett and his protege–a young woman named Erin–stumble upon The City’s generically vile Baron conjuring up an ancient power. Garrett, sensing this is a situation he can’t properly handle, tries to escape, but Erin plunges ahead and ends up crashing through the ceiling into the middle of this bizarre ritual. A lot of blue lights and smoke effects consume the screen, and suddenly… nothing. Garrett awakes on a cart full of dead bodies, only to discover he’s been asleep for the better part of a year. With no idea what’s happened, Garrett sets about uncovering the mystery of the ritual, Erin’s fate, and the terrible disease that’s gripped the whole of the city in his absence.” – Giant Bomb (4.0/10 – PC)
“It’s a good little tale grounded in reality with only a gentle dollop of fantasy to help further the intrigue. It’s told a bit too much through the hundreds of documents Garrett finds scattered around the city rather than more viewer-friendly expository cut-scenes, but the writing is interesting and the plot corkscrews in agreeably unpredictable fashion.” – National Post (9.0/10 – Xbox One)
“The story is incomprehensible shit.” – Rock, Paper, Shotgun (PC)
“The story felt forced and required so much reading between the lines, that half of the time I wasn’t quite sure what was really going on. Things that should have had some kind of impact, like the time frame between the prologue and the first chapter, were glazed over with ‘the next job,’ and Garrett would bound off to sneak in a window to steal some random pendant, or other ‘valuable’, without really questioning anything.” – PlayStation LifeStyle (5.5/10 – PS4)
“Garrett is good at stealing things, and at times, Thief tasks you with doing just that. Garrett’s a versatile guy. Along with a climbing hook and other tools, he has his own considerable agility, which allows him to leap over chest-high obstacles, cross gaps and generally get where he needs to be. A bizarre accident has also left him with a preternatural power called ‘focus.'” – Polygon (6.0/10 – XB1/PS4)
“The closest thing Garrett has to a superpower is his ability to focus, which evolves through the game. Tapping the focus button allows him to see more clearly, picking out important objects in the environment, or, later on, visually pinpointing the sound of approaching footsteps.” – National Post (9.0/10 – Xbox One)
“While it’s possible to play Thief on the offensive, knocking out security guards by dropping chandeliers onto their heads with a well-aimed arrow or choking them from behind, this is a game that rewards uncompromising stealth… Unlike Metal Gear Solid, there’s no range of options for a player to take when plotting a route forward. Nor is there anything like Dishonored’s suite of skills to facilitate stylish, expressive play. Instead, you can slide forwards a few feet in silence, crouch in the shadows or throw breakables to distract guards. Other than that, there’s little to do but cower and collect.” – Eurogamer (6.0/10 – Xbox One)
“Some of the campaign missions that follow the bland, supernatural-driven story take you to distinctive locations, like a colorful brothel and a genuinely creepy asylum. But too often the level design is claustrophobic and doesn’t leave much room to maneuver. They do have branching paths, and a handful of interesting puzzles, at least.” – IGN (6.8/10)
“Content-wise there’s a lot here to augment the roughly 10-hour campaign, as the optional underground network offers up a multitude of sidequests to take up your time. The other big addition is a fully-fledged Challenge Mode, which operates very similarly to Resident Evil’s ‘Mercenaries’ gametype — but with a focus on stealth instead of combat.” – Destructoid (7.5/10 – Xbox One)
“The NPC behaviour in general is where Thief falls down more often than not… There’s nothing dynamic or procedural – which is par for course, but easy to read. The guards themselves are automatons, repeating dialogue and actions, announcing loudly when they’re going to handily fall asleep, or occasionally standing like mannequins until their behavioural programming loops back round.” – God is a Geek (8.0/10 – PS4)
“When placed alongside the new ground broken by games like Far Cry 3, Mark of the Ninja, Gunpoint and Dishonored, Thief feels rigid, dull, and largely devoid of complexity or opportunities to improvise.” – Kotaku (No – PC)
“The level design, both in the cordoned-off story missions and the city itself, lures you into exploration with loot and various methods of traversal. A wrench tool unlocks vents, a special arrow will attach a climbing rope to special wooden beams overhead (though physics-defying inertia prevents the rope from swinging), and if all else fails some over-sharing type will have left a note about a secret pathway into the baron’s mansion.” – Joystiq (8.0/10 – PC)
“Exploration of The City is also stuttered by mini-loads that are masked with pointless QTEs. Many windows around town can be opened, but most require Garrett to wedge in a bar and meekly pry (read: mash X) until all the texture data for the room behind it has loaded. It sounds minor, but Thief as an experience is so flowing and momentum-based that watching Garrett struggle to pop open a window feels anti-characteristic. These two issues (the vague transition locations and loading areas) combine in a bad way too. While hunting for the window that takes you where you want to go, you’ll likely have to pry open many that lead nowhere… and guess what, you have to load again to come back. It’s annoying, and makes me wish for a version of this game that can flow freely without load times.” – Machinima (8.5/10 – Xbox One)
“Graphically, Thief is not the game that shows what next-gen can do. Impressive lighting and detailed environments are major boons, but the cutscenes have a strange grainy style, and suffer from stop-start animation that may or may not be deliberate, but which certainly isn’t all that impressive. It is, however, hugely atmospheric.” – God is a Geek (8.0/10 – PS4)
“For the first few hours I found myself distracted by the occasional dip in frame rate, and by technical issues with the audio that made it difficult to tell from where voices were coming and how far away they were.” – National Post (9.0/10 – Xbox One)
“From a technical standpoint, the game runs about as well as a drunken toddler. I can’t decide whether the developer’s recent promise of “30 frames per second” was hopeless optimism or a bald-faced lie, but it’s certainly quite far from the truth. Perhaps they expected no one to notice or care that the game chugs to around half that, if not lower.” – EGM (3.5/10 – Xbox One)
“It seems foolish in February to make any proclamations about what will stand out at the end of the year, but I can’t imagine that I will soon forget my experience with Thief. It’s an early, serious, and unexpected contender for my list of the top 10 games of 2014.” – National Post (9.0/10 – Xbox One)
“I can’t think of many reasons not to play Thief, unless stealth just isn’t your cup of tea. Issues with navigation and annoying load problems are impossible to ignore, and it stings to think of a version of this game that doesn’t suffer from those drawbacks. Still, Thief is just about the best modern Thief game I could ask for… It’s the real deal, and so is Eidos Montreal.” – Machinima (8.5/10 – Xbox One)
“A good stealth game makes you feel like a silent badass. A bad one makes you feel like an idiot stumbling around in the dark. It is with much regret that I inform you that Thief, Eidos-Montreal’s update of Looking Glass Studios’ classic stealth franchise, leans more toward the latter.” – Giant Bomb (4.0/10 – PC)
” As both a diehard fan of stealth games and someone who recently played through the original Thief games for the first time, it breaks my heart to say that this reboot does far more harm than if we’d gotten no new Thief at all. In a way, it all feels a little Frankenstein-ian, not just because Eidos Montreal seemingly stitched the game together from so many disparate parts, but also because both works shares the same lesson: Be careful about bringing something long dead back to life, lest you create an abomination.” – EGM (3.5/10 – Xbox One)
The above reviews are for the current-gen (PS4/XB1/PC) versions of the game and are labelled with the platform reviewed (except for IGN who insist their review is applicable to all three platforms). The reviews quoted and linked to in this post do not necessarily reflect the state of the last-gen (PS3/360) versions of Thief as no review copies were made available for those platforms.