Thief video review (PC): A mixed bag of loot and letdowns

Thief

By on March 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

We put Eidos Montreal’s Thief reboot under the microscope for our in-depth video review, and explain how what starts off as a promising game quickly devolves into a disappointing and confusing mess.

Take a look:

Good:

  • Basic, moment-to-moment stealth gameplay is good fun
  • You can customise the difficulty and HUD to perfection
  • Looks absolutely amazing with everything turned up
  • Runs at a smooth 60 FPS
  • Garrett is beautifully animated

Bad:

  • But almost every other character is terribly animated
  • Dopey, easily-exploitable guard AI
  • Poorly thought-out controls
  • Shallow characters, uninteresting story
  • Unacceptable level of bugs
  • Confusing game design choices and poor visual communication
  • Atrocious boss battles
  • Copy-and-paste NPCs make the world seem lifeless and inane
  • Abject failure to learn any lessons from either DXHR or Dishonored

Thief is available on Steam for $50. This review copy of the game supplied ahead of launch by Namco Bandai on behalf of Eidos Montreal.

We played the game on an Intel DX79TO motherboard, with an Intel i7 3820 at 3.2 GHz, GeForce GTX 670 GPU and 16GB of RAM.

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24 comments (Leave your own)

Good review Tim, thanks for calling it like it is.

 

Disappointing, but not surprising to see. Guess i’ll give this one a miss.

 

Thanks for the review. I might go play more Dishonored now.

 
Shaolin$alesman

Thanks mate had this sitting in my Steam cart, removed now.

 

Seems to be the same tune I’m hearing all over the place.
After watching this review, reading This, and this; I think I made the right decision in waiting for a $5 sale on this bastardization of the series.

Now that this experiment is over, can we please stop trying to ‘re-imagine’ and ‘remake’ some of my favourite franchises..? =(

 

“hope you like unnecessary amounts of boob”

There is no such amount of boob, all amounts of boob are necessary.

 

Wow, looks like a winner.

 

You know I may be disappointed and there are a lot of areas that could have been improved but I’m still having fun with it and that’s what matters to me.

Definitely not GOTY worthy but still worth a play.

 

Shouldnt have read this, now i dont even want to install it. Funny, of all the things i expected them to screw up, AI wasn’t one of them.

 

Disappointed but not overly surprised.

Once again another reason not to pre order games EVER.
A thought.
People are happy to throw money at early access games.
Why not start releasing AAA titles as early access instead of pre orders. Then we can excuse them being only half polished!

 

Or we could just stop all the preorder bullshit and only buy games post release when they’ve been reviewed…

 

What a dropped ball!

The review that I spied on Techspot cracked me up: “While many games of this type will gradually introduce new enemies, slowly increasing the number of variables in order to keep players on their toes, Thief rejects variety completely. Aside from some CHUDs that make an inexplicable cameo appearance for part of a level, there are essentially two enemy types in the entire game. They’re a pair of gentlemen I have come to affectionately think of as Swordbro and Crossbro.

Here’s Swordbro:

…and here’s Crossbro:

Garrett’s enemies change as the story progresses, but whether the narrative claims the guards are men of the City Watch or deadly rebels set on killing anyone they see, it’s really always just Swordbro and Crossbro. Imagine: An entire city of Swordbros and Crossbros, all doing the best they can, trying on hats in their downtime.”

Hey Tim, I have read that only good parts of the game are the side missions so It is a pity you chose to bypass them…

 

nekosan:
Or we could just stop all the preorder bullshit and only buy games post release when they’ve been reviewed…

I could do that .. But I won’t I pre order games I have faith in … or games I just know I have to play I.E diablo 3

 

Played up to the 2nd chapter. I think I showed great endurance.

 
ThomAsHollJosh

somexspec: Definitely not GOTY worthy but still worth a play.

Not for $50USD

 

nekosan:
Or we could just stop all the preorder bullshit and only buy games post release when they’ve been reviewed…

I agree.
It should die and quickly.

 

Great review, good to see things pointed out honestly and thoroughly.
.Just another example of the trend of degrading quality in game production today. Beta periods are just being used as a ‘early preview’ as opposed to true gathering and fixing of issues. We the consumer are being left doing the testing at release stage, and we are getting rubbish for our money.
The linear aspect of the game looks frustrating and disappointing, and without starting a mud slinging war, the lack of freedom looks like a console port in many aspects.

 
MuppetMaster

I’ve been playing on PC with the 360 controller.

I’ve been playing since release day 1 and haven’t noticed any bugs at all.
I’m several hours in and loving every minute of it.

In terms of controls: LT to parkour, X to interact, RT to use resources. what more do you want? the fighting is easy enough (mash RB to attack, LB to dodge).
using the 360 controller you use up on the dpad to open the item menu, which lets you switch whenever you want.
you turn off the HUD then you can’t complain about things being hard to figure out. yes it’s not intuitive what objects you can climb on and what you can’t, but the things you actually want to climb on (the pipes, grates and walls) are highlighted with bright white scuff/scratch marks.

if you glance at the map once you can instantly get an idea of the level boundaries which means it’s then simple to infer what is a boundary prop that can’t be climbed on and what is climbable.

The fighting system is pretty crappy yeah, but then you’re meant to be an unseen thief, so you’re not meant to get into fights.

talking about the art being grey and brown, but… it’s CONSTANTLY night time, what other colours do you expect to see..?
if they start adding any other colours then the game will lose its dark, grungy look which is key to illustrating how crap and sick a state the city is in.

the NPCs aren’t supposed to be inspected, they’re all non-interactable NPCs….
the idea behind most of them is that you’ll listen to them from a distance, watching their silhouettes and shadows flickering in the torchlight, you’ll hear if they have anything of value to say and move on.
so of course you’ll notice that models and textures are reused when you do the opposite of what’s intended by the developers.

in regards to there not being many of them about the place – there aren’t many of them because it’s LATE AT NIGHT. and if you listen to some of the scenes, the guards do not take kindly to citizens wandering the streets at night.
if you actually listen as you wander around the city, you can hear them having discussions as you walk past some of the lit windows.

the AI isn’t amazing yeah, but in my opinion it’s suitable for the time the game is set in. there are no radios or anything, so how is a guard supposed to know that a dark corner contains a psycho that just bonked his buddy on the head and now wants to bonk his head?
their could be some more smarts in regards to them losing sight of you, but that’s a minor gripe, and if you don’t play the game to exploit it, then you won’t notice it. If you play thief to not be seen, then you won’t notice the AI problems.

I too hate the reused animations. the window opening animation and the sidestep through narrow corridor animation. but these are obviously there to cover loading of the next area. would you rather that or a loading screen?

 

stoibs,

It’s not the re-imagining that’s bad… It’s just the execution…

I would’ve LOVED a re-boot to the Thief series… But Eidos didn’t make a successor… They made another overly-linear grey-brown succession of corridors that doesn’t have enough action to appeal to the masses…

There IS a market for proper stealth games, but meshing stealth and action never works because the die-hards of stealth aren’t challenged, and the action junkies get bored…
Whatever… Maybe one day the AAA will learn, but in the meantime let’s leave the true innovation to the Indies…

 

I’m thoroughly enjoying the new Thief and I say this as a Thief fan from back in 1998 with TDP (which remains my favourite game of all time).

The biggest problem with Thief is that two of the pillars of gameplay – Movement/Player freedom and agency, along with Sound were pretty much ignored or heavily stunted, I would argue they were perhaps two of the most important pillars for the game.

The sound is very hit and miss, mostly miss. A guard right near you can sound like he as at the other end of The City while someone five rooms away and two stories up sounds like they are right next to you. Cutscene volume is bad and in general sound tends to vary a lot even during the same soundbark/sentence.

Sound generation also doesn’t seem to have much of an effect, I have a feeling that the shroud is sort of a “noise gem” as it were, you can be in total darkness but if you are moving the shroud doesn’t seem to fully encroach. it would also possibly explain why you can’t turn it off.

To go from the brilliance of Eric Brosius’ work in the previous Thief games to this is a complete travesty and displays great ignorance of the importance of sound to the Thief series.

Movement is too restricted, no jumping is a no-no. Sure in the original Thief games bunny-hopping would allow you to outdistance anyone and it was the fastest form of travel, it was also noisy as all hell, it came with a downside. Contextual peeking is a pita and often enough you will find yourself seemingly looting instead of peeking or vice-versa even if you keep the mouse completely still. The game also likes to pull you into position all the time. The effective solution would of been that your positioning would have to be exact so that if you step out into the light to loot a chest you know you are doing it rather than the “Hey I’ll loot from here!” and then get pulled into the light instead. Aside from that the general movement is quite serviceable and you do get a good feel of presence in the world.

There are jump points marked with the “scrabble” marks and distinctive grates which mark claw climbing points but where the system fails is that you can mantle some crates and shelves and not others, they look identical have nothing impeding them on top or otherwise really letting you know why you can’t mantle them. Visually there is nothing to differentiate such circumstances.

The light gem is quite binary (well trinary)- Black for stealth, black with white rim for reduced stealth and white for full light. The shroud isn’t always present hence why I think it serves a purpose other than another light reference – ie it references sound and perhaps a guards visual “cone” The original Thief light gem had 16 stages, quite a difference from what we have today. The stealth detection system in this game is obviously a lot more complex, it’s just poorly conveyed – the light gem plus the shroud obviously convey more than just light information, it deals with sound generation as well and it possibly indicates guard visual acuity..

The general stealth is really, really good and it really brings back the Thief vibe of breaking and entering, sneaking, stealing and escaping really well. It is at it’s most pure during the side missions, which really shine, the definite highlight of the game. It is in the side missions that you avoid the cinematic junk, the parkour exercises, the constant “Got you Garrett!” moments that the official missions are littered with. It’s gold Thief gameplay and is thoroughly enjoyable and is where I spent most of my time.

The Bank Heist (aka TMA’s First City Bank and Trust) is a beautifully designed “side mission” better than any other level in the game for pure thieving. If they did every mission to this quality it would be a perfect thieving experience (minus crappy sound and movement choices)

The official missions range from great to truly horrible. Trust me the Brothel level is the best showcase I have ever seen for unnecessary “gameplay” and is obviously there to attract the young male crowd and to push the “mature and gritty” theme. Which it doesn’t do well, it’s cheap and tacky appeal to the lowest common denominator tactics, it’s brings nothing to the game except shame. Garrett the Master Thief, scourge of the law, liberator of the possessions of the Rich… likes to spend his time peering through a glory hole? brilliant writing! brilliant direction! so eddddddddddggy bro. It’s a real shame that Eidos Montreal decided to target this level. Instead of high thievery we have the medieval equivalent of browsing internet porn, brave Eidos, bravo. It is wrapped up as “puzzle solving”, but there was nothing stopping them from doing it another way.

The AI isn’t too bad and I haven’t ran into any of the extreme encounters Tim shows in the video, but it’s obvious they do occur. The guards have a visual cone so if you are in the shadows and you are directly infront of a guard you will probably be seen once you start to enter that visual cone. it is more forgiving to the peripheries. The good news of all of this is you no longer get guards walking into you while searching for you like the old Thief games.

Recycled animations and NPC’s get annoying but the City feels quite alive as it were. It’s late at night when you operate but there are enough non-hostile civilians about to make it seem like that it’s a city gripped in fear and curfew. When you compare it to Dunwall all I can remember is that continual push that “the city is dying” well it was quite dead when I played through it, the dying part was done. What little civilians you saw were located in small areas or stuck in story only areas and everything else was just a hostile person ready to kill or be killed. I think The City comes off better in that regard, while it’s pretty much two guys with a difference hat or jacket they populate the city enough to make it feel lived in. At least in my opinion.

Boss Battles, well simply, why? They are done extremely poorly and feel so out of place the first thing I thought was “wow what augs does he have?!”

I can imagine it now…

Eidos Montreal; Super secret dev bunker:

Executive: There is a lot of criticism regarding the boss battles in our new game Deus Ex: Human Revolution!

*general outcries of disbelief*

Executive: I know, I know one can hardly believe. The general consensus is that it is unsuitable for characters who are geared towards stealth or hacking and not combat! I knew we should of taken those options out.

*nods of agreement*

Executive: The players thought it was “strange” that a stealthed out Jensen would brazenly walk through a pair of glass doors, after all that time sneaking, and not notice an armed behemoth on the other side.

Executive: So gentleman the lesson we learn from all this?

Dev 4: Uhh we don’t outsource that sort of thing sir?

Executive: That’s exactly right! that is the only problem, promote that man to Thief lead and fire those other guys!

It’s a real shame that I can enjoy a game so much and yet feel so critical about it as well =\ Oh what could of been had the side mission style of play and better sound and control been treated with more respect.

 
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