In recent years, we've seen a good number of stealth games - well games that give you the option of stealthy gameplay. Before games like Dishonored, Deus Ex, Assassin's Creed (series), and Splinter Cell (series), the king of the stealth genre was Thief (1998) and the two sequels that it spawned. The reboot of the classic Thief series is certainly a new stealth and action game, but does is stand out from the pack and reclaim the throne of the king of stealth?
The story of the Square Enix Reboot of Thief places you back into the quiet boots of Garrett, a master thief within "The City" a place that would remind you of an industrial-age civilization, but with better technology. Unfortunately, the story feels hauntingly similar to that of Dishonored - with an evil Baron, dark magic, and a sickness that is plaguing The City. As you make your way through The City, Garrett evolves from being a masterful thief taking things of value to a hero that is out to overthrow the Baron and cure the crippling Gloom.
To its core, Thief is indeed a Stealth game, with a light and dark dynamic that plays a very large role in the game. Hide in the shadows, making sure to extinguish candles and flip light switches in order to stay hidden as you steal, pickpocket, and move through each mission. The PS4 Controller light, actually gets brighter when you step into the light, enhancing the nudges of the game to inform you that you can be seen. Players have a variety of tools to work with, from a rope arrow that allows you to get to places you wouldn't be able to normally reach, to a water arrow that extinguishes flames to give you the cover of darkness. Using the environment to your advantage, stealth is key - mainly because the combat is almost non-existent. If you are caught and have nowhere to run, you are very likely to be killed, as Garret doesn't have much more than a blunt weapon to protect himself.
Stealth is key to the gameplay, which is important when it comes to playing a game that is centered around a master thief, and the game does force you to explore every area you come across and work out a strategy in order to accomplish the goal. However the gameplay gets stale after a while of playing - offering a rather repetitive series of events; gear up, get to your destination and find your way inside, discover where the item you seek is located, and then make your escape. During main missions and side missions, Garrett is able to steal everything that's not bolted down (that takes a special tool) and pickpocket every guard he comes across, using the gold to buy upgraded tools and more weaponry. There are a good number of collectibles to be found in The City, some requiring special tools or just a crafty strategy in getting your hands on them.
The gameplay is augmented by the Focus ability which allows Garrett to both slow time, highlight various items and points of interest, in order to identify parts of the environment that can assist you in distracting enemies, or escape areas. It also comes in handy in a pinch if you need to get away or take down some enemies when caught trying to sneak. Unfortunately these abilities didn't make the gameplay any more memorable, as it only made it easier to make it through areas. Focus can be seen as similar to the skills you could level up in Dishonored, and more Focus points are earned by completing missions and progressing through the story as well as donating money to the Queen of Beggars.
Overall, the visuals offered by Thief look great on the consoles.. In combination with the audio however, the lips are completely off when speaking, and don't quite match up to the words. The cut scenes look spectacular, and certainly showcase the new power that is behind our next-gen consoles. Character models are indeed well done, and the areas offer some beautiful places to explore as well. The visuals are indeed very well done, and look good, but they don't do much to redeem some of the gameplay issues that players will encounter. It's also worth noting that when screenshotting or posting videos of gameplay from your console, that the images come out too dark to see no matter how high to turn up the brightness.
As a whole, the audio is very well done - especially in surround sound. You can hear every footstep, and every rat, enhancing the tension of every area that you sneak through. You can hear the guards and their conversations as you get within range, and the sound really amplifies the experience of sneaking. The music is light and well done in the background, not overpowering the general ambiance or sound effects, making the audio experience of Thief an enjoyable one.
Thief offers a decent experience that is hindered by repetitive and unimaginative gameplay in comparison to the current stealth based games that are available. If you're looking for a game that forces you to sneak and think through every situation, Thief can indeed be enjoyable, but you may be better served going back and either playing games like Deus Ex or Dishonored. Overall, Thief is a decent addition to the Next-Gen series of games, but not worth the purchase at the current price.