Thief

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Square Enix De­vel­oper Ei­dos Mon­treal For­mat 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease Out now

360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One

Late on in Thief’s cam­paign, we find our­selves es­cap­ing a burn­ing, build­ing-lined bridge. It’s a well-di­rected se­quence that shows off both the game’s beau­ti­fully ren­dered world and its free-flow­ing As­sas­sin’s Creed- style park­our. Half­way across, how­ever, we must squeeze through a tight gap be­tween fallen ma­sonry, lift­ing a beam out of the way as we trace a gen­tle S-bend through the rub­ble. It’s there to mask the game load­ing the next area, of course, and it would be en­tirely in­of­fen­sive if it wasn’t for the fact that we’ve seen the QTE that pow­ers it more than 20 times al­ready.

This fla­grant re­use of the same se­quence over and over again to hide load­ing is in­dica­tive of a wider malaise per­me­at­ing Thief’s shad­owy world. While Ei­dos Mon­treal has achieved much with its re­boot, mo­ments such as this sug­gest it could have used still more de­vel­op­ment time, de­spite be­ing years in the mak­ing.

More ag­gres­sive edit­ing wouldn’t have gone amiss, ei­ther. The game’s third­per­son climb­ing sec­tions, ves­ti­gial rem­nants of a pro­to­typ­ing stage clearly in thrall to Un­charted, dis­rupt your im­mer­sion while of­fer­ing no clear jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the forced change in per­spec­tive. Cer­tainly none of them re­quire any greater nav­i­ga­tional aware­ness. The de­ci­sion to leave them in, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that the more chal­leng­ing freerun­ning mo­ments never threaten an out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence, smacks of a job rushed to­wards the end. As do the reg­u­lar NPC hic­cups, which see some char­ac­ters turn­ing around 270 de­grees to face the cor­ner they’re at­tempt­ing to ne­go­ti­ate, spin­ning on the spot, or strid­ing con­fi­dently into the wall block­ing their path. One poor soul is doomed to re­peat­edly try to smoke his hand in the ab­sence of any cig­a­rettes.

But de­spite a man­i­fest lack of pol­ish, Thief is nev­er­the­less a strik­ing-look­ing game and one that suc­ceeds in cap­tur­ing the spirit of its pre­de­ces­sors, with just one small caveat: you’ll need to dis­able Fo­cus, Ei­dos Mon­treal’s head­line fea­ture. This high­lights use­ful el­e­ments in your en­vi­ron­ment, be it lad­ders or ropes to climb, traps wait­ing to be sprung, or trea­sure left about the place by the care­less denizens of The City. Aug­mented vi­sion modes might be de rigueur, but in a game all about read­ing your en­vi­ron­ment, the abil­ity to in­stantly see where ev­ery­thing is only un­der­mines.

Thank­fully, Ei­dos Mon­treal has made Thief highly cus­tomis­able. Dis­able Fo­cus and the game re­veals it­self to be wor­thy of the se­ries’ name, but go fur­ther and play on the hard­est dif­fi­culty, which makes civil­ian knock­outs a fail­state, and Thief be­comes a mor­eish, slow-burn­ing ex­er­cise in ex­pertly de­liv­ered ten­sion. Guards and civil­ians are alerted by all man­ner of things, in­clud­ing noise, un­con­scious com­rades, ex­tin­guished flames or even some­thing gen­er­ally amiss, such as an open cup­board or safe door, mak­ing clear­ing out ev­ery room a self-con­tained puzzle. But you can use the

While main mis­sions are en­joy­able, the free­dom to dis­cover things for yourself proves even more al­lur­ing

en­vi­ron­ment to your ad­van­tage, too: naked flames can be ex­tin­guished with wa­ter ar­rows or your fin­gers, while some elec­tric lights have switches nearby. Bot­tles and other items can be thrown to cre­ate a dis­trac­tion, while car­pets and grass pro­vide a qui­eter sur­face across which to move quickly. It feels just how Thief should.

While Fo­cus is over­bear­ing, Ei­dos Mon­treal’s other ad­di­tions are more wel­come. The new Swoop move al­lows you to move rapidly and silently across a short dis­tance – just so long as you’re not in wa­ter, on a bed of glass or near an eas­ily dis­turbed caged dog or bird. It’s an em­pow­er­ing way of get­ting close to a mark in or­der to pick­pocket them and then re­treat, or to move from shadow to shadow ef­fi­ciently.

The faith­ful Black­jack has re­ceived an up­grade, too, aug­mented with grap­nel-like spikes that can be used to scale high walls. It still serves as a non-lethal way to in­ca­pac­i­tate en­e­mies, as well as a last line of de­fence against sword-wield­ing guards. It’s usu­ally pos­si­ble to run away if you do get spotted, but ju­di­cious use of the dodge and care­ful cir­cling makes tak­ing out one or two guards pos­si­ble. Any more than that, how­ever, and you’re def­i­nitely push­ing your luck.

The main mis­sions take in all man­ner of lo­ca­tions, from grubby meat-pack­ing fac­to­ries to plush broth­els and grand houses. Trips to ex­ca­vated ru­ins and an asy­lum also pro­vide some su­per­nat­u­ral en­coun­ters, the for­mer in­tro­duc­ing a vi­cious crea­ture that’s afraid of the light, in­vert­ing ev­ery in­stinct you’ve learned up un­til that point. While there’s never a se­quence as nerve­jan­gling as Thief: Deadly Shad­ows’ Shale­bridge Cra­dle mis­sion, Thief has its share of scary mo­ments.

But Gar­rett’s ex­tended tool- and moveset are best show­cased in the ur­ban hub that links the mis­sion lev­els to­gether. Split into sev­eral districts (gated by door­ways, win­dows and a few more of those beam­lift­ing QTEs), it’s an en­v­i­ron as thickly laden with at­mos­phere as it is dirt. Twist­ing, torch-lit cob­bled streets wind around rick­ety build­ings, the roads pop­u­lated with beg­gars, drunks, pros­ti­tutes and guards. Eaves­drop­ping on people’s con­ver­sa­tions might re­veal the lo­ca­tion of some valu­able loot, and there are a num­ber of char­ac­ters here who will give you client mis­sions, plus shady deal­ers who sell and up­grade equip­ment. While the main mis­sions are en­joy­able, the free­dom to ex­per­i­ment, im­pro­vise and dis­cover things for yourself proves even more al­lur­ing.

Thief is far from the dis­as­ter that many feared it would be, and fans who take the time to cus­tomise their set­tings ahead of their first playthrough will find a re­ward­ing world here to pick clean. Nev­er­the­less, it’s still dif­fi­cult to shake the feel­ing that, for all his dex­ter­ity, Gar­rett has stum­bled in his at­tempt to gain ac­cess to a new gen­er­a­tion.

BE­LOW The re­al­time light­ing is a con­stant joy, not only adding at­mos­phere but help­ing you to keep track of en­emy move­ments. A light me­ter in the bot­tom-left cor­ner of the screen lets you know ex­actly how vis­i­ble you are

ABOVE The game’s per­func­tory third­per­son climb­ing sec­tions are en­tirely lin­ear – even lim­it­ing your con­trol over the cam­era – and add noth­ing. Thank­fully, they’re rare, and most of the time you’ll scale build­ings in first­per­son view. LEFT Once guards are alerted, they’ll con­tinue look­ing for you for quite some time. On the hard­est base dif­fi­culty level, they take a great deal of pum­melling to fell, so pick­ing your bat­tles is es­sen­tial

RIGHT Lock­pick­ing is in­tu­itive and en­joy­able, bar the five-bar­rel lock you have to pick dur­ing one of the game’s two boss en­coun­ters. Once up­graded, you can use your Fo­cus pow­ers to vi­su­alise the tum­blers of the lock in or­der to speed things up

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