The Thief reboot looks to win back old fans of the franchise as well as gain the trust of a new generation of gamers. We explored master thief Garrett’s city trying to determine whether or not Eidos Montreal had succeeded in their goal or if their desired bounty had stayed out of their grasp.
The thing about rebooting a popular series is that fans are always going to judge your game based on the merits of what came before, whereas everyone else will measure the game based on present-day counterparts in the genre. It’s a thin line, but ever since the original Thief came out we’ve seen Assassin’s Creed, Splinter Cell and Hitman all secure spots in the stealth genre – with newcomer Dishonored firmly claiming a place near the top. What all these games have in common is that they play out at a much faster pace than the original Thief trilogy did, and Eidos Montreal is looking to cater to the audience that was captivated by the aforementioned titles.
Changes to the core gameplay include the addition of free running mechanics that allow you to make a quick getaway – something we’re used to from the Assassin’s Creed series but not quite up to that level of athleticism. Also new are Focus and the use of destination markers – the former showing you which items you can interact with or pick up. You’ll also be able to upgrade your character skills by trading gold, thus reducing the amount of damage you deal or receive. None of these are gameplay elements that look out of place in today’s gaming arena, but they all feel conflicting with Thief’s legacy of slow-paced, stick-to-the-shadows and combat-avoiding suspense. Don’t get me wrong – the gameplay works and it’s a lot of fun, I’m just pointing out that it’s different.
Luckily for Thief veterans, many of these options can be turned off, thus turning the gameplay experience into something more akin to what the original trilogy was like. This, along with additional combat options, makes the new Thief a versatile experience that is worth a second playthrough if you’re interested in a different experience. Whether or not you are depends on how much you enjoy it the first time, and that’s where we get to the heart of the game. With all the mechanics in place to make both modern and classic gamers happy, it’s all up to the ambiance and story to deliver a great experience – and this is the part that was somewhat lost in translation.
The city that Garrett calls home doesn’t feel quite as alive as it did before, and it makes the experience less immersive than how we remember it. This is partly due to a lack of diversity in the characters you encounter, but also due to limited character and story development. Without resorting to spoilers, suffice it to say that it feels like a shame that the excellent core gameplay here isn’t backed up by an equally impressive and rich world to surround it. The original games all succeeded in making us feel like Garrett was an integral part of a living and breathing world, able to make a difference while remaining in the shadows most of the time. It’s an amazing premise that none of the other stealth games have captured, so we’re hoping that Eidos Montreal will focus on this in a possible sequel – the Deus Ex reboot has shown that they’re more than capable of doing so.
As it stands, the 2014 version of Thief still isn’t a bad game – in fact, it’s quite a good one and we had fun playing it through all the way to the end. Seeing what’s possible for the Thief franchise with next-gen technology is great and shows great promise for the genre. Just imagine what playing around with light, dark and physics could mean – the options are virtually endless. But while it’s a good game, it’s just not as memorable as the rest of the games in the series. That being said, it’s still one of the best games currently available for the PS4, and worth checking out for fans of the stealth action genre.