Can Thief Steal Back Its Own Identity?


Can Thief Steal Back Its Own Identity?
Feeling the Pinch

Though its IP innovated (arguably, originated) an entire genre, the incoming Thief reboot feels wicked familiar.
Back in 2011, I fell in love with Deus Ex: Human Revolution AKA Cyber Thief.
Then in 2012, I was blown away by Dishonored AKA Steam Thief.
By the time February 2014 rolls in, will I be in any mood for Thief Thief?

Sounds unfair. But it’s not.
Thief: The Dark Project has already enjoyed its richly deserved accolades.
The aforementioned spiritual successors defined a generation of sneakies.
Theif 2014 really needs to distinguish itself anew.
For Garrett, laurels are no place for a master thief to rest…

I desperately need context if I’m to enjoy this new Thief. Why am I robbing? Because I’m a selfish douche? Or something more altruistic? Is it petty greed that motivates Garrett? Or a philanthropic need? Why should I kill guards? Do they deserve it? And if not, why am I being rewarded for killing them with sexy canned animations or the satisfying thud of bolt meeting bone?

Sexy Fight Fun Time Battle!
Sexy Fight Fun Time Battle!Enlarge Enlarge

Seriously. Is Garrett on a mission for social justice or simply exacting revenge? Because without even some threadbare justification, no-one will endure a 10 hour campaign of a greedy sod being greedy. Unless its tongue in cheek … Which it most definitely is not.

Still, the gameplay itself looks dynamite. A sub-genre refined over time, first person sneakerz be the biz. Garrett’s hands and feet are agreeably visible as you scramble across, or clamber up generous, tiered environments. Enemy AI, patrolling with a pre-programmed appreciation for the level’s nooks and crannies, can be pickpocketed of their goods or sapped with a blackjack and dragged into cover. Speaking of which, darkness is the most reliable brand, and extinguishing candles or dousing torches can see it spread.

Hide and Seek - Stabbing Edition
Hide and Seek - Stabbing EditionEnlarge Enlarge

Of course, die-hard sneakers won’t want to leave any trace and so a controversial (but resource based) Focus Mode should slow the pace for perfect runs. Garrett can peer and swoop around cover, pick locks, jimmy windows, gather miscellaneous collectibles and, of course, work the ventilation system like a boss!

Garrett’s signature bow reappears, with quarrels of the fire, water, rope and skull busting variety. Again, I maintain it’s fairly violent for a petty burglar. But you can’t argue with the distraction, stealth, exploration or chaotic avenues it opens up…

Stick 'em with the pointy end!
Stick 'em with the pointy end!Enlarge Enlarge

Like Thieves past and present, steam and cyber, Thief 2014 level design offers multiple entry points, assorted paths and avenues, various corridors, sewers or rooftops and at its heart the choice of how exactly to achieve your primary, secondary or tertiary goals.

I’m sold on the second to second play. But it’s the long game that concerns me…

Eidos Montreal scrapped the XP system following negative fan feedback. I can dig this. Especially if all abilities will be available from the off and clever level design and challenging objectives encourage players to combine and master Garrett’s skills. Of course, it could just mean XP has been replaced with an alternate currency like Praxis Kits or Runes. The fact Thief 2014 lets you restock and upgrade at the start of new missions (Hi Dishonored!) lends credence to the latter theory…

The voice acting doesn’t seem up to much either. This isn’t a dig at new Garrett Romano Orzari. But considering the disappointment of Michael Ironside’s absence in Splinter Cell Blacklist and a string of reports accusing Kiefer Sutherland of just phoning it in on MGSV, suggest maybe original voice vet Stephen Russell was the right man for the job… Maybe. We’ll see.

I am the night.
I am the night.Enlarge Enlarge

But couple this contention with hackneyed terms like “The City” and “The Barron”, and my calm is well and truly damaged. Given the symphony of imagination that was DX:HR, I’m baffled as to why Eidos Montreal couldn’t conjure original labels for both their principle antagonist and locale…

But ultimately, my concern stems the fact I maintain I’ve played this twice already. Four times if you count repeated playthroughs of Dishonored and Deus Ex. The similarities are glaring; Dunwall’s Plague, Jensen’s Double Takedowns, Corvo’s Blink, Sarif Industries Smart Vision etc.

I THINK he sees me...
I THINK he sees me...Enlarge Enlarge

I’m not denying Dishonored and my beloved DX:HR pilfered from the original Thief. They were liberal about it too. But the pair of them also blazed trails. They electrified their own IPs. They defined a bloody generation.

No-one (reasonable) could say Dishonored was a poor man’s Thief.

But will the reverse be said of Thief 2014?

We’ll find out Feb 25th

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