By William Lee
Tribune Game Editor
8:00 PM EST, February 24, 2014
Gamers who pick up "Thief," out Tuesday on the four major consoles will get the undeniable sense that they've played this game before even if they're unfamiliar with this 16-year-old PC franchise.
That's likely because Thief is an amalgam of stealth games you've likely played at some point during the last 10 years. This reboot of the popular series is a liberal mix of the Batman Arkham games, Splinter Cell, Assassin's Creed with a splash of Tomb Raider.
That's not to say that this steampunk tale of cunning and dark magic isn't enjoyable, even if the storyline and direction isn't always as crisp and the game contains some very familiar (err cliche) character archtypes.
The folks at Eidos Montreal and it’s publisher Square Enix are hoping to resurrect the pioneering stealth game that puts you in control of Garrett, a sullen, somewhat melancholy master thief lurking in the shadows of an impoverished and plague-infected Victoria-era London clone known only as “The City.”
Armed with a bow, trick arrows and other concealable weaponry, the leather-clad rogue slinks across rooftops, down drainpipes and through dark alleys, stealing unattended jewels and picking change purses from unsuspecting guards. Stolen loot can be used to purchase weapons, supplies or additional skills to perfect Garrett's thievery.
Early in the game, things go haywire for Garrett and his headstrong protege Erin when they happen onto a dark ritual during their last job together.
Because Thief is about traveling undetected, players will have to make good use of the ample shadow offered in the game without being spotted and alerting the guards. Stealth is often the best choice, too, as the game's combat system doesn't feel as fluid and comfortable as the other games in the genre.
The game does include timed "chain and gain" and "special loot hunt" challenges that will improve a player's technique.
The game is beautifully rendered, effectively capturing the grit and grime of the bygone era. But, at least as far as the Xbox One version, the graphics are only slightly better than what you would expect from the Xbox 360 console.
The game also has some intriguing characters, including the blind, but well-informed Queen of Beggars and the ruthless General (a digitized dead ringer for Daniel Day-Lewis' Daniel Plainview character in "There Will Be Blood"). But the story may not bring the suspense, unpredictability or sense of urgency that games like Splinter Cell offer. Moreover, gamers will may find themselves mindlessly veering from one objective to the next without any sense of personal involvement.
Those familiar with the earlier Thief games may appreciate that the new game retains its PC feel, even on the consoles, while die-hard stealth fans may love customizing the game's difficulty level, removing some of Garrett's advantages and putting guards on higher alert. But others may not find "Thief" nearly as fascinating.
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