Game review: THIEF makes me feel oh so very naughty

THIEF
Rating: M for Mature
Blood, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Violence

I prefer rogues. In Skyrim, my Nightingale Dragonborn sneaks and snipes her way through dungeons. My vampire assassin creeps and cut-throats her way across bandit camps. So, when I saw the new Thief reboot, a video game that relies on stealth rather than brute force, I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Some reviews have been positive, but many have criticized the boring and repetitive gameplay, restrictive map layout, technical issues, gray upon gray graphics, and weak, supernatural-driven story.

I rented a copy from Redbox for my PS3. Within a few hours, I’d reached chapter four out of eight chapters. Granted, I didn’t explore to quite the extent that I might if I owned the game, but it certainly didn’t promise the 800+ hours I’ve devoted to Skyrim. For $2.00, though, I received my money’s worth.

I happen to love the color gray. I thought the muted color palette evoked the appropriate mood and environment for a protagonist who lives in the shadows. Not much different from Bioshock, or the grim Mystery Case Files hidden object games I enjoy.

The story seemed no more or less interesting than most. You’re a thief in a psuedo-Victorian city creatively named “the City,” where Industrial Era and supernatural forces collide à la Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes. Decent dialog featured one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever overheard in a video game. (Click here to listen. NSFW.)

A man in leather who’s good with his hands? Yes, please.

I liked Garrett, the thief of Thief. Having never played the previous games in the franchise, I had no preconceived ideas about his voice acting or anything else. With his arsenal of tricky arrows, he reminded me a bit of Oliver Queen. I even liked most of the secondary characters — Basso, the Queen of Beggars, the Thief-Taker General and Orion.

Erin, however, got on my last nerve. Unreasonable “I can take care of myself” woman-child who then promptly causes problems, gets in trouble and needs rescuing. Dressed like she just came from Hot Topic, with black nail polish and black lipstick, she wears a big dangling necklace that would have been noisy and impractical for a thief. SPOILER: Apparently she grew up in a brothel, so yay, another “rape as backstory for an edgy female character” trope.

Hi, I’m the annoying hot chick who reminds you of all the girls who ever friendzoned you in high school.

As for the game being repetitive, no more or less than most. Yes, it’s a lot of lockpicking, pickpocketing and sneaking. But is that any different from the repetitive dungeon crawling, jumping puzzles or “shoot the shit out of everything” in other games? I enjoy sneaking, stealing and lockpicking, so Thief worked for me, in that aspect. I’ve no complaints there. I just wished I could have carried more arrows.

So here’s where I agree that I despised the restrictive maps. If inFAMOUS or Assassin’s Creed II can have large, fully-interactive cities, where every wall, drainpipe, awning and window may be climbed, why can’t Thief? I spent too much time bumping against the environment, pushing L2 and trying to figure out where I could and couldn’t go.

Even worse, the audio. People outside of a building sounded like they were right next to me. I might walk through an open doorway (no loading screen) and go from noise to silence very abruptly, or vice versa. Conversations often overlapped so that I couldn’t understand anything. Ambient sounds were inconsistent.

The brothel mission was a voyeur’s dream, and entirely unsuitable for underage players. And that’s coming from me, who lets my teen play Skyrim and watch The Daily Show. So, no, not a game you can play around the kiddies. Unless you want to explain BDSM to your kiddies.

In spite of it’s issues, the game kind of haunts me. It creeped me out and left me feeling a bit icky. The frustrating gameplay and sound editing pissed me off. But Thief has intrigued me enough that I can’t stop thinking about it. I may just have to rent it again and finish the second half.

Read part 2: THIEF leaves me feeling unsatisfied

~ J.L. Hilton

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