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Thief: Deadly Shadows Review
publisher: Eidos Interactive
developer: ION Storm
genre: Action Adventure
PIV 1500, 256MB RAM, 3GB HDD, Pixel shader 1.1 support
|ESRB rating: M
release date: May 25, 04 (released)
|» All About Thief: Deadly Shadows on ActionTrip|
It's fair to say that over the years, games like Deus Ex and Thief have achieved cult status amongst the hard-core PC gaming crowds. It's also fair to say that the hard-core PC crowd (this reviewer included) represents a very small portion of the gaming population while retaining the reputation of being the most vocal and opinionated. They browse the most websites and forums every day and put under scrutiny every single decision by their favorite game designers that might contradict how a great PC game should work in their own minds. PC gamers are harder to please than Paris Hilton and yet we have the social status of an obscure religious cult. That said, it'd probably be very hard to review this game without pissing off at least some of our readers. Oh well...
Thief: Deadly Shadows is Thief III without the fancy Roman numerals. Don't let the marketing people tell you otherwise. The suits at EIDOS are trying to do the same thing to the Thief series that they did with Deus Ex: Invisible War - changing the naming structure to appeal to the money making console realm. From a money position, it seems solid, but to we PC zealots, that is not a good position to be in, not at all.
Thief fans, however, can rest easy knowing the Project Lead on Thief: Deadly Shadows was none other than key member of the Thief and Thief 2, Randy Smith (well up until he quit Ion Storm about two months ago). Everyone can take comfort in knowing that the guy running the show had a very good idea of what Thief devotees were expecting to see in the third game.
So what exactly did they expect to see?
For those of you not in the know, the Thief series practically invented the first-person sneaker genre, captivating gamers with an extremely immersive gaming experience that brought the concept of interacting with your environment to a whole new level.
In Thief you play the role of master thief Garrett - a lone wolf so to speak that follows his own peculiar moral code while trying to split his allegiance between various factions locked in a power struggle over the domination of the Thief world. Their world is a dark and sinister place where night prevails and shadows abound everywhere. It's a place of sneaky, contemplative merchants, feuded family members and religious zealots hiding ancient secrets that reveal both the past and the future. Thanks to Looking Glass' wealth of creativity, over the years, the Thief fantasy setting has matured into a rich lore with a solid background on the factions - each with their own particular beliefs, customs and even language peculiarities. While Thief: Deadly Shadows lends to some respect from the events in the previous games, the way that the world is presented is elaborate enough to engross both newcomers and veterans alike. And remember, you play the role of master thief; saving the world from the coming of the new Dark Age is all good and well, but it ain't fun to do it unless you have some personal gain in all of this. After all, Garrett has his own set of moral principles to adhere to, and most often they can be measured in gold and rare, valuable objects.
It doesn't hurt to say this over and over again; Thief games are all about immersion. Being able to sense what's going on in the environment is the key to a good first-person sneaker experience, and the prime reason why the genre is so absorbing. You enter a damp, echoing hallway lit with torchlight and hide in the shadows as you try to determine by the sound of the guard's footsteps if he's drawing closer or walking away. You observe the shadows as they dance across the walls in lit interiors and watch as the rays of moonlight are reflected in the dark shades where there is no other light available. Your senses heightened, you move quietly across the hallway trying to time your movement so that you can approach the guard from behind and use your trusted blackjack to silently punch his lights out...
The biggest concern in regards to the game play concept I have just described that a lot of gamers had was the recent announcement that Thief: Deadly Shadows would default in the third-person view. This is very funny in a way, 'cause the third-person view pretty much contradicts everything that Thief games stand for; it goes against the immersion - the concept of relying heavily on ambient sounds and subtle light play; it really goes against everything the series stands for. And the funny thing is that it's CLEAR AS DAY this game wasn't intended to be played as a third-person sneaker. I remember talking to Randy at last year's E3. I'm telling you, folks, one of the main things he wanted to stress about the new Thief game during his presentation was that they've added all these options to see your body and be able to look over your shoulder when you're climbing down the ladder; to see your hands as you pick a lock or scale a stone wall and so on. The idea here was to give you a greater sense of BEING Garrett. You ARE the thief that's doing all those things, and the only way to accurately experience the game is by playing it in first person.
The really good news here is that the legacy of the earlier Thief games has thankfully been preserved. All of the aforementioned options are still available when playing in first-person view, making Thief: Deadly Shadows still very much a first-person game in every respect ... with the added "bonus" of the third-person view that is. So in a sense, you can all let out a sigh of relief knowing that the third person "issue" is a non-issue really. You just never get a sense that the game was supposed to be played from the third-person view. Hell, you can lean around corners by pressing the "Q" and "E" keys and that's not something you'd ever need to do while playing in third-person.
So now that we're all feeling better knowing that Thief: Deadly Shadows is, like its predecessors, a true and true first-person sneaker, we can concentrate on other important things about it. Like the exploration and the rich folklore of the Thief universe.
8.4 Very Good
Good writing, engrossing and immersive game world, mission design, exploration, EAX sounds, voice acting;
AI needs more work, normal difficulty setting too easy, stiff NPC animation, and other minor game play drawbacks.