STAFF REVIEW of Thief: Deadly Shadows (Xbox)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004.
by Chewy

Thief: Deadly Shadows Box art Garret master thief makes his return in the new Eidos release Thief:Deadly Shadows. I have been a fan of the Thief games from years ago. It was one of the very first true stealth based games. Others always said that you could complete the missions stealthily but this game was one of the first to really deliver. Bringing back the Thief world and mythos is a great step. I have been waiting for another chance at those Hammerites for a long time.

Once again you control the actions of Garret who is working for the the mysterious Keepers, helping them to uncover the nefarious plots that seem to plague the world that Garret lives in. There are the main objectives that you have to complete to advance on through the story, but dont worry there is a huge amount of side stories and missions to keep the replay value high on this one.

Sneaky. One simple word. This is not a game that has stealth thrown in as an after thought and is a different way of going about these missions. In Thief stealth is your first and almost only choice. There is no way that you can go in running and gunning like some games and expect to last the first couple of minutes in the game. This is about careful setups of blackjacks to the skull, and inventive use of the objects in the levels to find a way to sneak past guard. For those people who are all action, and dont have any patience I would recommend you dont even pick the box up from the store. But for all of the people like me out there that really enjoy a well crafted story, and have tones of patience to hide in the shadows for that perfect moment when the guard passes inches in front of your nose this one is for you. This game will cause you to hold your breath on more that one occasion. I would find myself tensing up and holding my breath as the Pagan Sorcerer past close enough for me to pick their pocket of their all important wand.

As a master thief you have a number of items at your disposal, mostly unchanged from previous incarnations of the game. Broad head, water, moss, fire, noisemaker and gas are all arrow types that can all be used inventively to get through your missions. And unlike previous versions of the game, your items are not set at the start of the mission as before. This time, you get to sell the loot you collect to different buyers, and then use that money to purchase your equipment as you see fit. Broad head arrows to take out unaware guards from a distance. Water arrows to extinguish pesky torches to give you a dark avenue straight to your goals. Moss arrow to cover metal on the ground so you can silently creep past listening guards. Everything that any professional thief could want and then some.

You are also equipped with a set of lock picks. These will make short work of any locked items that you come upon. One of the nice little features is that you can still look left and right as you are picking the locks. So you can unlock that door while keeping one eye on that patrolling guard. Also it isnt just a hit a button and wait for Garret to pick the lock. I found that after playing just a short bit, I easily cut the time it took me to pick a lock in half. It is nice option that you can actually get better at controlling Garret in the picking of the lock to be able to do it faster.

The AI on the guards, while it is not spectacular, still does a good job of keeping up with its assigned duties of patrolling or guarding, and searching for you when you may have been spotted or heard. I did find that the guards were fairly easy to lose if I just took a couple quick corners, and then hid against a dark wall. One of the things that they did do well is follow up small bits of evidence. If you left a blood trail from someone that you had just dispatched, they could follow that to the body, and possibly straight to you.

One of the most challenging aspects of this game is to try and come out with 100% of the loot at the end of each mission. You will find yourself replaying missions over and over again trying to find that last piece of loot that you have been missing. I think this is really where the replay value is going to come in. The story is going to be the same, but being able to get to the end of a mission with all of the loot is a rewarding feeling.

I am not going to go into the missions at all, as I really dont want to spoil the story for those of you that are going to play through this game. Lets just say that once again Garret is in way over his head and has to scramble madly to keep his head above water.

The visuals of this game are very well done. It has a nice polished look about the entire game. The levels are well designed, and have just enough items scattered about not to seem cluttered, but just right. The light and dark of the look of this game is really where it shines. You can easily pick out where you are going to have to sneak next, creeping from shadow to shadow to stay hidden. The shine of the loot items is just enough to catch your eye if you are paying attention. The game also switches back and forth between third person view and first person. This is done very seamlessly and once again really helps add to your immersion into the game. When you flatten yourself again a wall you then look left and right to see if the coast is clear yet. One very minor quibble I did have is that this game has to be played at night. No matter how much you turn up the brightness of the game, if you have sunlight streaming in the windows of your house, you will be hard pressed to make heads or tails out of what you see on your television.

This, more than most games, is really dependant on you using not only your eyes to spot enemies, but your ears as well. The directional sound is well done. With a quick turn of your head you can usually tell what direction that you just heard that sound in, as well at what made the sound.

The voice acting on this game was top notch, and trust me, there is a lot of voice acting in this game. Great, gritty voices really helped you believe in each of the characters. The lip syncing with the character models was also well done. Some of the funniest moments of the game come when you are close enough to hear some of the random comments that some of the guards make. Also by hanging close to citizens or guard conversations you sometimes get small tidbits of information that can sometimes prove very useful later in the game.

This is a very well done game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing. The load times were slightly annoying, but still the game play that was waiting behind that load made the wait bearable. I would also have liked to been able to access to map with a single button press. I found myself constantly having to slowly open up the gear section to get to my map almost constantly. But these are very minor problems. I certainly would recommend this game to anyone who is looking for an engaging story, or is a fan of stealth style games.

Overall: 9.2 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.4 / 10
Sound: 9.6 / 10


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