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DFG: Thief: Deadly Shadows

July 15, 2010, Author: Trent Pyro

Oh dear. It’s got bad again. Still riding the mellow high from that Star Wars game, I booted up the 360 and stuck my next game in. Thief; Deadly Shadows is the third game in the legendary Thief series. Apparently the godfather of the stealth genre and precursor to Splinter Cell, I thought I might be onto a winner. How wrong I was. Let me explain…

A Thief In The Night
Ok, let me start by saying I haven’t spent much time with this one. Like I said at the start, I won’t persevere if a game doesn’t make me want to. So I’ll explain what I know and why I decided to put this back in the post almost the day I got it.

Thief; Deadly Shadows follows the story of a thief who just wants to get on with nicking stuff but keeps getting embroiled in sinister plots and dastardly schemes. Gameplay-wise you sneak around taking out guards and generally trying to exercise you right to five-finger discount without being rumbled. You can choose to club or stab guards, sparking them out or ending them respectively. You have a bow with different types of arrows; noisy ones make distracting noises, water ones put out the many, many lamps to give you more darkness to skulk in. Said skulking is important; the guards have definitely not been eating their carrots and cannot see you if you hide in the shadows. A little ‘Light Gem’ in the corner tells you how well hidden you are and it works fine for the most part. The guards are well armed and tough to kill with your meagre dagger, so getting seen is practically tantamount to suicide. If you happen to slip a toe into the light, however, combat is possible. Considering the games mountain of flaws though, I wouldn’t advise giving it a try.

Put the pad down mate - you're officialy screwed.

Blunt as a spoon…
To list all of Thief Deadly Shadows’ faults would be to write a book on how not to make a game. The graphics are frankly shit, even for the time. Textures are bland and samey, the enemies all look exactly the same and every wall and corner just screams laziness. The only notable graphical features are the lighting which I suppose is good considering the game’s age, but still nothing to shout about.

Missions are handed out in a garish purple menu screen, with hard-to-read text read out by the wooden Z-list bozo they got to play the titular thief. I only managed to bear one or two of these incredibly dry briefings before the mere tone of his uninterested voice started to make me wish I’d never bothered. Every mission seems to follow the same format; sit through a briefing, creep around agonisingly slowly stabbing guards in the same way every time, sneak past some moron and rob his prized possession, get out. Repeat. It’s utterly deflating and incredibly boring. The game’s claim that ‘missions can be approached from any angle’ is about as false as pensioners’ teeth. Dropped into a nondescript location, with only the worst map in any game ever to guide you, there is only one route in and one route out. I think it was referring to the way that you can either sneak around or go in swinging, which would then make it two angles.

The latter angle is almost unfeasible however, given the woefully unbalanced combat and overpowered enemies. I resorted to running in circles stabbing wildly; not exactly enthralling combat. This is understandable given the nature of the game, but even Metal Gear Solid gave you at least half a chance to fight back if you were seen. The developers might as well have taken out the option to fight man-to-man because it’s absolutely bloody useless. The tortoise-speed pace of the game grates immediately, there being no reward for your time spent shuffling around. In other stealth games, careful planning and patience is rewarded with juicy kills and a sense of achievement. Thief only throws you the scraps of victory, presenting you with mediocre kill animations and a deflated sense of worthlessness as you steal another random item from some badly-voiced blue-blood mook, only to be returned to the acid trip briefing screen with naught but a pat on the back and some seemingly useless money.

Reg and Jim thought discussing 'snake' sizes was approriate for guard duty chatter. Thief thinks not.

I could go on forever, but let’s just say this game is bloody awful, tedious and incredibly limited. It astounds me that something as badly coded, repetitive and downright boring could even be considered a legendary game. I can see where it has been influential; the stalking in shadows and emphasis on staying quiet informs Splinter Cell and pretty much every stealth game after it. This does not absolve it from scorn though. Thief; Deadly Shadows is a steaming pile of a game and if it wasn’t from Lovefilm I’d use the reasonably well-designed disc as a coaster.

Neil’s Deals Best Price: Over £20 new but can be found used on Amazon Market Place for £5.99.

Oh well, back to the drawing board then. Next time I’ll be questing for gold in Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth! Oooo, sounds mysterious…