By – John Williamson

Thief 2014 PC Review

The Thief franchise has always created a tense atmosphere through its occult setting.  Many purists who adore the art of sneaking consider Thief’s dark and desolate world to be up there with the best. After a long hiatus, the next Thief game has finally arrived but there has been some scepticism from fans. As more details were slowly released, there were murmurings of a new combat system which appeared to deviate from the stealth element. The producer, Stephane Roy, famously stated, “I don’t know if you remember with the previous game.  Let’s say I’ve been detected; it was really, really tough to survive. You know? It was unforgiving.”

This angered the core Thief demographic who yearned for a hardcore and punishingly difficult stealth game.  Combat was always intended to be a last resort after being spotted. Garrett is, after all, a master thief and not overly proficient at intense sword fighting.  Thankfully, Eidos Montreal listened to the concerns and toned down these fighting aspects.  Despite this, these alterations didn’t have a profound impact as the game falls painfully short in every department.  You are left with an experience which is completely devoid of direction and innovation.

Throughout the story, you play as Garrett, a professional thief who steals anything of monetary value. You begin your quest alongside an apprentice, Erin, who is skillful but a little naive.  During one fateful night, you attempt to acquire a mysterious and ancient relic of unspeakable power.  Garrett’s experience and intuition tells him to retreat in the wake of certain death.  Erin’s overconfidence is her downfall as she recklessly retrieves the item and succums to an untimely death.  After this traumatic event, you are transported one year into the future.  Garrett is perplexed about Erin’s fate and tries to rationalize what happened.  You wake up in a dreary and miserable world which needs a saviour to overthrow the overbearing elite.

Thief 2014 PC Review

Garrett as a character has the propensity to formulate a wonderful storyline through his secretive and complex personality.  Garrett’s non-lethal ideals illustrates that he has a certain level of morality despite being an underhanded thief.  For example, Garrett is mortified when Erin kills a helpless guard to cover her tracks.  He argues that a non-lethal approach is needed and they are human beings after all.   During the early chapters, you perceive Garrett as a disconcerting character who remains fairly aloof.  This interesting concept is wasted as the story unfolds.  Thief’s plot focuses on a convoluted political backdrop instead of Garrett’s unique and interesting character traits.

The story in general is mystifying, sluggish and unbelievably monotonous.  In fact, the plot is so dreadful that I felt inclined to skip each cutscene and ignore the wafer thin supernatural undertones.  I wanted to learn about Garrett’s misgivings and his clinical abilities as a professional thief.  Throughout the story, I was completely baffled and had no idea what was going on half the time.  There are a number of contradictions and I can’t even recall one memorable moment.  The pacing is excruciatingly slow and can become painful to watch at times.

Thief’s stealth mechanics manage to redeem the game somewhat as they are superbly executed.  It is imperative to remain in the shadows or you will be easily detected.  There are light switches, lamps and bright candles which can be detrimental to your success.  Dousing the candles whilst being hidden under a table is high recommended.  Light switches are difficult to turn off as the surrounding area is often heavily guarded.  Garrett shoots arrows from a suitable distance to switch off the lights and slip past any confused guards in the vicinity.  This is an exceptional design decision which never gets old and adds to the overall tension. Just as in the original games, Garrett uses his wit and cunning to overcome enemies instead of combat.  You also have to tread carefully on water because the ambient noise will attract some attention.  If you make too much noise, the guards will investigate and eventually discover your location.   The squalid environment usually contains broken glass on the floor which easily alerts your foes.  Environmental obstacles are perilous and makes travelling to new locations more exciting.  This also creates the impression that the world is alive and constantly evolving.

Thief 2014 PC Review

Thief’s combat engine was heavily criticized after an E3 showing because the game rewarded headshots with an XP boost.  The fighting element is buggy, awkward and unbelievably cumbersome.  This is mainly due to the unresponsive controls and one-dimensional enemies.  The mouse itself controls beautifully, but the act of striking an enemy is surprisingly difficult due to in-game lag which puts a damper on gameplay.   Also, the fighting is eminently primitive and feels like an afterthought.  When you engage in combat, there are a small number of options at your disposal.  You can flee by jumping onto the rooftops and moving at a pace which bamboozles enemy guards.  Hiding behind objects is a less successful tactic as your foes often meticulously investigate the surrounding area.  Weapons, and I use that term lightly, are designed to stun your opponents and quickly find a safe location.  Fire and Water arrows temporarily disorientate guards so you can sneak past them as they rashly inspect the trajectory of your arrow.  Most of the time, you will be using the Blackjack, which is a non-lethal club.  This item incapacitates guards with a swift blow to the head.

The guards themselves are extremely resilient and difficult to defeat.  You need to perform at least 3-5 strikes before an enemy can be defeated.  In contrast to this, your foes are dangerous and have the ability to kill you within 2 hits.  That feeling of vulnerability heightens the adrenalin rush when you are attempting to sneak past a group of powerful guards.   Discouraging combat doesn’t excuse the lacklustre fighting mechanics in any way.  In fact, something which was designed to be used so sparingly should have been executed with due care and attention.

There is a rudimentary cover system which allows you to peek around corners and assess the situation.  In theory, this is a great idea because you can decipher the movement path of specific guards.  However, the entire system is rather clumsy and doesn’t feel fluid.  Motion blur is applied when you look around the corner and this caused motion sickness for myself.  As a result, I subconsciously avoided this mechanic and slowly peered around corners using the standard viewpoint.  Thief’s AI is predictable and overly passive which makes for a sub-par experience.  When you walk out of cover, a meter starts rising which illustrates the guards’ level of suspicion.  It can take a ridiculous amount of time to be spotted because they don’t act on their suspicions until this arbitrary meter is filled.  On occasions, I’ve walked into clear daylight in front of 12 guards, and it still took a few seconds until I was exposed.  Your opponents give up far too easily after sweeping the surrounding area.

Thief 2014 PC Review

Guards will investigate if they hear a faint noise or see sudden movement.  However, after a while they end up shrugging their shoulders and going back to their initial position.  The AI can often aimlessly walk around with little conviction. Instead of peering around corners and observing possible items which you could be hidden in, they just move backwards and forwards.  Music cues are also applied when you are at risk of being spotted which makes the game even easier. Thankfully, there is a wide scope of HUD options which can be disabled and provide a more tense and realistic experience.

A large proportion of your time will be spent looting various properties.  The valuables you collect have a set intrinsic value which can be exchanged for defensive weapons.  Patience and persistence are required when you have to loot drawers and cupboards for valuables.  Originally, I found the stealing aspects particularly satisfying and what I expected from a Thief game, but in the end, it just became a chore.  After a while, this becomes repetitive as the items lack enough variety.  Ironically, the greatest foe you will face is from wildlife and animals.  Dogs have a heightened sense of hearing and smell you from a great distance.  If a dog gets hold of your scent, he will bark loudly and attract the guard’s attention.  Birds are also troublesome and squawk if you get close to them. As a result, you have to tread carefully and avoid these creatures at all costs.  The only element of diversity comes from collectables hidden in safes and behind picture frames.  QTEs are employed to uncover these rare items.

To unlock a safe, you have to slowly rotate the mouse until a coloured circle appears.  Paintings require you to feed your hands over the frame until you discover a hidden latch.  These puzzles pose no challenge and add nothing to the overall experience.  This feature becomes fairly dull soon after and artificially prolongs the game’s length.  The items you uncover are truly unremarkable and don’t appear to have any special properties.  If some much needed variation was added you would feel more inclined to find these hidden objects of value.  The level design is exceptionally linear and constricted which only allows for a small number of approaches.  The world is awash with tight corridors and claustrophobic houses which all appear very similar.  You can’t explore the world or tackle challenges through different routes.  You have a sensation of being told where to go and even the way in which you should approach objectives.  This linearity directly contravenes the Thief ethos and modernizes it in a negative way.  You can use parkour to ascend buildings and reach checkpoints in a more indirect way.

Thief 2014 PC Review

However, this rarely adds a new dimension and only forces you to interact with environmental objects.  The system becomes fairly obnoxious when it highlights what items you need to jump on.  The player doesn’t need to be told basic information like this; let them discover the solution for themselves.  The end result of this design leads you to play the game in one of two ways.  You can either sneak past those pesky guards or perform stealth takedowns and hide the body. The confined environment is a massive disappointment and adds to the monotony.

From a technical standpoint, Thief is up there with the best PC ports ever made.  The game runs surprising well with a single GTX 670 at 2560×1440 using medium settings where I saw a steady 45FPS.  Downscaling slightly to 1920×1080 allowed me to play at high settings with a rock solid 60FPS.  There are options for AA, AF, Texture Quality, Screenspace Reflection, Depth of Field, Tessellation and many more.  The game includes an FOV slider which reaches 110.  There is a windowed mode and even borderless windowed option.   Control wise, the keyboard and mouse works beautifully and there is no mouse acceleration whatsoever.

I tested the mouse controls with two separate mice running at contrasting DPI settings.  Neither mouse caused a problem and provided a fantastic overall experience.  You can fully remap the keys to whatever suits your play style.    Other settings allow you to modify every aspect of the HUD and even individual difficulty attributes.  For instance, you can disable alerts, food and supplies and enable stealth takedowns only.  The scope of customizability on offer is staggering.  The only letdown on the technical front were sound issues.  There is full surround sound support, but many times I experienced sync issues between the voice acting and facial animations.  This problem was most noticeable during cut scenes.  Nixxes, the company responsible for this port, and others such as Human Revolution and Tomb Raider, is by far the best around when it comes to providing top-notch PC projects.  It is too bad they will have such a terrible title attached to their otherwise good name.

Thief 2014 PC Review

Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?

Thief is without question the most disappointing game I’ve played in a long time.  The story is bland and repetitive with no redeeming features whatsoever.  The AI is primitive and lacks any awareness of your possible strategies.  On a more positive note, the actual sneaking has been superbly executed and creates a sense of tension.  However, this feeling is overawed by the horrendous linear level design which limits your modus operandi.  Thief is a generic stealth game which is completely devoid of any notable moments.  It’s a crying shame, because I adore the previous Thief games and consider them to be the best stealth experiences ever produced.  I would avoid this latest entry because it is a complete waste of your time.  Save your money and buy the original Thief trilogy instead.

Thief Technical Summary:

Thief PC Review

  • Time Played – 21 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 2560×1440
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • 5.1 Audio Support – Yes
  • Bugs/Crashes – Guards walking in a circle, Audio/Video Sync issues
  • Control Scheme – Keyboard and Mouse
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • System Specs – AMD X6 II 1090T @ 4.01GHz, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GTX 670 OC 2GB
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam, Gamersgate, Amazon
  • Demo – No
  • Save Game Location – Steam/userdata/<user-id>/239160/remote
468 ad
  • stika

    It’s really disappointing to read that Thief reached a new low. The first two games were masterpieces and while the third game wasn’t as good it was still well worth a playthrough. I hope the series can return to its former glory one day.

    • John Williamson

      Yep, I was so heartbroken by the simple lack of inspiration in this game. It feels cobbled together without a cogent strategy. The actual gameplay and story is ridiculously dull and that makes for a lackluster experience. Hopefully, this isn’t the end of the series.

  • Kizshocker

    I was waiting on this review from you guys b4 buying. Nope. Tough luck to Square.

    • John Williamson

      Thanks! Really nice to hear that you value our reviews so much. Yeah, I mean everyone was worried about this game pre-launch and I feel like they made some last minute changes in response to fan criticism. The biggest problem I had was simply how dull it was.

  • JoJo

    Thank you! About time we see a honest review. Tired of the lack of knowledge most places have and how funny RPS is trying to be now.

    • John Williamson

      Thank you so much! It’s always a pleasure to hear from your good self. Yeah, the industry as a whole lacks a professional attitude and we at TPG want to stick to a through analysis instead of a platform to show off writer’s egos. This site will never be about forced comedy because it is bad journalism and at times cringe-worthy. If i wanted to laugh, I would see a comedian. 🙂

  • DreadPirateR

    Agree with everything said. Forcing myself to finish it. Spot on review.

    • John Williamson

      Thank you so much! Yeah I enjoyed it for the first hour or so and thought this is a pretty neat game. However, I soon learned that the formula didn’t change and just repeated the same basic tasks. It was a chore to finish in the end.

  • Macro

    Could have been less wordy. But good overall review. I did not think the AI was that bad

    • John Williamson

      Thanks. When you write a long review, sometimes you have to be a little more wordy to avoid duplicate word usage. I like the reviews to be well written and professional whilst not trying to be an essay in vocabulary. Readers come for a review and not a means to show off one’s lexical knowledge. Glad to hear that it wasn’t too bad for you. Personally, I experienced so many problems and found the game ridiculously easy. Saying that, the higher difficulties might provide a better challenge.

  • Ulukai

    Hey, thanks for the in depth review(a trait that is sadly missing with a lot of PC gaming journalists), I’m quite disappointed but it’s what I expected with all the previews, it sounds like it’s not even worth picking up for £5 in a bargain bucket which saddens me further being such a huge fan of the trilogy, 3 not so much. I agree with JoJo above me too, although RPS’s review of the stick of truth is brutally honest compared to others, I’ll wait for TPG’s verdict first though 🙂

    • John Williamson

      Thanks. You are more than welcome. Yeah, it’s such a shame because Thief 1 and 2 are possibly the best pure stealth games ever made. This feels like a confused game which didn’t have any direction. The end result is a dull or lifeless experience which rarely enthralls you. I will be reviewing South Park, and I appreciate that our reviews are key to your buying decision. I had a quick gloss over the RPS review and it does point out the game’s flaws and PC port problems which is a welcome addition.

  • trincetto

    Great in-depth review and analysis! Also, thank you for the technical informations, they are always appreciated. Sad to hear about the state of the new Thief, I wasn’t expecting much but this is disappointing, given how great the previous titles in the series were.
    Has the reviewer tried The Dark Mod?

    • Adam Ames

      Thanks for the comment. Our Technical Summary is one of the aspects that separates us from everyone else. There are far too many outlets who review PC games but never reveal even the most simple technical information about their playthrough. Being on the PC, we feel this information is vital to putting the reader in a situation where she/he can make the most informed purchase decision.

    • John Williamson

      Thank you so much for your kind words, it means a lot. The technical aspect is very important to me as I despite sloppy ports the idea of the PC platform being an afterthought for major studios. Yeah, Thief is just generic and dull and that’s not something I could ever say about the previous games. I haven’t tried the Dark Mod as of yet, but I will certainly look into it.

  • Edd Welch

    ok I just finished Thief and my final impressions are 50/50. I honestly wish I did not spend $30.00 on this game with the DLC. The game was a mixed bag for me & I had almost no fun & the only thing that pushed me through it was the Atmosphere & art direction the game took.

    1. The AI is completely useless that I did not die through the entire game (except for the General)

    2. Looting is very repetitive

    3. The window animations are AWFUL. Just open the friggen window already

    4. Cut scenes for me LAGGED horribly & looked like crap

    6. Dont get me started on the ending

    7. My game crashed a couple of times to the desktop but nothing more then that

    The only real thing I liked was Sneaking around & the LOVED the Art & Atmosphere of Thief. Never again will I buy a game on a pre-order. I had very high hopes for Thief & was excited to hear it was being released but I do regret this purchase.

    • John Williamson

      Totally agree. The game as a whole is completely devoid of any character and provides a dull experience. I managed to achieve a stealth playthrough without being detected and that is quite rare for me. The AI sometimes aimlessly walks around and gives up way too easily. I found the cutscenes to be very buggy too. Thief just feels like a rushed game which drags on despite its short length.

  • Jerykk

    There are numerous inaccuracies and illogical criticisms in this review. While levels are definitely more linear than in the previous games, there are still plenty of branching paths and secrets to be found. Getting 100% loot on the missions is really hard. As for AI, if you play on Master difficulty, NPCs can detect you almost instantly. They even detect you in shadows if they’re close enough. If you aren’t playing on Master, you really aren’t qualified to criticize difficulty. You also failed to mention the Custom difficulty where you set additional restrictions, such as not being allowed to neutralize anyone or be detected. These things make a huge difference in how you play the game and how much of a challenge the experience offers. And as for loot… are you really complaining about generic loot? The loot in the previous games was just as generic. Goblets, candlestick holders, coins, plates… you act like every piece of loot in the original games was a fascinating artifact or something.

    As a fan of the previous Thief games (even Deadly Shadows) and stealth games in general, I found THIEF to be a worthwhile game. It’s certainly not perfect but it’s definitely entertaining enough to warrant your attention if you like the genre. When you’re sneaking around and stealing loot from under guard’s noses, it feels very much like a Thief game. If you don’t enjoy sneaking around and stealing loot, you probably won’t like THIEF but then, I’m not sure why you would like the previous games either.

    • John Williamson

      I strongly refute those claims and some of the criticisms of the review are actually mentioned. In the technical portion, I briefly discuss how fantastic the customization is. You can cater the game to your own preferences and that is very impressive.. When you review games for a living, you have to play each game via the default difficulty setting. If i started playing via Master, it wouldn’t provide an accurate representation of the difficulty spikes for most people. In my own spare time, I will play the game on the higher settings because I adore that stealthy feel of vulnerability. Looting wise, I found it enjoyable at first, but became extremely disappointed for a number of reasons. The items lack variety and you also find most of them in similar places. ie, drawers, cupboards in houses which look very similar. I’m not saying the looting option is boring, but it may become mundane for most people. Thanks for your comment though, and I am glad you enjoyed the game. That’s all that matters in the end.

  • Finicky

    Thanks for mentioning performance, mouse acceleration, fov settings, who did the port and even if there is a demo
    It’s also nice to read about the game mechanics and level design in a review for once

    Good stuff, I got everything I needed to know out of your review

    • Adam Ames

      Thanks for the comment.

      We always aim to bring technical aspects of the game to the forefront in our reviews. Far too many outlets gloss over these, and for a PC gamer, it can be the difference between losing $60 and getting enjoyment out of your purchase.

    • John Williamson

      Thank you very much. I feel it is vital to know before purchasing how it runs, and what settings are available. PC Games should have the basic fundamentals and if they don’t that a reason enough to avoid a purchase at full price. Yeah, In my reviews I focus on a thorough analysis of the gameplay and aspects which aren’t so obvious at first glance.