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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Thief.

TranscriptEdit

Publishers these days tend to treat gaming history like a great big party buffet full of lovely dishes; they randomly pick a sherry trifle with some nostalgia value and name recognition, do a great big squirty dump into it, and then they push it back into our face going "Look, now there's more trifle! Give us cash!"

Well, that opening remark probably gives away my opinion on Thief right off the bat, doesn't it? But it's not like you weren't expecting it, given my documented love of the previous Thief games and equally-documented hatred for shit in trifles. But if you are just joining us, Thief is a reboot of a series in which a bloke steals money from people with too much disposable income because he doesn't feel like putting any effort into working for a living, so it's good to see the creators of this new one taking that particular attitude on board if nothing else.

I wondered if it might be better to assess it by its own merits rather than how it differs from the originals, but on the other hand, that's like wondering whether to use a fish slice or a butterfly net to get shit out of the trifle. So the first thing we do when we set out to slop together a drab, tick-the-boxes, committee-designed, work-the-name-recognition-'til-its-organs-of-generation-dry-up-and-blow-away-like-dandelion-seeds reboot is to isolate everything that gave the original its unique appeal, edge, and soul, put on our big boots and stamp and stamp and stamp, until it can be posted through the letterbox of an ungrateful majority audience who'd be afraid of their own farts if they sounded one demitone higher than usual.

The Garrett I remember falling in love with was a straight-talking, unapologetic anti-hero who knew when things were serious but was always ready to offer a bit of dry wit to camera upon finding a nobleman's private spanking saddle. He was not Batman, but that's what they've made him into! A broody misery-guts who communicates solely in growly macho soundbites that only make sense until you think about them!

If you asked Old Garrett why he stole, he'd answer "'Cause I need to pay rent, and it's the only thing I'm good at, so shut up and let go of your wallet." New Garrett would (and indeed does) give the answer "Because it's what I do." No, Garrett, it's what you are currently doing.

"Hey, Yahtzee, why are you kicking New Garrett in the stomach?"
"'Cause it's what I'm currently doing!"

They're not "putting a new spin" on the guy, they're boiling down a complex and interesting character into a boring, easily-digestible archetype, i.e. Batman. And, like Batman, he's suddenly having to be the dad figure to a teenage girl sidekick who, at various points, is the Rebel Action Girl, the Damsel in Distress, and the Woman Scorned. She has to wear three archetype hats, because more than one female character might get dangerously diverse! Then there's the villain, the Thief-Taker General, whose only role in the plot is to occasionally show up and victimize Garrett in an operatically evil manner, like Dick Dastardly chasing the pigeon, perhaps having missed the point that "Thief-Taker General" refers to the whole profession of thieving and not just one specific guy.

Part of the identity of the Thief series was dry humour; a city of thick, drunken guards and blustering nobles. You, the wily outsider, come to take them down a peg! But there's no wit or poetic justice in this city, just miserable people being serious. "Ergh, the police are evil and everyone's got the plague, who will save us? What's that? Dishonoured? Never heard of it." And no-one says "taff" anymore; they say "fuck." That's not fun; Errol Flynn swinging off a rope onto a pirate ship is fun, but if the enemy crew just tells him to fuck off, it'd completely kill the mood! The other thing about the city in, say, Thief II, was that it apparently had laxer zoning laws and you were allowed to build houses larger than the average semi-detached suburban semi, freely-explorable, where the guards take long circuitous patrols that might take you by surprise. Now the guards walk to a thing, stand with their back to the room muttering "Gee, I hope no-one plays my skull like a bongo!", then walk to another thing six feet away like they forgot what they came in here for.

Of course, to suggest that the game be like Thief II is unhelpful, as you can't do those sprawling, open-ended levels Thief II had with the modern cutting-edge graphics that are apparently so fucking important. We learned that in Thief III, and this new Thief, which chooses not to call itself Thief 4 just to make my life difficult, looked at Thief III and thought "Okay, we know the smaller levels were less fun, but maybe if we make them even smaller, it'll come full circle and be fun again! And we'll add points of no return every twenty fucking yards, in most cases without telling the player that they're points of no return! And the players who were just trying to explore can suck on a salty sausage!" You can finish the game in about twenty minutes by sprinting to the next point of no return, alerting every guard, cat, and stationary object, none of which chase you past points of no return. A game with any balls at all would then say "Get the fuck back in there and take this seriously! If you don't steal enough to pay a mortgage installment, I'm keeping all these experience points for myself!"

Thief, on the other hand, goes "Well done for playing the game your way! Hell, who says a game called Thief has to be about stealing things (besides the dictionary)?", and then puts you back in the overworld. Thief III did the mission-connecting hub-world thing as well, and it provided just as pointless and boring a commute then! Except now that the average big game project has a minimum of fifteen to twenty individuals whose entire job seems to be to look busy, the hub world is absolutely plastered with useless doors, windows, and ledges, that are differentiated from the doors, windows, and ledges one can interact with only by whether or not a contextual button prompt comes up when you're close enough to kiss it.

This is like playing a bad text adventure!

You see a door.
>ENTER DOOR_
You can't enter the door.
>SEARCH ROOM_
You find one door you can actually enter and several guards spinning in place 'cause their AI bollocked up.

Perhaps I should criticize something unrelated to previous Thief games. Okay, then! The sound engineering's fucked! I had to turn subtitles on 'cause there was a cutscene where everyone spoke in such growly, serious voices, I couldn't understand a fucking word they were saying. Guards kept repeating their scripted conversations, in more than one case before they'd finished the previous run-through, and the volume of sounds didn't seem to have any relation to how many walls were between me and the source.

All in all, the kindest thing one can say about Thief is that it's just another soulless AAA game to add to the pile. Token nods to the originals broken up with Uncharted-style puzzles, climby bits, and action escape sequences, lest we concentrate on one thing long enough to realize what a mess we've made. Where you can't even bop a guy across the bonce without feeling a hundred meddling pairs of hands, adding irritating music stings and elaborate takedown animations, until you might as well be smashing their heads between a pair of cymbals for all the subtlety it has. By itself, it's merely tiresome; to the Thief series as a whole it's about as welcome an entrant as an agave cactus at a double penetration!

AddendaEdit

  • Currently stealing your free time: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Maybe I could blackjack people without alerting other nearby people if there wasn't that fucking string quartet following me around
  • In some circles I am known as the Queef-Taker General

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5

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