User Rating: 8.7 | Thief: Deadly Shadows PC
Being a long time fan of Through the Looking Glass studios, I was very excited when I heard that the Thief licensing had been picked up by Ion Storm. A long time coming, Thief: Deadly Shadows is an excellent continuation to the series. For those that have not played the previous two games, you play the role of Garrett, a master thief. The objective to the game starts out fairly simple: break into a building, steal some loot, escape, and sell it to a fence. As with the previous games in the series, the plot kicks into gear and things tend to get much more complicated. What kept the Thief series from monotony is the fact that the game is very anti-combat. Similar to other “stealth FPS” games, you do best to avoid getting into combat. To do this, you have an assortment of tools, most of which are carry-overs from the first two games: A blackjack to knock people unconscious after sneaking up on them, a bow with multiple arrow types, to lock picks and wall climbing gloves. This reverse thinking may be a challenge for those that have not played these types of games before, especially in a “low tech” environment where things like night vision is not available. What is different about Deadly Shadows is in the execution. Instead of a level structure, the game has more of a open-path to it. After finishing the first few missions, you are actually placed in “The City” to get from one mission to the next. During this time, you have to deal with the City Watch who will attempt to arrest you on sight. You are also free to pick as many peasant’s pockets as you can get away with. It is a creative change to the “Level” philosophy behind the previous two games. The other major new addition is the third person mode. While most previous Thief players will choose the first person mode, the new view does have the advantages of letting you see where Garrett is standing much easier. This helps in the first mission when you have to sneak between two tables and don’t want to knock a chair over alerting people to your presence. The game has come a long way from the Dark engine of yore. T:DS, sharing a similar engine code base with Deus Ex: Invisible War, has a much more realistic and immersive game environment than in the previous games due to the modern game engine. Early in the first training mission you walk, creep actually, down a hallway. Halfway down there is a bared window with a lit fireplace. The engine actually casts realistic shadows on the wall from the bars that move as the fire flickers. It is important to note not only where the dark spots are in buildings for you to hide in, but to be aware of where your own shadow falls because it can give you away. Fortunately, you have a limited supply of water arrows which will douse open flames giving you more options. Sound also plays an important role during your urban spelunking, and Deadly Shadows again makes good use of Creative’s EAX extensions. Running creates more noise than creeping, and ground types also have an effect. Wooden walkways and stone paved roads are much noisier than carpet and grass. It is both a blessing and a curse, because it gives away guard and peasant movement just as easily as your own. Fans of the previous two games will also get a kick out of some returning voice actors, most notably Garrett’s voice and a few of the guards. You also pick up more information about missions by eavesdropping on conversations. The game is not perfect, and does carry a few flaws onto the shelf. First and foremost is the system requirements themselves. Pixel Shading 1.1 is a requirement for the game to run, which eliminates most 3D enabled laptops, integrated video, and older or the “budget” line of current nVidia and ATI graphic cards. 256MB of RAM is also needed, although I would recommend having 512 or more, and at least a 1.2 GHz processor. Also, you must have Windows 2000 or XP, no other versions are supported. While not quite a flaw, it is definitely a large leap forward in requirements from the previous two titles. I myself hit problems with the copy protection built into the game due to CD-ROM incompatibility which causes the game to take much longer to start. I’ve read reports of others having problems getting the program to install from disk switching problems. While workarounds do exist, these seem like problems that should have been easily found before the game hit the shelves. There are a few other nagging problems in the game itself as well. As the official reviewer pointed out, two guards can be following each other, you can knock out the one in the back, and the first guard just continues on his patrol. There are some problems with the walk and creep modes as well. Creeping to a location to perform a special action (Such as picking up an item) will cause Garrett to “forget” that he was creeping, even if you never let go of the Ctrl button. The game engine has far too many zone spots as well, which look like dark, sparkly vortexes. It really pulls away from the immersion of hitting load screens halfway through a mission. There are no patches at the time of this review, but I would expect some to be released soon in true Thief tradition. Outside of a few nagging issues and heftier (If not picky) system requirements, the game is a great play for fans of stealthier games and the Theif series. If you are a Thief fan or looking for an interesting twist on Splinter Cell, I highly recomend picking up a copy. For those looking for Farcry type action, this may not be the game for you.