"Deadly Shadows" is a great stealth game with a great story and incredible atmosphere.

User Rating: 8.7 | Thief: Deadly Shadows PC
Could it be? That the same studio and publisher that made “Deus Ex: Invisible War” also made “Thief: Deadly Shadows?” Apparently, it is, since the former was a flawed and mediocre effort, and the latter stands out to me as the finest stealth/action game of the past five years. If, for some reason, you have hesitated to buy this game, then hesitate no longer. Technically, you don’t have to have played the first two Thief games to play “Thief: Deadly Shadows”, but the story and atmosphere tie so closely with the first game, that you probably should. The story in “Deadly Shadows” is great from beginning to end. So while the levels provide you with an interesting challenge, the story is what makes this game addictive. The suspense begins to build early, and it never really stops until the story ends, although the very end is slightly anticlimactic. The game provides a sense of mystery that few games manage to do, and then it wraps it all up in a very satisfying manner. In the final cut scene, the game ends the thief trilogy by bringing it full circle. The stealth mechanics for the game are well-refined. Generally, stealth works great here, and the trial-and-error that you find in the Splinter Cell series is nonexistent. This is mostly due to the inclusion of items like flash bombs and sleeping gas arrows, which let you escape from a tight spot. Unlike the previous Thief games, these items are abundant and somewhat cheap, so you can use a lot of them without running out. Of course, there are exploits in the game, just like every other stealth game. Yes, shadows hide you a bit too well and yes, the guards are all lazy. This makes the game too easy, unless you play on the hardest difficulty level or self-impose a “no-kill” rule. You also will have to refrain from using the third-person viewpoint, which has little value besides providing neat-looking screenshots. However, it keeps the game from getting boring or frustrating, which can be a problem for stealth/action games, since they tend to move along slowly. The suffocating, creepy atmosphere of the first “Thief” game makes its return here with a vengeance. The atmosphere is greatly enhanced by what I believe is the greatest ambient sound to ever grace a video game. If you have an EAX-capable sound card, then the sound of the game is so perfect, that you’ll forget that you are playing a game. The sound contributes to a general sense of foreboding and danger that I haven’t experienced since System Shock 2. The excellent voice work doesn’t hurt either. There is a ton of content here. The number of voice-acted lines and sound bites rivals games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Deus Ex. You can go a long time without hearing guards’ AI barks repeat, although many of the voices sound the same. You also get to overhear a lot of conversations. Some are funny, and many contribute to the storyline. All of it is top notch. There isn’t one B- voice performance in the game. This game definitely suffers from being co-designed for the X-Box. Namely, the sizes of the maps are very small. Every mission has to be divided into at least two small zones. Plus, many areas feel tight and cramped, and the game doesn’t reward creativity like the previous two did. The levels are still good, but most of them are somewhat plain. The rope arrows are gone, but it doesn’t matter, since the small level sizes pretty much prevent vertical thinking. The game also suffers a bit from a dumbing-down effect in some places. The most notable is the tendency for the game to constantly tip you off to special items of loot with conspicuously placed notes. Basically, you find books and letters everywhere out in the open, which give you obvious hints on what should have been secrets. There are still a few hard goodies to find, but the over-reliance on this mechanic removes a lot of the satisfaction from finding special items. One more slightly annoying problem in the game is the HORRIBLE implementation of rag-doll physics. The way that bodies bend like Silly Putty is a distraction, and one of the game’s few immersion-breakers. The game would have been better off with motion-captured animations and simpler physics. “Thief: Deadly Shadows” ends up being a long game. It took me over 30 hours to get through it, searching every nook and cranny and trying not to kill anyone. In this time, I rarely got bored or tired of the game. Regardless of how you play, there is a ton of content here, in stark contrast to games that only give you an 8-hour campaign. Once you play this game, it’s easy to recognize that a lot of people who worked on the first two games also worked on this game. “Deadly Shadows” is more than worthy of carrying the “Thief” name. The X-Box may have kept this from being “Game of the Year”, but at least it didn’t keep it from being great.