Thief Xbox One Review: My Mom Thinks It's Boring And So Do I

Thief Game
The Thief reboot is scheduled for release on Feb 25 for 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4 and PC. EIDOS Montreal

Sometimes the glamorous world of being a professional video game reviewer collides with that "social life" thing gamers have heard about. It is in the midst of such a collision that I found myself having to write my Thief for Xbox One review while my mother was staying at my apartment for an impromptu visit.

I thought this might cramp my style. My mom is as much a luddite as the next baby boomer and, outside of a few Facebook and mobile titles, has never done any serious gaming in her life. I worried she would inhibit my focus on the game by not understanding the ins-and-outs of Thief. that I would relive that age-old argument of "you just don't get it mom."

But my mom got it. Here's are the simple truths she observed while watching eight (non-consecutive) hours of me playing Thief, and why she was right in everything she said.

"Now What's It Loading?!?"

Thief for Xbox One is plagued by loading screens. It's a major buzzkill in the next-gen universe when a game requires dozens of loading screens while delivering a fraction of the depth of last-gen titles like Skyrim or GTA V. I'll never understand how some games can create such expansive worlds and others struggle with dead ends and linear gameplay. Thief for Xbox One is constantly loading maps in a world that just isn't that large. I encountered a loading screen climbing into the window of a one-room apartment, and another when I slipped out a window on the other side. How is this next-gen?

The loading screens are indicative of a larger problem in Thief: wasted time. Because the worlds aren't open for you to traverse anyway you see fit you'll spend a lot of time gazing at the scaffolding on buildings trying to trace it around corner after corner until you find an access point. The focus skill is handy and well-balanced, but after getting to experience the kind of free-form point-A-to-point-B pathfinding found in games like Assassin's Creed or Uncharted being forced to look for one particular ladder or ledge makes Thief feel like a step backward.

"You Died Again?"

After falling to my death for what felt like the billionth time my mom wasn't the only one feeling incredulous. I've written extensively about how Thief wasn't designed to be easy. So I was expecting the game to offer a challenge and I figured I would be dying a lot at the hands of patrols. I didn't expect gravity to be my fiercest foe. And the problem with all these fall deaths is that they came during attempts to navigate the narrow maps. Garrett can clear some gaps, but not others. He also won't jump down from one ledge to another without hitting the B-button or L-trigger (which is used for every sprint, jump and climb), but he will slip off a beam unexpectedly an astounding number of times.

Again, this is a result of Thief's narrow, thoughtless maps. You find yourself working your way up to a second story window of a building you need to burglarize only to discover that, for some reason, the top floor has no interior staircase. Maybe you'll see a door with no handle. Or a window you can't open. But there are far too many dead ends in Thief that are the result of the constraints placed on travel. You have rope arrows that can only attach to certain beams and a blackjack that only jimmys certain windows. You can't go everywhere, and it doesn't take long to feel like you can't go anywhere at all. So you take leaps of faith between buildings because you're out of ideas. And you die. A lot.

"This Looks Boring."

For all the horsepower under the next-gen hood, Thief for Xbox One does little to offer a visually stimulating environment. It's dark, and it's supposed to be, but there isn't anything that catches the eye. Thief just isn't fun to look at on Xbox One. I imagine that when it runs on PC on max settings it looks gorgeous and the mists and lighting add atmosphere. But the Xbox one doesn't look next-gen at ALL and, apparently, the PS4 is experiencing it's own issues.

The story and cutscenes don't offer much relief either. Through no fault of its own, Thief closely mirrors 2012's Dishonored (they were in development at the same time). But that doesn't change the fact that the story of a mystically-chosen shadow master avenging the death of a woman he loved, set in a noirish steampunk city with a power-hungry baron and a plague, doesn't feel fresh. Basso, your fence and primary mission giver, provides some comic relief and Garrett maintains a stoic sarcasm throughout, but many of the cutscenes have a been-there-done-that feel.

"So All You Do Is Pick Up Stuff?"

The looting system in Thief is too simple for its own good. Every item you loot is converted instantly into gold. There isn't much in the way of trading outside of a few new tools and basic supplies. And, because Thief puts a glimmer on every piece of loot that makes it easy to see, you essentially find yourself just passively ping-ponging around a room snatching highlighted things off of shelves instead of actively observing an environment and discovering loot for yourself.

And, because you don't actually carry anything, you never feel the weight of what you loot or any sort of connection to items. Anyone who's spent time playing dungeon crawlers knows how much inventory management adds to the game. And while I appreciated Thief's stripped down, reasonable arsenal of weapons and tools, I would've liked to see a little more thought put into the loot. You never have to make the hard choices of what to take and what to leave behind. instead, every glimmering letter opener or inkwell just instantly poofs into a few gold pieces until you're not even paying attention to what you pick up anymore. It's just about hitting X and moving on.

"Why Would You Recommend This Game To Anyone?"

Ultimately, my mom cut to the core of what I do as a game reviewer. Would I recommend this game to anyone? Yes, I would, but only to a particular kind of gamer. Thief is a verrrry slow game that requires tremendous patience and encourages multiple playthroughs with a good scoring system. Thief analyzes your gameplay and classifies you as either a Ghost, Opportunist or Predator, and tallies completion percentages for each chapter based on actions that suit your playstyle. Predators get points for KOing every guard, for example, while Ghosts must not be seen.

Thief seems to cater to the hardcore sneak fan and, because of customizable gameplay settings, offers a challenge to longtime fans of the series. But the casual gamer or average Xbox One owner might find Thief a bit too tedious.

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