All good things must come to an end
Admittedly my expectations were quite low, what with Ion Storm’s much touted bungling of ‘Invisible War’...I almost made the 3 hour journey to Austin to scream at Warren. Luckily ‘Thief: Deadly Shadows’ has in no way suffered the same fate. The list of good and bad aspects is a long one, so here we go:
The most prominent improvement is, of course, the update to the Unreal II engine. More than capable of rendering real-time lighting and shadows, it also gives a boost in the AI department. Because of this, I had to be more mindful of my actions this time around, because guards and others would often become alerted or suspicious if a torch was doused, if valuables were not in their proper place, or even if a guard was not present at his scheduled patrol station. Speaking of which, NPCs will often randomly stop to talk to one another and react to each other’s actions, and even start fights!
Graphics and AI upgrades aside, the nucleus of the Thief atmosphere is one thing that has not changed at all. In fact, ‘Deadly Shadows’ feels much more like a Thief game to me than the mechanical environment of ‘The Metal Age’ (even though such an environment was vital to the story, but still…). One thing I loved about the first game was its dark, gritty appearance, and that it really did give me the creeps. Thankfully, this atmosphere has made a return, and is in fact much more sinister and frightening at times than even ‘The Dark Project’. Also, a lot of familiar entities, friend or foe, have made a comeback as well, including a couple of “old friends” from the first game.
Perhaps the most outstanding difference between ‘Deadly Shadows’ and the previous two games is, rather than employ the traditional complete-a-level-and-then-transport-to-the-next-one, most of the time you’re required to journey to the next mission yourself throughout the various quadrants of the City. Along the way, you’re allowed to break into establishments, pickpocket unsuspecting citizens, and sell your loot to buy supplies at fence shops. Excellent!
I only have a couple of major grievances, and they’re artistic ones.
First of all, I was highly disappointed at the disappearance of the between mission cut scenes that the first two games had. Gone are the tantalizing quotes and slide-show movies; now we simply have Garrett reading text that sits against a smoky background. Second, the interface was changed. I’m not exactly sure why; it can’t be because of co-development with XBOX, because the Thief games already had a very simple control scheme. This most likely won’t bother most, but it did irk me, so if you want a more traditional Thief UI I’d suggest going to TTLG.com and downloading the “tweaker”, because it does wonders. Also, there is a known bug with the enemy AI, but the 414KB patch can be downloaded from Ion Storm’s homepage or TTLG.
Many have complained about the “load zones” throughout the game (to accommodate the memory limitations of the XBOX), but I didn’t find them to be a huge distraction. Many of my favorite FPS games such as ‘Deus Ex’, ‘System Shock 2’, and ‘Undying’ have load zones, so I don’t see it as anything to gripe about.
The Bottom Line
It’s well known by many how much of a devoted Thief fanatic I am, so people like myself are 99% more likely to be extremely critical of this game. I can say with confidence that ‘Deadly Shadows’ is most definitely a Thief game in almost every sense of the word, and surpassed my expectations across the board. I confess that it doesn’t surpass ‘The Dark Project’, a magical game than can never be duplicated. In my opinion however it does offer a much more satisfying and thief-like experience than the heavy sci-fi overtones of ‘The Metal Age’. Old-timers like myself will be happy with the conclusion, and newbies will want to know more about this bizarre world that is the City.
So long Garrett…thanks for six years worth gaming righteousness.
And Mr. Spector, thanks for restoring my faith in you.