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Stealth / Action






Ion Storm



M (Mature)



Q3 2004



- Open-ended stealth gameplay
- Nice lighting and graphics
- Teaches you the meaning of the word "taffer"



- Framerate not so good
- Neither are the load times
- Lame interface



Review: Splinter Cell - Pandora Tomorrow (XB)

Review: Thief II (PC)

Review: Mission Impossible - Operation Surma (XB)



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Thief: Deadly Shadows

Score: 8.3 / 10


thief deadly shadows review         thief deadly shadows review


One glance at Thief: Deadly Shadows, and you might possibly mistake it for a medieval Splinter Cell. That description might not be too inaccurate instead of shooting out light bulbs, you extinguish torches with water arrows. Instead of a visibility bar, you have a "light gem". Outside of an optional first person mode, even the controls are the same. But beyond the surface, there's a lot more to Thief: Deadly Shadows. This makes sense, as the series has been around for a little while. Although previously confined to the PC, master thief Garrett has been pulling his sneaky tricks back when Ubisoft was still making nothing but Rayman games.

The best feature is the pure freedom you have. Deadly Shadows still has a linear structure of levels, but they're all built around the central hub city that you inhabit. The levels themselves are far more expansive as well, allowing multiple entrance points and lots of different nooks, crannies, and lofts to aid your infiltration --




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vaguely reminiscent of Hitman. There's a lot to explore too, and exploring is what you're going to want to do. Thief doesn't hand you your weapons and give you a slap on the back. No, you've got to work for every arrow you sling, every land mine you toss, every health drink you imbibe. If you don't find them lying around in chests, you can just steal some of the precious jewellery lying around and sell it on black market,


earning you some nice cash to outfit yourself with more pointy objects. Obsessive completionists can also amuse themselves by trying to complete each level with 100% loot stolen.

Most of the time, you're not even given a map to a level you have to go out and find it yourself. They aren't always entirely useful, as they are crudely drawn, and there's no magical "You Are Here" indicator, so you still spend a lot of time trying to identify your surroundings. As you progress in the game, you even meet up with two different factions, of whom you can complete various subquests for. They don't drastically alter the outcome of the game or the levels you play through, but it does make the game feel less stringent.

Speaking of player freedom, if you're used to the sparsely placed checkpoints, Thief refreshingly lets you save anywhere. It's not that the game is easy - certainly not. The AI guards are smart enough to hunt you down and alert others to your presence, although dashing into a dark corner for a few minutes will usually lose them. Garrett has quite a pair of running legs, but that's about it -- put him in combat with pretty much anyone and most likely you'll find yourself being carried swiftly to the "restart" screen.


thief deadly shadows review          thief deadly shadows review

Like most great stealth games, the game rewards you for executing some sneaky maneuvers over random smashing. You can creep up to anyone and either whack 'em over the head with a blackjack for a silent knockout, or simply stab them in the neck for a loud and violent death. Water arrows let you wash off blood stains, and moss arrows let you walk over loud platforms without being heard. You can even pickpocket certain characters, taking either their money or weaponry. It is a lot of fun stealing a shaman's staff and watching as he runs chaotically, completely defenseless. Garrett also has a mechanical eye that lets him zoom in on distant objects, but it lacks the feature it needs most: night vision. Approximately 90% of the game is spent with the lights off, and while characters are given a vague glow-in-the-dark aura so you can see them in the pitch black, more often you'll either have to turn up the brightness or simply stumble through the darkness. Even just a portable torch would've make navigation a little easier.

Ion Storm has had the very ambitious concept of launching their games on both the PC and console at the same. Unfortunately, the result is an interface that is clearly not meant to be navigated with a controller. Working your way through the text briefings in an unnecessary pain, and the inventory management is awkward too. And for a game where you constantly need to refer to a map, it's not the best idea to bury it two screens deep in the menu, especially with the lack of a shortcut button.

Since Deadly Shadows shares the same engine as Deus Ex: Invisible War, you get the same gorgeous visuals, amazing lighting and incredible physics. And, alas, it once again seems that the mighty Xbox just simply cannot keep up. The game runs steadily enough during regular sneaking (despite some irritating screen tearing), but once you alert any number of guards, the framerate drops dramatically. Don't even try playing around with the ragdoll physics too much, as it tends to drop the frames into the single digit range. The load time is also quite exasperating, taking at least thirty seconds to load new areas (or restarted after dying) and sometimes as long as a minute. There's even a few bugs, the worst of which resets the difficulty level back to normal when you enter a new area. I'm all for seeing PC games come to the Xbox, as it's a great alternative to expensive gaming computers, but they definitely need to be optimized for the platform better.

There's a lot of lessons other stealth games could learn, especially in its open-endedness and staunch anti-checkpoint agenda. Despite the technical issues, Thief: Deadly Shadows does more than just a few things right, and more games could learn some lessons from it.

- Kurt Kalata
(July 21, 2004)


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