One of the most famous franchises around for the PC, Thief, only managed to gain a small following during its PC years and the two games for that platform. So bad was the situation, developer Looking Glass Studios shutdown citing piracy of the original two games as the main reason they couldn't go on. When Eidos gave the license to Ion Storm, famous for games such as Deus Ex, there was anticipation but also fear when a console version was announced. However despite the game may not be as hardcore as some may have liked, the accessibility has increased the games appeal significantly and third time around they have come up with a formula which should extend the life of the franchise.
Once again you can take control Garret, a master thief. Garret is a very mysterious character who only appears during the night to take from the rich and give to the poor as well as fulfill conquests of his own such as stealing a rare opal. Thief Deadly Shadows can be compared in many ways to Ubisofts Splinter Cell franchise. They are both stealth games, both have some interesting game mechanics, and rely on the shadows featured throughout to give players protection. So if you like the two Splinter Cell games, chances are you might get a kick out of Thief Deadly Shadows. The game as mentioned before revolves around taking from the rich and giving to the poor but does so in a completely open ended fashion. How you reach your task and how many enemies you take down is completely up to you, although you do have restrictions such as the number of arrows and items allocated during each mission.
Before each mission, the game will brief you on what you have to achieve to be successful. As well as a main plot line goal such as stealing a rare piece of jewelery. Depending on the difficulty of the mission which is pre-selected by the player, you will have to collect a percentage of loot from the towns people before progressing to the next mission. You can pickpocket characters as they walk by, or while your in someone's house or castle snoop around for extra loot. The main mission objectives compliment this. Sometimes you will have to go and see a shop keeper to sell a rare item, or figure out how to get into a safe via reading someone's diary. The game is not linear and you can be quick to complete missions or take the atmosphere in and explore the town.
As mentioned before the game heavily relies on shadows and this is your key weapon against the enemies. On screen a crystal is displayed which gives a quick indication of how hidden you are. If the crystal is dark, you are hidden, if it is beaming bright everyone can see you. However because of the lighting of the game, most of the time this is not needed and if you consider yourself to be hidden on screen, you usually are. Enemies come in two forms; the town guard and general civilians. The town guard are the city police and are hunting you down for crimes but unless you are actually on someone's property, the city folk will leave you alone making travel in the city easier than it could have been.
Garrett also carries a number of items to help him along the way. Various types of arrows to kill enemies, shoot out fire lanterns or create diversions as well as items to help him get out of trouble such as an old style flashbang. You can choose to play this game how you wish because of this. If you want to play it in an action packed, move quick, shoot now style you can but you can also go for the stealth maneuver trying to move through unseen, unheard. One particular game mechanic which stands out is how to unlock doors. To unlock a door you have to move the analogue stick in a direction which makes the controller shake about three or four times. It's not overly innovative but its better than just opening the door in the first place.
The city in which the game is set is quite detailed and made up of numerous sections. Due to the size of the city, at least on the Xbox version it is divided up into numerous sections which can be to your advantage when running from guards as they will not follow you through. Most of the city is only there for the aesthetic experience but you can enter stores and purchase items such as arrows as well as talk to the townsfolk as long as the city guard don't see you. The game provides a map which can be useful in finding goals, and the tutorial teaches you how to move around in a stealth fashion by providing foot steps on screen of where Garret should tread.
The game uses a powerful graphics engine and it is here that the lighting engine really shines through. You can adjust and affect the light with a quick water arrow shot to provide more shadows to hide in so dynamic lighting is present and as mentioned before if you're in shadows on screen you're usually not viewable. You can also play this particular game in a third person or first person perspective. Third person is the default and unless you're a seasoned veteran of Thief, then probably the best choice at first.
However one problem with the game is the brightness and many will be wanting to adjust their TV settings. This is because when in the dark Garrett is completely un-viewable without any light shining on him, making it hard to know where you are. When you turn the brightness up, you can see the character but he has a texture usually not viewable which obviously helps determine whether you're hidden or not. The problem is the character just doesn't look all that great when seen like this. A small gripe but one that many will choose to put up with due to the brightness.
The sound effects of the game are well done with some great voice acting and the towns people talking to Garret as you approach them such as 'get out of my way' or other comments. Garret himself doesn't make much noise during movement as you would expect with a stealth character and the game contains a cinematic soundtrack which adjusts to the action happening on the screen.
Thief Deadly Shadows is a great stealth game which just has a few problems keeping it back from the higher bracket of scores. The stealth game play is great, and the open ended style of play means that almost everyone will approach the game in a completely different fashion, which offers a great deal of replay value. If you're looking for another stealth fix on the Xbox and don't mind playing in an era without the greatest and latest technology available then Thief Deadly Shadows could just be the game that you're looking for.