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COLUMN: Aaron’s Backstage Pass: Thief PS4 Review

Created: 03/05/2014 4:26 PM KSTP.com
By: Aaron Chalich

Last week I received a review code for Square-Enix’s “Thief” for the PS4.  I have been seeing a lot of trailers and reading a lot articles about it on the internet, so I was pretty excited.

“Thief” is an amazing game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the best games of 2014.

The graphics are fabulous and look amazing.  The characters look so lifelike, and the backgrounds are spectacular. 

The game designers and graphic artists did a great job with making “Thief” feel dark and gloomy.

“Thief” is a first person stealth game.  Your goal is to steal items and to take out guards in your path without being detected, so shadows and dark areas play a major role in the game.

In “Thief,” you play as a master thief named Garrett.  Garrett also has a young protégé named Erin.  The game takes place in a city called “The City” which is a very dark and dangerous place.  One night when Erin and Garrett are out on a mission, they witness a bizarre ceremony, and they fall from the rooftop.

Garrett wakes up, and there is a horrible plague in The City.  The City is also ruled by a tyrant called “The Barron.”

I thought the story was excellent and very exciting.  There are many intense situations where you must rely on your skills and quick thinking.

There are many interesting characters that you will encounter such as “Bosso” who will give Garrett jobs and side missions to do.  There is also “Queen of Beggars” who is a mysterious lady.  In exchange for gold, she will increase your focus abilities.  There are eight different focus skills you can increase, and they are intuition, dexterity, sense, combat, speed, efficiency, marksman, and stealth.  I will talk more about focus in a little bit.

Before you start playing, you can choose the difficulty of the game.  There are four settings you can choose, and they are Rogue (easy), Thief (normal), Master (Hard) and custom.  This is the first time I have seen the custom mode in a game. There is Classic Thief (focus abilities, on screen target and saves are disabled, can only do stealth takedowns), Legendary Thief (only certain arrows can be used, tools are more expensive, movement is slower and there health parcels are removed) and the last setting is Ultimate Thief (if you die the game is over, upgrades are not available, guard alerts, knockdowns or kills are not allowed).

Controlling Garrett is very simple and easy.  There is an in-game tutorial that explains everything as you encounter a new ability or thing to do in the game.  For example, when you first find the arrows, text will appear on the screen saying that you need to push the touch pad to select the arrows.

Garrett can do many different things in “Thief.”  He can climb, sneak, pick pockets and pick locks.  When you come across a locked door or safe, Garrett will bring out his lock picking tools.  A series of circles will appear on the screen.  There are usually three or four, and you need to move the left analog stick to a certain position and once you find the correct spot, the controller will vibrate and the circle will be filled in. You have to push “R2,” and then you can move to the next one.   Once you get all the correct spots, the locked door or safe will open.  I thought that this was a pretty cool feature.

Garrett must sneak around a lot, and on the lower left of the screen there is a light gem icon.  If it is white, it means that Garrett is out in the open and can be seen.  If the circle is black that means he is well hidden and will not be seen by guards.  Garrett can put out candles and shoot out lights with arrows to make well lit areas darker.

Garrett also can swoop, and this is a pretty cool feature.  He can move quickly from one dark area to another.  If you are hiding in a doorway and you need to move to another area, you can quickly do this, and you will not be detected by guards.

I mentioned the focus meter earlier, and I want to talk a little bit more about it now.  Garrett can use his focus to see things he can interact with like ropes to climb, items to pick up and enemies.  As he learns new focus abilities from the Queen of Beggars, he can use these abilities when he activates the meter.   When activated, Garrett will also be able to move faster, pick locks faster, and also slow time down so he can aim better.  There are many upgrades, and you can see all the ones that are available when you talk to the Queen of Beggars.

Garret carries around a blackjack to knock enemies out with.  He can sneak up behind them and take them out without being noticed.  Garrett can also pick their pockets before he knocks them out, so that is pretty clever.

There are many different ways you can play “Thief,” and it all depends on what kind of player you are.  You can play it as aggressively or as nonaggressive as you want.  You can just run up to guards and start fighting, or you can try and be stealthy and go undetected.  At the end of every mission, you are ranked on what your play style was.  There are three styles, and they are predator, ghost and opportunist.

In every level, there are objectives you must complete.  There will be an icon that will appear on the screen that will show you where you need to go and how far away you are from the area.  There are also side objectives such as steal all of the loot that is available, do not be detected, etc...  If you pause the game you can see what the side objectives are.

You can freely roam around “The City,” and your hideout is the “Clock Tower.”  Items you have stolen will be displayed here, and you can also stock up or store items that you buy from the merchant.

If you pause the game, you can see the map of “The City, unique loot you have stolen, look at documents (letters, newspapers, etc…) and see your player progression.

There is also a challenge mode that is available, and missions will unlock as you complete different levels.  There are three different modes to each level and they include: Chain and Gain (steal as much loot as you can before the time runs out), Chain and Gain Limited (you cannot increase time so you have a limited amount of time to steal loot), and Special Loot Hunt (you have a certain amount of time to find a hidden item and hot and cold indicators are used.)  These modes were really fun and also very challenging.

I really enjoyed Square Enix’s “Thief” a lot for the PS4.  The graphics and gameplay are amazing.  I really enjoyed trying to solve the challenging puzzles.  I thought the game was very exciting and also intense when you are sneaking around.  The controls were smooth and easy to learn, and I really liked the focus abilities.  I know that fans of the “Thief” series and people who like first person shooters are really going to like this game a lot.  I would highly recommend that you check out “Thief.”  I had a blast playing it and I know you will too.

“Thief is rated “M”

*“The copy was provided by Square Enix for review purposes”

Aaron Chalich is a KSTP.com entertainment columnist.


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