Review of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
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UK Boxshot of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
US Boxshot of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
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UK RELEASE: 11-Jun-2004 (Released)  | NORDIC RELEASE: 11-Jun-2004 (Released) |  US RELEASE: 25-May-2004 (Released)
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  Review of: Thief: Deadly Shadows | By: Justin Fenico
19 Jun-2004
 

Thief is probably the first title that I can remember being branded as a stealth game. After that a genre was created in which gameplay focused on avoiding your enemies instead of run and gun action. Titles like Splinter Cell and Hitman persuaded the gamer to stalk from the shadows and strike swiftly without ever being seen. Games like these are created due to Thief’s wide success and being the first to break the barrier.
  GENERAL
 

After a long wait, the third installment, Deadly Shadows is released. In Deadly Shadows we find Garrett still harnessing his skills of thievery. During a routine job, he overhears a conversation of betrayal and backstabbing. Nothing to uncommon for where he lives, but when the secretive order of Keepers request his help a story of dark times, murder, and mystery unfold. I’m not talking about a simple who-done-it mystery but more like an apocalyptic mystery that, if not solved, would throw the world into a dark age. And we all know that dark ages aren’t something to celebrate.

  GAMEPLAY

Staying true to the series, Deadly Shadows still has the same emphases of stealth and shadowy gameplay. What really caught my attention was the overall mood that Deadly Shadows captures. As the story progressed I began to feel more and more like a thief and less like someone playing a thief. The eerie presence of someone walking right past you, using your water arrows to put out a light, climbing up walls to avoid the guards, and most of all, stealing more loot than you can carry all make Deadly Shadows as good, if not better than the first two installments. This time around you’ll be exploring darker areas like cemeteries, an abandoned insane asylum (probably one of the coolest levels in the game), a mansion, church, and clock tower. Every area in Deadly Shadows has a much darker look and feel than the two previous titles. It’s as you could almost feel the chilly night air as your sneak around a dark and murky castle. Even though stealing and stealth are the primary aspects of the game, where you steal and sneak, is what makes it so much fun.

Garrett’s old tools are back and as familiar as ever. Lock picks, arrows, your trusty dagger and club, oil flasks, mechanical eye, gas grenades, and explosive mines help you move around without getting caught. You’ll also have the ability to purchase gloves that can be used to climb up certain walls to evade guards or look for hidden treasure. Just as the first two titles, gamers decide what type of tool should be used for all the different conditions they’ll find themselves in.

Something totally new in Deadly Shadows is the ability to run around the city. Now gamers will be able to explore the city and pickpocket their way to glory. Enter houses and rob the society blind of all their belongings or maybe buy some equipment with all the loot you have from your last heist. Roaming around the city gives Deadly Shadows that extra sense of realism in being a thief. I found myself doing side quests for people or watching women walk by that wore too much glittering jewelry (that just wanted to be stolen). Even though the city has certain zoning sections that must load, you’ll find that there’s plenty of work for a thief in all districts.

Another new twist given in Deadly Shadows is the ability to switch between first and third person modes. New to the series, the third person mood will give gamers a whole new sense of stealth. Let’s face it, you don’t get as tingling when a guard walks past you in first person mode. I mean, it’s hard enough to judge the distance between the both of you let alone get all sweaty about it. With third person mode, you’ll be able to sneak past guards with more precision and a few more heart palpitations. This also makes moving around in the world a bit different, and at times a bit frustrating. Walking is fine, running is dandy, but what really irritates me is the way Garrett gets stuck while jumping. First off, he jumps like a typical white man, no height on his vertical leap. Secondly, he manages to get stuck on boxes or in between ledges. There was even an instance where I had to re-load a game because I was unable to move. You really have to make sure you time your jumps correctly and precisely.

The life of the AI can be both convincing and mind-boggling. There are times I find it hard to believe that the AI didn’t see me. There’s about 2-3 inches of space between the guard and myself and he still doesn’t notice me because I’m “in the darkness”, when in fact, it’s really not that dark at all. There are even some other times when guards will chase me for a few seconds…and then just stop searching. There doesn’t seem to be enough aggression at times, usually when I’ve been spotted. It’s just too easy to escape. On a good note, guards will notice things like torches going out, guards missing, spots of blood on the floor, and even the minutest sounds. When they think something is amiss they’ll search the area saying things like “Did I see something behind that chair” and they’ll actually go and walk towards the chair. In the city if someone notices you stealing or picking a lock they’ll go and notify the city watch. People act accordingly to whatever circumstance comes their way. As I said before, the only real problem with the AI is the easiness to get away and how they can be so haphazard in their investigations.

  GRAPHICS

With any stealth game you play, light, dark, and shadows are going to be your primary focus point with respects to graphics. Without hesitation, Deadly Shadows offers some of the tastiest lighting effects I’ve ever seen. Every object casts a shadow and every bit of light is portrayed correctly. Whether it’s a huge fireplace or a small candle, light and dark never looked so good. Watching Garrett walking around in third person as a candle lights his body ever so lightly (no pun intended) is a small yet powerful effect. Even the small particle effects of dust or the moonlight shining down on the city are things I can’t get enough of. Remember how everyone felt when Splinter Cell came out? They raved about the glorious lighting and shadowing system (and rightly so). Well Deadly Shadows is right up there with the work done on the lighting and shadowing. In fact this would be one hell of a good-looking title if it weren’t for one problem.

With the shadows being so detailed, and the textures looking very well done I could see why the frame rates suffer so much. It’s a real shame to because Deadly Shadows offers some quality eye candy. This isn’t just a dip in frame rates either; this is more of a constant plunge. At times you think you can get used to it, but there are times when the screen just moves way too slow. Throughout the game you’ll be plagued with stuttering and slow downs in even the smallest of areas. Is it a hardware problem or was there just not enough time to optimize the game through programming? Only the PC version will tell.

Even with the frame rate problem it’s tough not to admire all the good things Deadly Shadows has to offer. The rag-doll physics are a bit of a stretch but funny nonetheless. Even the characters are modeled and textured in fine structure. Lip-synching is well done and Garrett looks extremely cool with his green mechanical eye. There are so many good things you could say about the graphics but it’s that one bad note that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

  SOUND

Don’t expect any orchestral symphonies or loud rock music, Deadly Shadows is a stealth game and in all stealth games, silence is golden. Footsteps are accurate and crisp, knocking over an object will produce a clank or a shatter, and doors make loud creaks. Everything that you wouldn’t normally notice in a game is noticeable in Deadly Shadows. Guards walk by and the hard footsteps on the cold stone floor can be heart stopping at times.

There are also plenty of conversations throughout Deadly Shadows, some comical, others serious. There is also plenty of diversity to go around so everyone doesn’t sound a like nor do they all talk about the same thing. Pagans will talk in a nature like-cutesy fashion, accenting on words with “l” and “y” while Hammerites will speak in Old English tongue i.e. how art thou thy taffer. Even Garrett’s voice is raspy, dark, and cold. What is most surprising is the way guards look for you when they detect something is wrong. The amount of speech that is put into calling you out is impressive: “Who put that torch out”, “I’ll find you sooner or later”, “My brother hath been slain, but shall be avenged”, “Come out now and I’ll kill you quickly”. As they look around and talk to themselves (or at times with others) it really gives you the impression that someone is looking for you. It is just another element that adds onto the suspenseful thievery gameplay.

  INTERFACE / CONTROLS

The interface of the thief hasn’t been changed so veteran players should be able to just jump right in. As before you have your light gem, which shows how visible you are in the world. Wrapped around the light gem is a compass, and let me tell you, the compass is a very important feature. In fact it would have been nice to have a quick pop up screen for your map instead of pausing the game every few seconds to see where you’re going. Both your attacking items (arrows, club, dagger) and get-away items (flash bomb, gas grenade, oil flask) are separated to the left and right of the light gem. Selecting through both is easy and should only take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the controls.

  SUMMARY    

Fans of the series will no doubt eat up Deadly Shadows as it offers more of what they love. Staying true to the series and keeping gamers happy isn’t something we often see. The stealthy gameplay mixed in with thievery is no doubt a fun aspect that many will enjoy. The dark and enthralling atmosphere the game puts you in along with a story that matches only makes it better. Of course one cannot overlook the frame rate issue and as a gamer, hope that the PC version gives it a better representation. When all is said and done however, picking a lock while looking over your shoulder is enough to keep me happy. Giving gamers a good amount of time, not to mention some side quests, and a bit of open-ended gameplay in the city, Deadly Shadows doesn’t disappoint as the third installment of an already successful series.

 
  SCREENSHOTS
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
Click to enlarge this screenshot of Thief: Deadly Shadows (XBOX)
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