Platform: PC | Genre: Action
Publisher: Eidos Interactive | Developer: Looking Glass Studios | Released: 1998
1998 is one of the greatest years in the history of gaming. Part of the reason is a game called Thief: The Dark Project. An innovative and stylish game, Thief featured a number of inventive and interesting game mechanics, a great story, a unique setting, and a memorable protagonist. As a streetwise master thief named Garrett, you would infiltrate heavily guarded mansions and long-lost tombs, case them for all their valuables, and make it out in one piece. Of course, Garrett's adventures would eventually take a far more significant turn, and soon enough, he would find himself embroiled in a strange, sinister plot. It's hard to say whether Thief's gameplay or its storyline was the better half; combined, though, they made for a truly superb game.
Thief's graphics weren't the most impressive thing about it. At a glance, the game resembled a medieval first-person shooter. Indeed, Garrett always carried his trusty bow and sported a long sword and a blackjack for close-quarters battles. But Thief was not a game about combat. In fact, in many cases, you were prohibited from killing anybody. Instead, you needed to sneak past enemy patrols, or at least sneak up behind them and knock them out. Thief's incredible use of audio and its excellent ambient lighting made the game's brand of stealth action extremely suspenseful and effective. A wide variety of interesting gadgets and challenging enemy AI made it highly entertaining.
Garrett's bow turned out to be a tool, not a weapon. An assortment of magically imbued arrows allowed him to ply his secret trade. Most notably, water arrows allowed Garrett to put out most light sources from afar, creating the perfect environment for him to slip past any disoriented guards in the vicinity. Additionally, fire arrows created fiery explosions, moss arrows created silent walking surfaces, and rope arrows allowed Garrett to climb up to otherwise-inaccessible areas. And where would Garrett be without his trusty lock picks? Among other things, Thief featured a very cool simulation of lock picking, which made for some very tense moments.
The game featured some surprisingly scary moments, too. The game is called Thief, as opposed to Fighter, and sure enough, Garrett couldn't easily handle multiple armed opponents. Later in the game, you'd be slipping past some truly fearsome foes, knowing that one false step would alert them to your position.
A couple of stealth action games, Metal Gear Solid and Tenchu: Stealth Assassins, were released earlier in the same year as Thief. Collectively, these games defined the stealth action genre, but of the three, Thief certainly offered the purest depiction of what it might be like to slip from shadow to shadow, under the noses of supposedly alert guards. The game delivered a uniquely cerebral action gaming experience, and though its 2000 sequel didn't disappoint, the original Thief: The Dark Project largely remains an unsurpassed achievement in gaming.
|Thief holds a special place in my heart as the first-ever PC game that I scored in the 9.0 range on GameSpot. The game was released late in a year that had already seen tons of incredibly good games, so I remember being stunned at just how good it was, not just on its own merits, but relative to all the other terrific games that were out. While playing Thief, I was also getting into a recently released game called Half-Life...and after I was done with Thief, I had little desire to continue playing 1998's "other" first-person action game.|
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