Author Topic: The Thief Review Resurrection Thread: Preface (i.e., Read This Post First)  (Read 1607 times)

Offline Silver Sorrow

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Standalone: Thief: Deadly Shadows, part 2
« Reply #45 on: January 11, 2020, 09:06:01 PM »
[Part Two.]

My Amazing Inflatable Shirt And Other Miscellaneous Stuff
[Reference: Again, I'm drawing a complete blank.]

Possibly the best feature of the game is the audio. From the footsteps to the music, this game shines like no other. I can’t say enough about it, but I might as well try...even though this review’s size is reaching proportions that James Clavell could only dream of.

As for the participants in your aural fun:

1) Stephen Russell is top form as Garrett, as well as his other roles (the dumb guard, a Hammerite, etc.), and he manages to make the cynical thief come to life even more vibrantly than in the preceding games, if that’s possible.

2) Returning to the role of the smart guard (and a certain “rock” we all know, among others) is Dan Thron...I knew they’d get Stephen Russell back as Garrett, but my biggest hope was always that Dan Thron would return.

3) Terri Brosius -- a woman who wears many hats (or so I assume) -- does a bang-up job as Shodan, and...wait...okay, never mind. Her role is plot-intensive, so I won’t spoil it.

4) Eric Brosius is a god, okay? Give him lots of money, game companies!

5) Et cetera.

1,001 Nasty Things To Do With A Dagger
[Reference: "Mad Magazine"? "Cracked"? One of those. Something about primers for the urban kids. "1,001 Nasty Things To Do With A Switchblade," I think it was called.]

In keeping with Murphy’s Law, your inventory and the available equipment have been truncated. Once again, thanks to the demands of the XBox -- where the first X = Pandora’s -- we find ourselves at the mercy of limitations so someone with a gamepad won’t get confused by all the options and have an aneurysm. Good riddance anyway.

Not that I’m complaining...much...but the inventory has been severely streamlined and limited; no more scrolling through seventeen thousand items, no. You’re limited to a handful of items, and things like keys, loot, special items and lockpicks aren’t kept in inventory anymore, but in some alternate-dimension inventory that you can’t access. You just have to take the game’s word for it that they’re available when you need them.

So, much of the useful (albeit non-essential) equipment from the preceding games are gone -- most notably the speed potions and rope arrows -- as well as the one piece of equipment that would have made a great deal of difference in gameplay: the gas mine. You do get an exploding mine, something that makes a hell of a lot of noise and kills your adversaries. I would have liked to be able to trap people with non-lethal means, which is possible with the new gas bomb, but I consider this weapon a last resort defense and thus nowhere nearly as satisfying.

A note about the absence of rope arrows in the game: This is the one omission that has had everyone turning their Fruit of the Looms into fudge factories and has kept the Prilosec people rolling in cash. However, since there are very few places in-game where a rope arrow would be useful, it doesn’t really matter if they’re in there or not. Personally, I think the people who were screaming the loudest about the absence of the rope arrows never had problems with rope arrow bugs...therefore, I’m not too broken up over their absence. If I want to use rope arrows, I’ll fire up the other two games.

The additions to your equipment include oil flasks (good for starting fires and causing the AI to pratfall), gas bombs (like flashbombs, but with KO gas), climbing gloves (useful, but poorly implemented) and holy water flasks (negating the need for holy water arrows).

The idea of climbing gloves in an interesting one. Although nice, it isn’t done very well. You can climb up some walls, but not others; apparently the devs felt that Garrett being able to climb up any wall he wanted...well...that isn’t good. So let’s limit him a bit, huh? You can’t climb around corners and you can’t climb over obstructions such as most ledges, either.

Which brings up the subject of ladders: despite being interesting (as in how you climb them), you’re severely limited in the ways you can dismount. You can 1) go all the way to the top whereupon Garrett automatically clambers onto the next level, 2) go all the way to the bottom and keep pressing the down/backwards key until he detaches from the ladder, or 3) hit your jump key and suffer the consequences of falling straight down. There is no way to jump from the ladder onto, say, a level to the side of the ladder.

I had mentioned earlier that the adulterated lean function, which in its unadulterated state was one of the most useful aspects of the other games, was crappy. Well, it is. It makes more sense to flip over to third person mode and check around corners instead of straining Garrett’s groin muscles. Some of us, and by that I mean me, have given up checking around corners altogether and simply run around corners all willy-nilly to collide with very surprised guards. Then the dagger comes out and the combat begins. So you gotta be careful, thanks to the de-improved lean function.

One other major change deals with Garrett’s choice of blade: the dagger. Some bemoan, others applaud. I can go either way on the issue; since I rarely get into fights with the AI, I usually have no cause to whip it out [screams from the townsfolk]** and so it really doesn’t matter to me. I like the preparing-to-backstab and backstabbing animations, so that made the transition easier. I think a compromise could have been made, however: put the sword back in, and let the player choose between that and the dagger. Or let the player choose both...or neither. That way everyone would be happy...for about five seconds. Then they’d find something else to complain about.

[** Blazing Saddles.]

As a side note, some of the objections I’ve seen to the dagger are ludicrous: some don’t want the dagger, or any sort of weapon at all, as they claim it interferes with their concept of the they get on the message boards and piss and moan about having to carry a dagger around, eventually asking if there’s a tweak for this, etc. Okay. This is easily fixed without digging into the game’s guts: DON’T USE THE FUCKING DAGGER.

Ms. PacMan Keeps Dying...Why?
[I was never any good at the Pac-Man family of games.]

Apart from being able to select your desired level of difficulty in the missions, the rest of the game is perpetually stuck on the Normal setting; that is, when in the City streets you can kill anyone and everyone and not fail. While in missions, however, the most restrictive of the no-kill objectives is the directive to avoid killing non-combatants (i.e., servants, etc.). Oh, how far we’ve fallen.

I’ll explain that. Yes, you’re welcome. In the previous games, killing on Expert was an immediate failure of the mission; while I didn’t really agree with that wholeheartedly (I prefer to be able to defend myself if cornered), I certainly understood the reasoning behind such dictates. But in keeping with the console crowd, the stringent anti-killing measures have been softened considerably. Considering that many of the missions are largely free of non-combatants, this restriction doesn’t really have any great impact.

While I’m on the subject of useless goals, let’s look at the typical goals of a mission on the Expert setting. Previously when you played on Expert, the mission would be expanded somewhat; sometimes areas inaccessible on lower skills would be opened, more difficult goals would be assigned, the loot goals would be higher, the AI would be tougher and increased in number, and so on. However, having played through all of the missions both on Normal and Expert, I had no real problems whatsoever...the missions were almost exactly the same, with some minor differences.

Here are the Expert-only goals, in addition to the other goals specific to each mission: find 3 special loot items, don’t kill any non-combatants, and find 90% of the loot. That’s it. Since I am a map scourer, I usually found 96% of the loot (on average) as well as all of the special loot, and I avoided killing anyone...on Normal! I’m not bragging, no...I’m merely pointing out that once you get used to the movement and gameplay, you’ll find the missions no tougher than Lord Bafford’s Scepter on Normal.

I was hoping that we’d get expanded missions, etc. on Expert, but hope in one hand and crap in the other and see which piles up first, huh?

I suppose that for some people, that extra guard on Expert makes a world of difference, but I didn’t find that a problem at all. I’m not calling for more difficulty; I’m just saying that it’s irritating to realize that each mission is basically the same, regardless of difficulty.**  I mean, come on: the very first time I played the Bloodline Opal mission, I walked out with 94% of the loot and all three special loot items, all without killing anyone. Playing on Expert, I had to deal with an extra guard or two, but they were no problem even though their senses were supposed to be heightened.
[** In light of the AI bug, that remark makes more sense than I had thought possible.]

The AI bug, for those of you who were wondering, is something that will probably haunt Ion Storm forever...especially since it occurs on the XBox version, which does not lend itself to patching. Specifically, the bug applies to the AI upon loading a saved game. For example: You start a mission on the Expert skill. You save your game at some point. You eventually screw up and have to reload. Upon reloading, the heretofore heightened senses of the AI will revert to the settings found on the Normal skill level, essentially making the mission Normal with a higher loot goal. It’s a little more complicated than that (just like everything else in life), but that essentially it. Some people were distressed by this problem (who, of course, had to paste frowny-faces all over their posts to convey how saddened they were by such a MONUMENTAL problem [/venomous sarcasm]), and even though I don’t blame them, it’s not something that I let keep me awake at nights, for Azura’s sake.

All you need to know is that the v1.1 patch (supposedly) fixes the problem as well as a few other things that are extraordinarily minor. So download it and shut up about the stupid AI bug, already!

In The Rays Of The Sun, I Am Longing For The Darkness
[Reference: Opeth, "Closure."]

Lighting? It’s there. Shadows, colored light, other cool stuff. No need to get a stiffy over it, since we’ve seen this in DXIW. Well done, even though the vaunted hot-shit lighting engine is unnecessary. Moving on.

More Bugs Than The Russian Consulate
[Reference: none, just observing again.]

I am reminded of a quote by Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy): “I found the motherlode of deer ticks!” [MST3K]

To offset my own boredom (thirteen MS Word pages and counting!), how about a list? I LOVE lists!

1) Thugs in the street eschewed the use of scabbards and chose instead to carry their swords, by the tips, in their armpits. I wouldn’t recommend the armpit as a place to store your cheese sandwich, much less your sword.

2) The purple spot thingy that remains onscreen after you put away your weapon. A little irritating, but nothing major.

3) The Museum: go to the second-floor in the Tesero Hall (outdoor) garden area. Inspect the large windows. Notice anything? That’s right: the windows aren’t actually attached to the walls!

4) Sloppy brushwork abounds, as you can see glimmers of weird light through the cracks in walls, the ground...

5) There are more bugs, but I think this is becoming a more negative exercise than I had envisioned, so to hell with it.

Ragdoll?? But I HATE Aerosmith!
[Reference: Aerosmith, "Ragdoll."]

My biggest complaint with this game has to do with the ragdoll physics. The tech fanboys may love it, but I loathe ragdoll least in Thief, that is. While it works nicely in such games as Painkiller and Far Cry (but even in those, it isn’t perfect), here it is a stupid, pointless concept that kills immersion with its ridiculous handling of bodies. Smack someone on the head with the blackjack, and what do you get most of the time? Someone who *folds backwards*, giving the impression that their spine is a Slinky™. Sometimes it works fine, but that’s the exception; the general rule is arms twisted backwards, legs akimbo, torsos bent in half, pretzel’s a travesty.

Look: the technology didn’t work right in Unreal 2, it was an embarrassment in DXIW, and it’s an eyesore here. A couple of months ago, while I was playing Thief 2, someone passing by my desk remarked on how natural the AI responded when you KOed them. (I get opinions like that all the time, although the comments are usually confined to the disparagement of my wallpaper.) This week: that same person, upon witnessing my blackjacking of a guard in TDS said, and I quote, “That’s stupid.” And they were right. It is stupid.

Oh, here come the pro-ragdoll people. “I think it looks neat!” they proclaim. And that’s okay; they’re entitled to their opinions. But keep in mind that we’re also the species who invented puce leg-warmers and embraced a cigar-chomping shill for a certain pudding conglomerate as “America’s Dad,” and it will all make sense.

[Bill Cosby's embrace of Jell-O Pudding Pops turned out to be the least of his sins...]

The so-called “realism” of ragdolling isn’t really all that realistic at all. Ragdolling theorizes that bodies are made up of rubber tubing; an explosion will send a body flying merrily across the room, where it will hit a wall and crumple in an amusing postion, or just flop around for a while as it tries to find a place to rest. That’s realism, all right.

I know Eidos wanted to keep the rating reasonable, but I would have liked to see bodies...well...come apart...realistically. Hit a guard with a fire arrow and watch his arms fly off? Now THAT’S funny! Bodies bleeding, falling apart, and otherwise leaving a nasty mess...sheer entertainment. But I suppose there would be some sort of opposition to that idea...some people are just like that, I guess.

My point? The ragdoll physics blow. Get rid of ‘em.

This Strange Engine
[Reference: Marillion, "This Strange Engine."]

Was the Unreal 2 engine the right engine for TDS? For the time, yes: it’s a wonderful renderer it plays well; the engine really isn’t to blame for any shortcomings. Blame the XBox and Eidos. The Unreal engine -- and here I am using that as a generic term as there are several iterations of the engine floating about and I hate those anal-retentive weiners who jump on every damned thing you say with some sort of pedantic clarification until you shotgun their fucking kneecaps -- is great at taking care of outdoor-oriented games...the original Unreal, for example. It’s not the Far Cry engine, but so what? We don’t need to be able to see for miles (and miles and miles and miles and miiiiiiiiiiiiles),** although that would have been nice.

[** Reference: The Who, "I Can See For Miles."]

No, I take that back. If nothing else, the CryEngine would have been perfect for this game. The City is a big place, and being able to walk from one side to the other without too many loading zones would have been simply astounding. While I’m blueskying, I hope Bethsoft uses the CryEngine for their next installment of the Elder Scrolls...just to get rid of that “Loading Area” crap.

[They didn't. They used the same horribly aging engine up through Fallout 4. IDIOTS.]

Anyway, the only problem is that the Unreal engine is a system hog, and the outdated specs of the XBox cannot handle very much in the way of “things going on”...which is a common console problem anyway. So the solution is to cut the map sizes down considerably and add low-quality textures to the game. Hooray! Problem solved!

The drawback (not the only one, no) is that since these nimrod factories -- the game companies, that is -- expect to garner most of their revenue from the sales to the console crowd, the PC-specific audience is usually left with a substandard product that isn’t very good in terms of playability and looks.

It’s a tribute to the ingenuity of the developers that TDS rises above the limitations placed upon it. However, this only makes me wonder how great the game could have been without those limitations, and I can only sympathize with the people involved in the development of this potentially wonderful game, who had the misfortune of gazing at several years’ worth of inspiration and hard work being funneled down into XBox-friendly size. Kneecapped again. I won’t even go into the massive lay-offs (aka, “the final kick in the ass”), as it’s too damned depressing. Eidos...whatta company.

[Good riddance.]

So if you’re ever involved in the development of a game -- hell, even if you have an interesting *idea* for a game -- it’s better just to keep it to yourself. Stay home and see how many household items you can cram up your ass, because it’s better to do it to yourself than let Corporate America do it for you.

The Much-Promised List Of Pros And Cons! You Lucky Bastard!
And now for a Pro and Con list because...well, because I’m tired of editing this thing down into anything less than novella length.

In The Happy Corner:

- Thoroughly enjoyable missions.

- Excellent audio: voice acting, atmosphere, music, etc.

- Terrific models (except for the female civilians, who are odd).

- Great story.

- Atmospheric and engrossing.

- No rope arrows! [no rope arrows = no rope arrow bugs.]

- Garrett’s footsteps are more tolerable now...walking on tile isn’t as mind-numbing as it used to be.

- No swimming! Swimming is overrated anyway. Breath potions, awkward movement, and you just KNOW some ass-clown wants to put killer fish in the water.

- Shooting a member of the City Watch has never been more satisfying. Let’s put a Glock in the next game to make it even MORE fun. Or an RPG! The City streets awash in the blood of guards? I can live with that.

- Legitimate copies of the game have the required password (located in a readme file in the content\t3\books subdirectory) to disable the virus bomb hard-coded into the game itself; pirated copies, sadly, do not have this password.

- Naked breasts everywhere! Bouncing and jiggling happily away! All colors, all shapes, all sizes!

- The Rabbit finally gets his Trix.

[I don't remember which of those I made up. Just assume they're all totally real.]

...And In The Frowny Face Corner:

- Not as interesting the third time around. I only bring this up because I had to play through three times to get good screenshots. And speaking of which...

- Taking screenshots is an exercise in frustration.

- Quite a few bugs that should have been taken care of before release.

- Garrett’s awkward, jerky movement. As I’ve said elsewhere, if someone could please bring back the “camera with an arm attached” movement that the gaming intelligentsia (as such) were sneering at, I would be much obliged.

- The ragdolling effect, at least in this game, can be likened to a dog cleaning its unmentionable areas.

- Wall-climbing with the climbing gloves is a poorly-implemented affair.

- No rope arrows; the damnable limitations of the climbing gloves make rope arrows a nostalgic enigma, bugs and all.

- No swimming...literally. Apparently Garrett’s forgotten how to swim since T2, so a leap off the docks is very, very bad.

- There isn’t a sure-fire way to tell if bodies are alive or dead by picking them up, as in the previous games’ “unconscious body” or “corpse” descriptions.

- You can’t crouch while carrying bodies, and you apparently need 500 feet of clear space (minor exaggeration) before you can dump ‘em.

- While crouched, you don’t have footsteps; nor do your feet make noise while you’re lugging bodies.

- Out of the box, the lean function isn’t all that useful. And since leaning is laughable, you’ll probably end up running into guards more often than you like.

- Setting fire to the AI isn’t as much fun as in some other games.

- Sadly, the mission where Garrett visits Little Hanoi and gets his rocks off with a group of highly skilled “pleasure workers” has been omitted from the US release.

- Yes, the Rabbit gets his Trix, but the scene where he takes a colorful dump into the Trix boxes before the kids wake up...well, that’s just *disturbing*.

[Yes, I listed the absence of rope arrows and swimming in both lists. Confounding, isn’t it?]

Wait...Let Me Sum Up
[Reference: I'm...not sure. It was a Mel Brooks movie, I believe.]


The Envelope Please, Ms. Randall
[In regards to Kelly Randall from the Abstract.]

4.25 out of 5

Technical Garbage

Something a little better than what you’re running now.

Something more than you can afford.

Supposedly Will Not Run With:
Win95/98/CE/ME/NT...say it fast, it’s funny!
Laptop systems.
Anything you’re running at this moment.

[And that's that for the main Thief stuff. Stick around for bonus material and some general just-screwin'-around crap I had laying around.]
He's right. We're standing in horse neers.