Best Game Ever: Thief: The Dark Project Is The Only Way To Stealth

Best Game Ever: Thief: The Dark Project Is The Only Way To Stealth
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Thought we forgot about Speak Up on Kotaku US’s Best Game Ever? We were only biding our time until commenter DocSeuss and admitted his love for the one stealth action game that got nearly everything right.

I’m done playing third-person stealth games.

I can’t do it anymore.

I want to, believe me, but… yeah. No. I can’t. I love stealth. I love the idea of stealth. I love sneaking through a level, either ghosting it or taking out everyone without being noticed. There’s a feeling of empowerment there that comes with solving the puzzle that is a good stealth level.

Look, have you ever played a game that you’ve broken? I’m talking about a game like Skyrim, where you mod a sword to have 9999 damage so it kills everything in one hit, completely removing the challenge from the game. I’m talking about cheating.

Like many of you taffers, I once believed that third person was the only way to do stealth. I thought that it was the only way to figure out whether you could move, because as soon as you get into an AI’s line of sight, they’ll notice and start looking for you, and that really makes or breaks a stealth game.

I love the genre — whether it’s Assassin’s Creed or Splinter Cell or Hitman or whatever — but little did I know that they were all doing it wrong. Harsh words, I know, but bear with me.

Recently, an old stealth game was rereleased after a thirteen-year absence from store shelves. It was called Thief, and it was developed by the guys who went on to make games like Deus Ex and Skyrim.

Unlike most stealth games, it was in first person.

How did they get around the line of sight stealth problems, you might ask? Well… they didn’t. See, line-of-sight is actually horrible. In real life, stealth doesn’t work that way. Line-of-sight is a method that’s used only because it’s incredibly simple to create. It is, in fact, rather lazy. A third person camera basically exists as a gameplay abstraction designed to keep the player from giving their position away whenever they want to see if they can move.

In real life, you could listen to the position of people, poke your head around corners without being noticed, and hide in the shadows without being seen. In a game where all stealth is based on line-of-sight, you can’t do that, so you have to be in third person, or it sucks.


What if you made a stealth game where you could listen to the position of other people, poke your head around corners without being noticed, and hide in the shadows without being seen? That would be a lot better, right?

Turns out it is.

It adds a whole new layer of challenge to stealth. It requires intelligence to play. Sound becomes a fantastic method of level navigation. It means you don’t need to cheat and look around corners unrealistically, because now you can hear guards snorting or sneezing or chatting or whistling or just even walking.

Do you have any idea how amazingly badass it is to hide in the shadows right in front of a guy, step out like Batman himself, and stab him in the face? It’s incredible! There’s no feeling like it in the world (besides being Batman!).

I can’t go back to third-person stealth after this. There’s no depth to it — not challenge beyond an arbitrary, unrealistic, and unforgiving line-of-sight issue beyond the occasional “DONT MAKE NOISE!” component.

Thief is the best stealth game I’ve ever played.

About Speak Up on Kotaku: Our readers have a lot to say, and sometimes what they have to say has nothing to do with the stories we run. That’s why we have a forum on Kotaku called Speak Up. That’s the place to post anecdotes, photos, game tips and hints, and anything you want to share with Kotaku at large. Every weekday we’ll pull one of the best Speak Up posts we can find and highlight it here.


  • Thief is so damned good, I’d go far as to say it’s the first proper stealth game ever made. Nothing comes even close to matching it in terms of style and execution.

    • Yeah, it was one of the best games ever, right up until that level where I came across undead, then it quickly became a game I stopped playing.

      I hate how games like this add something that negates the entire point of the game.

      Up until that point they made the game harder through adding more guards, setting rules on missions, more complicated guard routines….and then, oh ok…here is some undead, now its just like every other game, have fun dickwads 🙁

      I would say, the style and execution up until that point was probably the best I had ever seen, pity they had to ruin it. (Though it was still an awesome game)

  • After Deus Ex Human Revolution, I’m looking forward to what Eidos Montreal do with Thief 4. Surely can’t be as bad as Thief 3

  • Have exactly the same feelings that stealth never got any better than how thief did it. Also the article failed to note that the 3 people of Looking Glass Studios (Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey, and Robert Fermier) are also the founders of Irrational Games who made System Shock and the Bioshock series.

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