Developed by lone-wolf Nicholas Rizzo, Sneak Thief is an Early Access robbery game that could best be described as a burglary simulator. You’ll be breaking into homes, mansions, banks and jewellery stores during your one-man crime spree.
A Burglary Simulator Actually Exists
To say that I was surprised that a game exists, for sale, that attempts to somewhat accurately portray burglary, home invasion and grand larceny without any of the extra spice and gamification that usually makes titles like this “OK” would be an understatement. This isn’t Grand Theft Auto where the characters are dialled up to eleven and there’s humour dripping from every minute detail.
Sneak Thief is a Unity-created, no thrills, straight-up burglary simulator. The first level is even called ‘home invasion’! Dodgy theme aside, if the game is good at its core, personal misgivings around the concept can be put aside.
To be honest, the game is almost there – in its early state – with just a couple of issues holding it back. The levels themselves are sparse. You’re plonked down on a square plot that contains a single property and very obvious boundaries – you can see where the level ends and the rest of the world descends into a foreboding void.
What I do like is that Nicholas Rizzo has clearly committed to the theme. Your first task is always to get into the property – whether it’s by smashing a window or deactivating a house alarm that has the code conveniently written on the inside of the panel. Once you’re in, you need to quickly scout around and steal enough valuable objects, from paintings to wads of cash to massive TVs, meet the objective value and get back to your car.
The levels in Sneak Thief aren’t without challenge. Sometimes there are safes that require a code to unlock, which you’ll find written on pieces of paper in other rooms around the house. On most levels you’ll need to avoid security guards or homeowners who will wonder around when you’re halfway into the act. In the case of the first level in particular, the homeowner often comes home while you’re still upstairs, meaning there’s no way to get down without being spotted. He’s also armed with a pistol and has better aim than James Bond.
Release Date: 06/08/2016
Available on: Windows, PC Download
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What the Game Still Needs
As Sneak Thief is an Early Access game, I need to be fair with the critique. I’m not going to declare the game a failure while it’s still in development and there’s time for things to be changed. That being said, there are a number of issues that I believe need to be looked at.
First and foremost, the art style. It is severely lacking in character and identity. While the assets are sharp and well detailed, they are also clearly stock assets that I’ve seen countless times in other Early Access and Greenlight games. I understand that it’s hard for a single developer to be good at everything - but I can’t help but feel that going the stock asset route opens your game up to a certain negative stigma that’s been fostered by shady developers who look to abuse Steam’s Greenlight and Early Access platforms.
As with any game in development, performance isn’t locked down yet. Even on a high-end PC, these relatively simple environments occasionally chug along. Usually, in this case, you’d turn some settings down in order to mitigate it but there aren’t actually any settings available at the moment.
The NPCs that you need to avoid are super human. You can wallop one with a hammer eight times and he’ll still be there swinging at you as if nothing has happened. It’s nearly impossible to win a fight and I can’t help but think it would be better if the game simply insta-killed you once you’ve been spotted – as the aim of the game is to sneak around without being spotted in the first place. If you come across one armed with a gun, good luck. They spot you through walls and shoot you around corners.
A bigger problem still is that, currently, there’s a big disconnect between the realism that the game is going for and the mechanics that are implemented. Let’s start at the beginning. You’ve arrived in a car. As the game has no streets or environment outside of the property, the car is parked right in the middle of the drive in plain sight. Next, there’s stealing items. For all intents and purposes, you are carrying around a bottomless bag – presumably borrowed from Hermione Grainger – that can carry an infinite number of statues, computer towers, 100” TV screens and whatever else you happen to come across. Immersion is a big thing in games that act as simulators, and Sneak Thief is sorely lacking it at the moment.
Some minor complaints include sound effects – your character’s footfalls make almost the same solid noise whether you’re walking on grass or marble – and there’s no music. The atmosphere of the game could be improved tenfold by some suitably creepy or Bond-esque bass lines. This would also help toward giving the game its own character.
What’s to Come
The game currently has seven levels to choose from, ranging from easy to incredibly difficult. There are more coming, and getting through the ones currently on offer successfully should take a couple of hours.
A level editor and community levels feature are also in development but not yet available. The ability to play on levels created by other people is a promising feature that should give the game almost infinite replayability, as long as it manages to hold an audience.
I’m sure that issues with performance will be looked at before the game is released properly – and hopefully some work is put into the sound, too. There’s no multiplayer or scoreboard feature to let you compare score with your friends and sadly I’ve not seen the developer make mention of either.
Sneak Thief is a strange one. It’s a tense game that does offer a real challenge in getting in and out without being spotted. Sadly, I just don’t think it works in its current state. There’s no way to distract NPCs, you can’t really hide from them as they seem to be able to see through walls and the game’s lack of character doesn’t invite you to keep playing.
I would certainly recommend at least waiting for the game to be released fully before taking a look at it. Maybe by then Sneak Thief will have also stolen a personality from somewhere.
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Sneak Thief is developed by Nicholas Rizzo.