It's not hard to see what Rival Games was thinking with Thief of Thieves. Take a long-running comic series by Robert Kirkman, co-creator of The Waking Dead, give it the Telltale Games treatment with fancy cel-shaded comic book stylings, add some Hitman-lite sneaking about in trendy European locations with a gang of smart-mouthed Ocean's Eleven-esque characters and bingo! You've got a surefire thing on your hands.
Except no. Not if you only manage to nail the aesthetic and then proceed to layer it on top of tediously basic gameplay, broken AI, dire acting, a pain-in-the-ass main protagonist and by-the-numbers storyline. We're sorry to report that Thief of Thieves is a bad game; one that was rough enough on PC but is made even worse here by a shoddy, buggy Switch port that's an absolute slog to play through.
From the moment we're introduced to Celia, the central protagonist of the story and protégé of Conrad Paulson, the titular Thief of Thieves from the comic books, things aren't looking great. Apprehended at an airport and taken away for interview, Celia is immediately unlikable. She's overly cocky with a terrible line in sarcastic humour which colours the response choices you're given during her conversations. Almost every time we were presented with a selection of her answers to straightforward questions, we baulked at the fact we had to be so terribly unwitty with our inquisitors, our sassy responses far more cringe-worthy than in any way cool. It's bad, and in no way enamours you to the character you're playing, but it's a situation made much worse once the gameplay kicks in.
Over the course of the handful of short missions included in season one – this is a game you'll polish off in four hours if you stick around to the ending – you're forced to partake in some very basic and clunky Hitman-style breaking and entering; gathering info at a fancy cocktail party, blackmailing a train worker, infiltrating the exact same train station twice at different times of the day and doing some sneaking about on a train full of your adversaries.
Every single one of these missions is hamstrung by bad dialogue, clunky controls and constant stuttering and framerate problems. There's a bug which crashes you to the homescreen, absolutely dumb AI (at one point a guard caught us infiltrating an off-limits area, threw us to the ground then just walked away because they forgot what they were doing as they were doing it) and a terrible camera that can move between two viewpoints in a scene at any one time – both of which often make it impossible to see any of the important elements of the scenario you're currently embroiled in.
You've got an intuition mode, initiated by a press of the L button, which throws up hints, tips and little bits of dialogue – stylishly splashed across the background scenery of the level you're playing – that take away every single ounce of challenge or actual thinking you might have been expected to do in order to complete your current mission. Intuition will tell you where to walk, what to think and exactly how you should go about retrieving whatever it is you're in need of at any given time, and you'll use it, because the nonsensical story does a terrible job of informing you what's going on for the most part, and you'll be wanting to get through things as quickly as possible by any means necessary. There's no feeling of achievement or pride in completing anything here; it's just a clunky mess that you'll bumble your way through like Inspector Clouseau, sans the comedy.
Let's talk about some other aspects of the gameplay. You can vault over walls and other obstacles – except sometimes you can't, the game picking and choosing at random when it feels like having its most basic mechanics work. There are empty cans that you can throw to distract guards as you sneak around the pixelated and blurry levels, but they're awkward to use and essentially useless as the guards don't get distracted for long enough for you to sneak past a lot of the time, often turning around as you're crouch-walking by – but it's fine, as there's a good chance they won't notice you anyway because somebody forgot to program the AI properly.
On one occasion we fell off the roof of a museum – a very high roof – tumbled down the side, smashing through some scaffolding and crashing noisily into a floodlit area patrolled by a few security guards. Celia didn't get hurt, perhaps cushioned somehow by her overwhelmingly annoying personality, and the guards still didn't react; we were free to get on with milling about, pushing and pulling at random bits and pieces until we gave up, hit intuition and proceeded on our merry way, Celia snapping her fingers and giving it "piece of cake" as she waltzed out of the level.
There are QTEs that you'll fail because speech bubbles pop up in front of the command prompts, horrendous stuttering every time you change camera angles and lots and lots of overly long loading times breaking up the levels, so you have plenty of time to think about all the other games you could have been playing instead of wasting your time with this.
Thief of Thieves is an awful video game. It's tedious and clunky, has broken AI, awful dialogue, miserable characters and a boring story that has absolutely nothing of interest to say or add to the heist genre. Its cel-shaded, comic-book style graphics are a strong point, but they're compromised here by a weak Switch port that's too blurry in handheld mode and horribly pixelated when you dock it to play on a big screen. There are also a handful of unforgivable technical issues; noticeable framerate problems, a bug that crashes you back to your console's homescreen and overly long loading times that break up the gameplay far too often. In short, this is a crime-heist caper that's out to rob you of your time and money and is, in every conceivable way, much more of a snore than a score. Avoid.