Don your best black outfit and go clubbing!
I stepped out into the night air, fully equipped for the evening's activities. With blackjack in hand, I slipped into the shadows and stealthily moved away from my house. At the first sound of noise, I froze, trying not to blink for fear of being seen. The unsuspecting victim walked by slowly, mumbling to himself incoherently. The moment he passed, I quickly sneaked after him, raised my blackjack, and brought it squarely down upon his head. His limp body hit the ground with a satisfying "thud." Pleased with my victory, I almost forgot to carry his body out of the way to conceal my criminal actions. Of course, the moment my landlord's wife saw me with her husband's body slumped over my shoulder, all hell broke loose. (Note to self: Must separate reality and fantasy.)
Speaking of fantasy, Thief 2: The Metal Age is one of the most engrossing first-person experiences I've ever encountered. If you're the type of person who casually looks into other people's medicine cabinets when you're over for dinner (I know you do, admit it), then this is the game for you. Pick people's pockets, knock guards unconscious, and generally be a bad egg . . . Sounds fun to me!
The gameplay is the core of what makes Thief 2 a good game. Though it plays like a first-person shooter, the last thing you want to do is burst into a room and try to take out all the guards in a hail of arrows. Patience is a virtue. Many times, you'll have to squat in the shadows, watching the guard movements and discovering their route before making your move. Being a thief, you try to avoid conflict and escape as cleanly as possible.
A good thief must constantly monitor two things: light levels and noise. The darker the hiding place, the less likely that someone will spot you. Sounds logical, doesn't it? Remember that the light also matters to the guards. If they're standing in darkness, they're less likely to spot you as well.
Hiding in the shadows is the easy part - keeping silent is a bit harder. If you make too much noise, guards will be alerted to your presence even if they don't actually see you. Watch where you step, because different floorboards make different amounts of sound.
Where most games use sound effects to flesh out the game world, Thief 2makes them a necessity. You really have to listen to this game. Hear the footfalls of a coming guard or listen as another complains about not being able to drink on the job. Though not necessary, I heartily recommend getting a 3D positional audio card (EAX or A3D) as it helps in locating the guards immensely.
The graphics are good, but are starting to look a bit dated. While the Dark Engine (also used in the original Thiefand System Shock 2) allows for more object interaction than most FPS engines, it lacks much of the graphical refinement. In particular, the people are too angular and occasionally look like rejects from Bizarro world. Also, there's a distinct lack of detail to the rooms and textures. FPS fans who love the latest and greatest graphics may be disappointed by what they see in Thief 2.
The level design, on the other hand, is simply fantastic. Where the originalThief went downhill after the first few levels, Thief 2 keeps throwing new and different challenges at you, level after level. One level might be a straight 'grab the loot and run,' while another will be an 'eavesdropping' mission where the only thing you steal is information.
Part of each level involves simply staring at the map and figuring out how to accomplish your objectives. In a way, Thief 2 is a puzzle game. You can beat a level in different ways, each time seeing another part of the level that you never saw before. The maps are fairly big, and you don't need to explore them entirely to accomplish your goals. Just remember - you're a thief, not a tourist; keep your eyes on the prize.
To help you in the mission, you have a number of tools. Find a locked door? Don't spend forever looking for the "blue key card," just use your lockpicks. Is a torch lighting the hallway? Use a water arrow to extinguish it. See a ledge you can't reach? Use a rope arrow and climb your way to the top. Because of the strange setting of Thief 2 (medieval/technology/magic), reality can be suspended to help gameplay.
Older graphics aside, Thief 2 is a great game. Though I'm sure some sociology professor might decry the glorification of breaking into people's houses and stealing their stuff, there's no denying that it's a lot of fun. I just hope my landlord doesn't press charges...