By Mark Brooks
Updated April 28, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Whoever said crime doesn’t pay must have been incarcerated before playing Thief II (Eidos/Looking Glass, for PC, $50), which turns the shoot-’em-up genre inside out by rewarding the strategist instead of the trigger-happy. As Garret — a cynical master thief caught up in a struggle between two religious groups and a town’s power-mad sheriff — you find stealth is your best weapon. Thus, you spend much time sneaking around in the shadows of the game’s enormous levels while trying to pinch the goodies needed to accomplish your mission. There are weapons and gadgets aplenty, but combat creates noise — so quietly applying a blackjack and hiding a guard’s body is the preferred method of clearing a room. That II‘s time period crosses Thomas Edison with Robin Hood doesn’t excuse some retro-crude graphics, but the slow pace and dark atmosphere still make for a tension-packed game. If you’ve graduated from the mindless gunplay of Quake, Thief II could well rob you of precious time. A-