Thief E3 preview: Staying unseen never looked so good
by Jonathan Ottman
Thief--a series reboot rumored to be in the works one minute, then scrapped the next--has faced more issues coming to market than its predecessors (which is saying something). But now, stealh fans and open-world gamers can rest easy. Thanks to Eidos Montreal, the studio that brought you Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I was able to see the demo for Thief on an actual PlayStation 4. I can assure you, it was one of the best-looking games shown at E3.
The game takes place in an unnamed city where the people are on the verge of a full-blown revolution against a tyrannical Baron and his regime. You play as Garrett, the anti-hero thief who, in the demo, takes advantage of a riot to sneak into the Baron’s mansion and steal a precious heirloom, the Heart of the Lion. The demo stars off in a dark garden area outside of Northcrest Manor, which seems to resemble something like 18th century upper-class English scenery: statues, brick walls, hedges, and lamppost-illuminated areas. This type of hubris allows for many different approaches for infiltrating the mansion, from a full-out assault to playing the perfect thief. You are encouraged to play as the latter, with the idea being that you are a master thief and should avoid detection at all costs. After all, a good thief isn't noticed until it's too late.
During the demo, there seemed to be a lot of climbing atop walls and pillars to get a better view of what you will have to deal with: torches to douse, patrols to evade, etc. This will be a constant theme, so Garrett is equipped with different types of arrows to help with various situations. Water arrows can put out the aforementioned torches, rope arrows allow you to reach better viewpoints or escape detection, while another type of arrow is used to distract nearby guards.
You also have Focus mode, which, similar to the Arkham series' “Detective Mode," allows you to see interactive objects, move in slow motion (which in turn helps pickpocketing and sneaking), aim with better accuracy... Basically, improving the performance of most things that you do. Focus, however, is a finite resource so it is not to be used constantly. You are able to replenish your supply of Focus by picking poppies, but don’t expect poppies to be everywhere--it seems they will be few and far between.
Check out the developer interview...
Thanks to the Thief franchise’s light gem overlay in the lower left corner, you are able to notice how far the shadows extend and whether you are mostly hidden at any given time. You also have the ability perform takedowns on enemies, which usually trigger brutal third-person animations. Hiding the bodies, so as to not be discovered, is paramount.
At the end of each level, you are rewarded for things like not being spotted, amount of treasure found, and taking a non-lethal approach. You CAN take the “Rambo” approach, but you will find that most NPCs are very difficult to attack head-on; Garrett is far more talented at stealth than fisticuffs.
All in all, Thief has a variety of tools, paths, decisions, and environmental situations to keep you entertained and wanting more. With a steadfast hold to true stealth gameplay, complimented by a detailed graphical design that verges on being one of the best visual demos at E3, Thief hearkens back to the design sensibilities of hits like BioShock, Deus Ex, and Dishonored. It's definitely one to watch for on the horizon.
Thief is scheduled for release in 2014 on PlayStation 4.