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Thief PS4: 13 tips for becoming a master thief

on 24 February 2014

Thief brings first-person stealth, water arrows, and rooftop parkour to PS4 tomorrow, and I've played a great deal of Garrett the Master Thief's journey for myself. Through trial by fire (and sword, and fall damage, and traps), I've come out victorious with a full review and plenty of sneaking adventures to my name.

I can't call myself a master thief, nor even a mediocre one, but I can tell you what lessons I learned from a playthrough of Thief--things every potential master thief should know about Eidos Montreal's latest, and things I wish I had known when I started playing.

Take time between story chapters to explore and complete Jobs. The game's early structure is fairly linear, which can trick you into a sort of exploratory tunnel vision. But as soon as you're tasked with hitting up Basso, Garrett's confidante in the thieving underworld, parts of the City become open to explore. Grab all the optional Jobs from Basso, check up on Ector the automaton mechanic to begin a side storyline, and frequently check your map (Up on the D-pad opens the right menu) for white Job markers you can complete while going to and from the main chapters. Breaking into these shops and apartments for special loot will bolster your income for arrows and upgrades, but you'll also...

Learn the streets by sight. The in-game map and mini-map aren't terribly useful--objective markers can be misleading amid the City's densely packed streets and rooftops, and gateways between districts (doors, windows, and alleys, complete with loading screens) aren't marked at all. Try to remember useful streets and fast rooftop routes by sight, and soon you'll be running free, fluid, and uninterrupted all over the City. But starting out, it will help to...

Use Focus to see routes and interactive objects that the city's dense detail hides. Thief is packing serious next-gen visuals, but the environmental detail, objects, and verticality can be overwhelming in new areas. Press Triangle when you're feeling disoriented to illuminate your surroundings and find Rope Arrow spots, climbing lattice, vent grates, switches, traps, and more. But above all, look up! Rope Arrows are often the best (or only) way to reach seemingly impossible heights and destinations, but you'll only see the rafters that can support them if you look to the sky.

Keep a constant supply of Rope, Blunt, and Water Arrows. While every resource in the game has situational uses, by far the most consistently valuable are these three. Rope Arrows open some of the safest routes past guarded areas and get you above the streets to objective markers and valuable loot. Blunt Arrows are similarly needed to hit a variety of switches and triggers from a distance, and can also get the attention of guards. And while not every light you encounter will be a flame you can extinguish, enough of them are, making Water Arrows a staple of any successful thieving mission. Restock every time you visit Basso--there's a vendor nearby--and go out of your way to find the hidden vendors. There's one in most districts.

Buy the Wrench and Wirecutter as soon as possible. You'll start encountering uses for these almost immediately--the Wrench opens vent grates for new sneaking opportunities all over the place, while the Wirecutter disables traps, many of which will instantly kill you if you're at less than full health. Speaking of traps, use Focus in new areas--especially the homes you break into--to spot traps on the floor and follow their line back to the utility box, where the Wirecutter will disable them.

Save manually before any uncertain action. Just pause the game with the Options button and hit 'Save Game.' It only takes a few seconds (seriously, this is record save-game time for video games) and beats having to reload to the last checkpoint thanks to unpredictable damage from falls or plans gone awry.

Later in the game, Fire Arrows become very useful. You won't use them often, but without spoiling too much, there's a particular enemy type that's weak to fire. You'll also want to be using Focus to check the ground for oil slicks, saving a few arrows when a single well-placed one will do the trick.

Free-running with L2 is sensitive to your left-analog motion. Pushing forward on the left stick all the way will cause a fast climb or jump, if safe. L2 while walking will drop or soft-climb (same while crouching and sneaking). Some ledges are sticky--only Circle will cause a drop--but others are open to anything, and can even cause death if you accidentally drop when you meant to leap.

Animals react differently to your presence. Birds will be alerted and start squawking at movement, but caged dogs will respond to both movement AND your presence--they can see you're up to no good. If it's a bird, sneak past. If it's a dog, move past quickly, or avoid altogether.

You dont need to sneak in the City's hub districts if you know where you're going. The amount of backtracking you'll do by game's end can make always sneaking a bit humdrum. If you know safe, fast routes through the City's main districts, no need to go slow and steady--any guards who spot you will quickly lose sight and interest if you've ran these streets before and know where you're going.

Focus makes it easier to pick locks--just push each pin up and lock with R2 when the pin tips turn blue. Sometimes, that extra speed is necessary with heavy patrols or lots of light around.

Read everything. There are lots of useful clues (lock combinations, locations, trap warnings) in books and notes, not to mention cool dialogues and stories that build a sense of setting and atmosphere.

Use the PlayStation Camera or a headset to attract nearby guards. Either will pick up your voice (if the in-game option is turned on) and alert nearby guards if you speak loud enough. Getting the attention of enemy patrols and leading them into particular nooks or shadows can be extremely useful for thinning the ranks with stealth takedowns or just clearing the path ahead, and with voice recognition, you don't have to waste valuable arrows doing it. Just be mindful of this feature--and your ability to toggle it--if you're playing with chatty friends nearby or in a loud setting. Best to turn it off if your friends are of.

Good luck with your pilfering, free-running, and sneaking! For more on Thief, check out our game gallery for screenshots and read my review of Garrett's latest adventure.

Thief releases on PS4 and PS3 on February 25 in North America and February 28 in Europe.