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Thief: Garrett steps out of the shadows as pacifist or predator

Friday, 24 January 2014 14:00 GMT By Stace Harman

From pacifist play-through to Iron Man mode, Stace Harman goes hands-on with Eidos Montreal’s upcoming stealth title and examines the myriad ways to customise your Thief experience.

Thief’s many faces

Thief is in development by Eidos Montreal, the studio responsible for Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Tomb Raider’s multiplayer mode. It’s set for release on PC, 360, PS3, PS4 and Xbox One from February 25.

Originally announced in 2009, Thief has since undergone numerous designs changes, including ditching its QTE elements, scrapping its XP system and even changing how you open doors.

At set points, the camera switches to third-person to show Garrett as he negotiates climbing sections. Somewhat unnecessary but at least the transition between viewpoints is smooth.

In a nice touch, the light bar on the DualShock 4 glows bright white when Garrett is standing in the light and a dimmer blue when he’s safely ensconced in shadow.

If you’ve been monitoring the development of Eidos Montreal’s upcoming Thief reboot you’ll be aware that it bears more than a passing resemblance to Arkane Studios’ Dishonored. The comparison is understandable and, to some degree, inevitable given that both explore aesthetically similar cityscapes and feature a narrative that deals with a corrupt overlord, a widespread sickness and a protagonist who is talked of in hushed tones as part man, part myth.

Having recently spent several hours working through the first four chapters of Thief, I’ve been able to explore the mechanics, features and myriad tweakable game-play options that prove that, for better or worse, Thief is its own game with a different focus to Dishonored. Where Arkane’s action-adventure facilitated stealth play, Thief requires it, for while you can tackle a lone guard – two, at a push – protagonist Garrett lacks Corvo Attano’s impressive arsenal of toys and tricks to take on a room full of guards.

Thief also explores numerous concepts that call upon a handful of other titles, from the original Thief series through to Square’s own Hitman and Tomb Raider titles. However, it adds enough interesting touches that it will stand apart from its influences, to succeed or fail on its own merits, come February’s end.

The a la carte experience

The first thing to note about Thief, before you get to the game proper, is the various options available for adjusting difficulty and tailoring the game-play experience to your liking. Menus are rarely a sexy part of game design but here the sheer number of options on offer hints at Eidos’ desire to welcome both series newcomers and veteran fans alike.

Aside from the expected choice of difficulty levels – which serve to heighten guards’ awareness, increase the scarcity of resources and prohibit the harming of civilians – there’s also a custom difficulty option that allows for the tweaking of numerous game-play factors. Amongst these are options that increase the cost of resources or mean that food cannot be found in levels and instead must be bought. There are tweaks that reduce Garrett’s aptitude for combat so that you can only incapacitate guards from a stealth position, or an option to veto kills or knockouts of any kind. You can take on Iron Man mode right from the off or push your stealth game to its extreme by setting a parameter that states that being detected results in immediate mission failure.

All of these options, plus half a dozen more, come with point multipliers that feed into leaderboard stats for the highly competitive. Similarly, mission conduct is evaluated to determine whether you are categorised as Ghost, Opportunist or Predator, which is determined by factors such as going undetected, purloining loot or incapacitating guards. It appears that obtaining a certain number of these classifications opens up new challenges outside of the main game, which not only offers replay value but also gives you a reason to revisit individual missions to experiment with different play-styles.

However, the most telling option is the one that allows you to permanently disable Focus, Garrett’s equivalent of Batman’s Detective Mode, and this switch is available in both the custom difficulty mode and as an in-game option on any of the standard difficulty levels. Focus is a crutch that serves to highlight guard positions, reveal mission clues and can be employed in everything from picking locks to identifying enemy weak spots. It typifies the current trend in game design for streamlining a play experience by way of a gimmick that carries a sketchy narrative justification and so I’m glad to see it neutered here.

If you do wish to embrace it, Focus has its own upgrade options that allow you to exchange gold for new perks like the ability to ‘see’ guards’ footsteps (as in The Last of Us), reveal telltale hand-prints (Arkham Asylum) and conveniently colour-code items and enemies (Assassin’s Creed). Focus is perhaps the single most radical departure from the Thief of old and the fact that Eidos has tweaked the game design since earlier builds to ensure that you need never rely on it is a positive sign for those who derive their enjoyment from problem solving and exploration rather than the immediate gratification of a payoff.

“It’s not about the payment, it’s who I am”

Outside of the comprehensive menu options of Thief, there are several elements that suggest the fate of this reboot could go either way. It’s important to note that what I played was far from final code and so several issues that I experienced should be ironed out during the remaining polishing time over the next couple of weeks. There’s also the slightly ungainly manner in which Garrett negotiates the environment, occasionally bumping up against walls that he should shimmy up or simply being unable to clamber over something because it lacks the necessary properties that mark it as scalable.

Conversely, though, there are the delightful touches that serve as encouraging signs rather than troubling omens. Turning off the visual guide for picking locks and doing it by feel alone while using free-look to spy out any approaching guards constitutes a satisfying element of role-play, while habitually extinguishing light sources and settling back to observe enemy AI before slinking past guards is empowering. Combined with Garrett’s trademark items of stealth and distraction, there’s strong potential for the wonderfully immersive experience that Eidos Montreal is aiming for and that every Thief fan desperately wants it to achieve.

On a knife edge

Thief is an interesting proposition that currently hangs in the balance. Its high-profile, occasionally turbulent, development process has been scrutinised since the original announcement back in 2009 and the number of design concepts that have been tried, tested, criticised and iterated upon have left fans justifiably unsure of what we’ll end up with next month.

It’s good to see Garrett back in action, though, and if it’s a little too easy to pick out elements that we’ve seen elsewhere then perhaps a sufficient level polish can prove it to be greater than the sum of its parts when it finally arrives in February.

Thief will be available on PC, PS3, 360, Xbox One and PS4 from February 25 in the US, Feb 27 in Australia and Feb 28 in Europe.

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7 Comments

  1. Luciferous

    I am overjoyed to hear that i can make this game as difficult as i want.

    I played through Dishonoured like it was a thief game, no killing, all stealthing, I didn’t upgrade any of the abilities or use any of the tools except the sleep dart when there were too many guard to just slink passed.

    February is going to be a fun month.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. absolutezero

    Oh Christ what is up with the comic image, looks like hes just left a Misfits concert.

    pffttt aha ha ha ha

    #2 1 year ago
  3. SplatteredHouse

    It would be appreciated for them to ensure a consistent environment (properties marking it an object as scalable. I found that a little irksome in TR: Underworld, at times) although other than that, there’s nought to fault and a lot to like, from these impressions.

    @AZ: I actually thought that was a concept art showing combat in motion.

    #3 1 year ago
  4. absolutezero

    It seems that its concept art of an unlockable special move. The spinny bow shot whoosh!

    CHUNK!! SNEAKY THIEF WAH-CLUNK.

    #4 1 year ago
  5. SplatteredHouse

    From another preview: “The game was first presented at last year’s Game Developers Conference. At the time, the player’s perspective jumped from first-person to third when climbing buildings or doing actions such as fighting, which was disorienting for the player. Only one instance of that perspective switch was present in the latest build, which was necessary to scale one large section of a building. Cantin said there are only one or two scenarios in the current build where a camera switch is necessary.” http://www.polygon.com/2014/1/24/5340954/thiefs-latest-preview-highlights-vast-improvement

    I’m really glad that they adjusted that, and updated it. It just seemed really jarring and awkward in the way that the camera behaved in the first gameplay which was released.

    #5 1 year ago
  6. YoungZer0

    Saw some new preview footage of the game.

    Looks like they really took notice, it definitely looks much better and more redefined.

    I’m definitely getting it. I think the Thief series didn’t age well, so I don’t care that it’s not as clunky and slow as the previous titles. It looks fluid, fast and fun, and I liked that. For some weird and unexpainable reason I love his skinny and elegant hands and the way he softly touches anything he steals or interacts with.

    #6 1 year ago
  7. SplatteredHouse

    According to Digitalspy’s preview: “It annoyingly pulls the trick where every guard knows your location as soon as just one spots you”. They also noted “But, thankfully, stealth felt fluid and responsive. When you are hidden away, Thief is in its element, allowing you to prepare and execute plans with great satisfaction.”
    See also an example of some depth in an early side mission, as well as their other initial findings here: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/gaming/news/a544929/thief-preview-sticking-to-the-shadows-in-the-upcoming-reboot.html

    #7 1 year ago

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    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]

  • Toejam and Earl are back with a new Kickstarter

    The early 90′s are alive and well in a new bid to bring back Toejam and Earl. Toejam and Earl released for Mega Drive (Genesis, Americans) in 1991, and the eponymous characters went on to count among Sega’s best-known characters. They appeared in a platformer, a light gun shooter and finally a 2002 Xbox game […]

  • New Wander trailer shows off Azertash form

    Wander is a collaborative, non-combat MMO in which you can take on a number of unique forms. Wander players begin as an ambulant tree called an Oren and can progress through several different bodies as they explore the environment, learning its secrets. One of these, which we’d not seen before this trailer, is the amphibious […]

  • SOMA approaching beta phase on PC and PS4

    SOMA, the new horror game from the Amnesia: The Dark Descent crew, is getting close to playable. Frictional Games has apologised for its recent silence over the project, but said it’s focused on reaching beta. Sorry all for the silence! We're closing in on Beta and everyone's working hard to get there. Once that's done, […]

  • Square Enix does not condone Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest HD Remaster

    Square Enix has said it’s not involved with a fan remake of Final Fantasy spin-off Mystic Quest. 1992 SNES game Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest is being remade by Dark Design as Mystic Quest HD Remaster. The developer is even taking pre-orders for the project. Unfortunately, it looks like it is in no position to be […]

  • New Hunger teaser released by LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers

    LittleBigPlanet Vita co-developers Tarsier Studios have released a teaser trailer for Hunger, which was announced in May 2014 at the Nordic Game Conference. The game has been rumored to be the firm’s unannounced Sony project since 2010. Platforms are still to be announced, but the studio became a first-party SCE developer a few years back, […]

  • Here’s two Mario Party 10 overview videos, one featuring amiibo

    Overview videos for Mario Party 10 and the amiibo which work with the title have been released by Nintendo Japan. Obviously each one is in Japanese, but you get the gist all the same. Mario Party 10 releases on Wii U March 20 in North America and Europe. Thanks, AGB.

  • Clan Raids announced for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App

    Activision has announced a new Clan Raids mode will be made available through the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Companion App. According to the CoD community blog, raids are time-based challenges where success earns you a spot on the Clan Raids leaderboards and new Clan Raid-exclusive in-game gear like the Equilibrium set. Clan members will […]

  • Play Battlefield Hardline starting March 12 through EA Access

    Xbox One users with an EA Access subscription will be able to play 10 hours worth of Battlefield Hardline starting March 12. EA Access members will are being granted access to the game five days before the street date, with full multiplayer and all saves transferring over into the main game. It was announced yesterday […]

  • This video summarizes the contents of Destiny patch 1.1.1

    With Destiny patch 1.1.1 now available, here’s a video summary of what to expect. In the video above, Arekkz Gaming gives you a rundown of the important bits in the update. Subscribe to Arekkz Gaming for more Destiny tips and trick through the link.

  • Destiny 1.1.1 patch notes out, update is live

    Destiny’s 1.1.1 patch arrives today, so if you have been kicked from activities, it means you will need to download the patch now that it’s live. We will be pushing the 1.1.1 patch for Destiny shortly. Players will be kicked from activities and required to download the patch. — Bungie Help (@BungieHelp) February 25, 2015 […]

  • Payday 2 packs based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number coming

    Starbreeze has announced another collaboration with Dennaton Games which will see masks based on Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number appear in Payday 2. The collaboration consists of two free updates when you acquire Hotline Miami 2 or its deluxe version on Steam from February 25. The two updates, called Hotline Miami Mask Pack and Jacket […]

  • Velocity 2X making its way onto Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One

    Velocity 2X will be released on Linux, Mac, PC and Xbox One Futurlab has announced. The developer is in charge of the port, which will be published by Sierra. According to Futurlab, the deal with Sierra came about when self-publishing proved to be difficult due to spending “more time doing PR and marketing on Velocity […]

  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number finally has a release date

    A release date for Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has been announced, finally. The game will arrive on Linux, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita March 10. It is now available for pre-order on GOG, Humble and Steam for 10% off for $13.49/£10.99. There’s also a Digital Special Edition available which includes tracks from […]