E3 2013: Thief Preview – Man of Steal
Written Thursday, June 20, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Back in April, Thief blew us away. Our first proper look at the potential offered by next-gen platforms, Eidos Montreal's next reboot job following the developer's success with Deus Ex: Human Revolution looked stunning. And our E3 presentation of Thief still looks fantastic, even if it's only partially memorable. That's not to say it was bad; far from it in fact. It just seemed that a lot of old ground was being retrod for this latest demo. And yet, Eidos Montreal still managed to pull it out of the bag and promote excitement for Garrett's long overdue return.
Taking a mission at roughly halfway through the game, our second look at Thief is set against the backdrop of a violent uprising against the Baron who's holed up in his Northcrest Manor. As riots rage in the streets and alleyways of The City, Garrett seizes the disturbance as a perfect opportunity to rob the Baron blind, targeting a precious priceless heirloom called the 'Heart of the Lion'.
Infiltrating the high walls of the manor with his grappling hook, Garrett starts by extinguishing nearby torches with water arrows, shrouding the immediate area in complete darkness. Quietly taking down the first of the Baron's guards, you're able to see whether you're visible or hidden by keeping an eye on the edge of your first-person view, which emits a black hazy smoke if you're out of sight. Get spotted and the smoke dissipates giving you a perfectly clear peripheral vision for escape. It's a neat visual touch that negates the need for extraneous screen clutter.
Treading lightly along the ground, it's worth remembering that different surfaces possess different properties, so crunching your way through gravel is ill-advised, while walking on grass or soft ground is a lot quieter. You can also light oil patches with a flame arrow to create a distraction or set enemies alight, but that kind of tactic is more likely to alert guards to your presence. Swiftly shimmying between high columns, Garrett has the perfect view of the manor courtyard, leading him to a passageway where a water valve can be shut off, unlocking a secret passageway in the process.
A quick diversion to pickpocket a map and some gold, the process of which can be sped up using Garrett's entirely optional focus ability, the hooded brigand scampers into the secret tunnel where he finds guards bickering as their commander barks at them to get back to work. Using focus once again, Garrett can visualise the footsteps of guards as pulses through walls, tracing their patrols. Focus also enables you to highlight useful objects, which in this case is an empty glass bottle that Garrett can hurl to divert attention.
Alerting the guards, Garrett is able to squeeze through small gaps, demonstrated as we see him feeling his way around crates and barrels, his hands visible as he does so. Picking a lock to silently break through a door using visual and vibration feedback, Garrett calls upon his focus again to disable hidden traps, snipping a wire to secure the area. Overhearing useful information from guards, Garrett is also able to non-lethally dispatch guards with a blunt arrow at range or use his trusty blackjack to knock them out cold. He has a versatile range of tools at his disposal, including the rope arrow to climb up to otherwise inaccessible areas.
Scaling a wall into the rafters, Garrett gets an overview of the library below, picking his moment to search the room for clues. Lockpicking another door this time using focus to position the tumblers with the lockpick from an internal cross-section view, Garrett finally locates his target, finding a suspicious-looking picture frame. Garrett's hands feel around the frame as you read for visual and vibrating feedback again, this time to find the hidden catch. Open sesame, and Garrett finds himself in a room with a garish, ornate crypt in the centre, presented with a puzzle to crack in order to access the box's precious contents.
A golden pillar made up of rotating sections, there's an engraved pattern that has to be matched up to trip the lock and reveal the loot that Garrett's after. However, the engraving is worn, meaning Garrett needs to figure out a different approach. Finding a small hole in the sarcophagus, Garrett is able to peek through to see that the mechanism requires cogs to be aligned to drop a weight. It's a simple enough puzzle once you know how, and as the suspended weight drops inside the box, a glass case rises from the innards of the crypt.
Inside lies the jackpot, the Baron's cherished Heart of the Lion, which Garrett wastes no time in quickly pilfering. It's time to get out. Fast. Into the sewers and out of the manor grounds to Auldale Bridge, Garrett finds himself in the thick of the riots, flames and destruction surrounding him. “Crossing the bridge is going to be tricky,” Garrett muses. That's an understatement we soon find, as the camera pans out to third-person view to give you the best angle as Garrett's dark figure scales pipes and ledges on the side of a building, to get to the higher part of the town. Nearing the top, an explosion hits Garrett knocking him away from the wall.
A slow-motion QTE gives him the chance to dig back in and keep climbing, and as Garrett makes it to the top and makes a bold run into a burning building, he still finds time as the roof caves in to crack open a jewellery box and nick more valuables. Classy. Dodging falling white hot timber, glowing cinders and other debris, Garrett makes a final dash onto the rooftops, running across the collapsing tiles. Falling through into a house that swiftly flips over the edge of the bridge, Garrett is able to scurry up an overturned cupboard and out to safety. Hotfooting it across the bridge as it collapses, Garrett makes a daring leap to the other side, and the demo ends on a cliffhanger.
Will Garrett make it across the bridge? Will he fall in the water and have to swim? For now, your guess is as good as ours, but one thing is for certain. Thief is looking spectacular, even if the E3 demo did go over a few of the same points we'd previously covered. Hitting all of the right notes so far in each of the demos we've seen, Eidos Montreal evidently knows what it's doing with Thief, granting you all of the necessary tools to remain an elusive shadow in the darkness, or a lithe and nimble assassin. Garrett might be living outside the law, but he's a hero in our eyes.
Thief is slated for release on Xbox 360 and Xbox One in 2014.