E3 2013 Impressions – Thief

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I’ve never been a fan of games that require a lot of stealth (save Metal Gear Solid IV) so the Thief series had never really been on my radar. I received an invite to check out the new iteration of the series at E3 though, and knowing that it’s been a popular series, I jumped at the opportunity.

Needing some hefty headphones to even hear the demonstration (Square-Enix always has a humongous screen showing game trailers and footage at their booth, and the roofless “theater” for the Thief demo was only about 10 feet from it), the packed room was greeted by a couple of members of the development team, one of which was holding a PlayStation 4 controller. As in past games in the series, this, I guess I’d say reboot (although I didn’t hear anyone say that it is) is built completely around stealth. It was mentioned however, that you can play the game in a more straightforward and brutal approach, but the game actually rewards you for playing as stealthy as possible.

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The first thing that struck me was how visually stunning the game is (I actually have that in my notes, “Visually Stunning!”). Lighting obviously plays a key role in Thief and it looks like the next-gen consoles are definitely going to help this cause. For once, you’ll actually know when you’re hiding in the shadows or not, and using “water arrows” you can snuff torches out with ease, allowing you to slip-by guards without them seeing you. Textures were wonderfully detailed, and the animation, as we’ve seen in many next-gen titles so far, was fantastic.

The level shown required the player to make it through a garden courtyard and into a large castle. You could make your way across the ground by hiding in bushes or behind low walls, or you could climb up to the ledges to try and stay out of sight, except that the guards actually look up occasionally, so even up there you’ll want to stay in the shadows as much as possible. Overall though, pretty typical stealth-genre gameplay.

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As in other stealth titles, there are a few tricks that you can use to distract enemies, such as throwing an object to get their attention, or you can use the always satisfying stealth take-downs, but make sure you hide the body before someone else discovers it. Also something that surprised me (remember, I don’t play these games, so this may not be new to the series) was when he walked around a corner, and a dog was in a cage. The dog started barking at the player, alerting the guards almost instantly. It heightened the tension quite a bit, and when our demonstrator was dodging the enemies, I even sat at the edge of my seat.

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Your character has a few other tricks at his disposal, including a “Focus” ability. It allows him to not only find traps and secret areas, but also is used when picking locks. After finding traps, you’ll be able to disable them, again making sure that you go undetected as much as possible, which at the end of the mission can garner you more points. Another tool available, as stated by the demo team, the “return of the rope arrow” which lets you traverse large gaps or climb up or down to other levels. Another change they’ve made from the previous titles is that the game will switch to a 3rd-person camera when scaling walls, with a climbing system that looked a bit like what we’ve seen in the Uncharted series, which isn’t a bad thing.

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I recorded the audio of the demo so I could remember more detail, okay I tried to do that, but all I could hear was the videos showing just outside the door, so I apologize if I missed anything from the demo. It was really cool though, and I’ve been talking about what I saw quite a bit. In other words, the demo for Thief definitely left a good impression on me.

Thief will be hitting sometime in 2014, and from what I saw so far, fans of the series are going to be extremely happy.

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