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Preview: Sneakin' around with Dishonor-- er, I mean Thief

Ever since it was announced earlier this year, we've been curiously looking into the progress of Thief, Square Enix's return to the classic stealth franchise. We recently got a chance to check out some footage in a behind-closed-doors session for the game, and while it certainly holds some promise, it also brings a lot of familiarity. At one point, we were thinking, "Wait, is this guy Corvo?"

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That's because Thief's mechanics borrow quite a bit from Bethesda's 2012 release Dishonored, just as that was probably inspired by some classic Thief game from years before. It giveth, then it taketh away. That's not to say it doesn't have its moments of fine inspiration, but you can tell that there are some things in common with Corvo's adventure.

In the game, you're assigned the task to steal something important from royalty, and that means sneaking into a stronghold that's heavily guarded. Like in Dishonored, you can pretty much play your own way -- though, in the true nature of the thief, you're encouraged to take the stealth route. You can knock out guards from behind, create distractions by taking out torches with projectiles, and slip away using your physical capabilities. You'll also be able to use a lockpick and look through keyholes as you move ahead, so you don't inadvertently barge into a room filled with guards. Talk about making a grand entrance.

The first half of the demo emphasized on the Thief's abilities, but the second half certainly picked up in terms of excitement, as you whisked your way through a burning village, narrowly avoiding collapses and rushing to find some safety point. This is where Thief differentiated itself from Dishonored, though you could tell that the team at Eidos is working to go with the slow and steady route for the majority of the game.

Thief

Garret, the main hero, does have some great abilities and a bit of sparkle in his personality when he speaks about his mission. But still, Eidos isn't doing enough just yet to really set this game apart from others that have set the mark this generation. We even saw bits and pieces of gameplay lifted from Square Enix's Deus Ex: Human Revolution involved in Thief's tactical set-up – and that game takes place in the future. Eidos needs to do a bit more when it comes to giving this game its own identity. Fortunately, they've got time to do it.

One area where Thief isn't weak, however, is in its presentation. Throughout the map we wandered through in the demo, there was a high level of detail and lighting. Watching the effects of a torch going out in a surrounding area is quite cool, leaving only small shadows on the soldiers who are wandering about. The fiery segment of the game looked awesome as well, with flames that were so realistic you could almost reach out and touch them.  

The audio's a bit subdued so far, with decent (if not spectacular) voice work and sound effects. You can bet that more will be added in the final product to hopefully set this apart from other games in the genre.

Thief

Thief isn't a bad game, but you can tell it seems like an also-ran at this point in development, especially compared to the brilliant Dishonored. If Eidos can do more to really make it shine in its own regard – maybe add new abilities that Corvo could only dream of – it'll truly stand out in this next generation.

We'll see how it fares when it ships for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – along with current generation consoles – early next year.

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Robert Workman
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