E3 2013 Preview: Enter the mind of a cunning burglar in Thief

If I could only use one word to describe Thief, I'd say this game is open. No, I'm not saying it has a sprawling open world for you to explore. What I mean is that the game is intent on letting you approach stealth the way you want to approach stealth. After seeing the game in action and even playing it for a bit myself, I got a good feel for what players can expect. If you're a stealth fan, you're going to want to keep an eye on this one. Strangely, if you don't find yourself playing many stealth games, Thief may be the one to watch out for due to its delightfully nerve-inducing design.

You play as Garrett, who's essentially burglar dude extraordinaire. This isn't the character's first outing, and Eidos Montreal wants you to know that. From the quips Garrett makes to his skills as a thief, it's obvious that this guy lives and breathes for the thrill of stealing expensive things. This means that when you play Thief, you have access to a wide variety of moves and abilities that enhance the experience rather than making you feel like prey. In other words, when you play this game, you're going to have to think like a burglar yourself.

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Garrett can use some melee abilities and weapons, but it's his nimble style that makes him a force to be reckoned with. You can seamlessly climb up walls; you can easily peak from under cover to view enemy locations; and you can perform a handy slide move. This particular maneuver allows you to quickly move around the area with a lower chance of being spotted. Not only is it fast, but Garrett is slightly ducking while he pulls it off, so it's ideal when there are enemies around.

Aside from being both quick and light on his feet, Garrett has access to a Focus ability. Triggering Focus makes certain things in your environment stand out akin to the Batman: Arkham games. This includes collectible treasures, ledges you can climb, and items you can break. By using this ability, you get a clear sense of what's around you, so pocketing a bunch of loot and finding the best or closest escape route when being chased by enemies is always apparent.

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Like plenty of stealth games, Thief requires you to hide under the cover of darkness. A small round indicator in the corner of the screen lets you know how visible you are to guards or other enemies. If you've been spotted, the indicator lights up, prompting you to find a dark corner or an obstruction of some sort to lose your pursuers.

The UI in Thief is incredibly minimalistic. Health bars, maps, and inventory markers don't fill up the screen. Instead, you've got a really clean interface and a clear view of everything around you. It's a nice touch, and it further helps create a sense of mystique and wonder. It actually took me a little while to get used to the fact that there were no real HUD features aside from the visibility icon, but the lack of onscreen items helped me get even more immersed in the game world.

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Speaking of the world, this is a very lovely game to behold, and the visual style is amplified thanks to the use of next-gen tech. Everything has a dark look to it, and I was instantly reminded of Dishonored. The main difference, however, is that Thief has a more realistic look, with characters lacking that hit-or-miss cartoony appearance seen prominently in Dishonored. The overcast sky, the Victorian influence, and the antique look of everything from buildings to treasure is a pleasant stylistic direction for this game.

Thief is a stealth game that puts you not only in the shoes of a burglar, but in his mind, as well. You need to act and think like Garrett would, and you need to approach this game with the utmost cunning and versatility. The light UI elements and dark world only help to create a grand sense of atmosphere that's totally in tune with the theme of the game. Watch out for Thief when it hits the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC next year.

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