The decision to reboot a much-loved series causes a tremendous amount of fear. Fear of what will be lost if the game bombs on the development side of things and fear of seeing a favourite character twisted beyond recognition on the gamer's side of things.
Thief is one of those games that has created a lot of fear fuelled at least in part by the changing of the actor that voices the master thief himself Garrett. It's not just the change in voices that has folks spooked either. Since Thief: Deadly Shadows appeared on PC and Xbox (the original black monstrosity that it was) many other games have passed including Arkane's Dishonored, a game cut from the same cloth as the Thief series and one that proved to be exactly the right game to fill the space left by Garrett's absence.
Early screenshots showed a distinct similarity between the visual styles of Thief and Dishonored and the setting of a city ravaged by a plague is all to familiar for those that walked in Corvo Attano's shoes.
Still this new Thief that Eidos Montreal has created has proven to be a different beast altogether. While stealth and choice are still very much at the fore of Thief's mechanics Eidos Montreal has made use of the extra power of the new generation of consoles to create a darker, more shadowy experience than Arkane's hit.
The latest gameplay footage is a very impressive illustration of what gamers can expect for Garretts rebirth.
Early on in the game Garrett's first heist goes a bit wrong and he must sneak back to his hideout in the City's clock tower. There's a catch, as there always is in games and that is the City is in lockdown. Gates are sealed and the populace remains indoors under curfue. This means that only the shadows of the night can aid Garrett in his journey home.
Thankfully, shadows are plentiful and exceptionally dynamic. While Thief is a very dark game the visuals are superb. The demo's combination of night-time and rain create help to create the atmosphere of a city going through some tough times and provides the perfect cover for Garrett to slip through.
His journey involves navigating the rooftops and alleyways of the City in the hopes of avoiding the guard. It would have been all to easy to gift Garrett mystical powers or the ability to free-run but Eidos Montreal has cleverly avoided these traps that would surely have resulted in a folly resulting hail of abuse from hardened fans bristling at what is a departure from the canon of the series.
All Garrett has to aid him are his bow and assortment of special arrows (water ones feature fairly consistently in this playthrough), lockpicks and his new tool, the claw which he uses in a variety of ways from prying open windows to getting a grip to climb up to ledges that would otherwise be out of reach. The claw works well and doesn't seem at all out of place with the rest of Garrett's gear.
The stealth mechanics have been tweaked from what fasn may be used to to take into account technological advances. The dynamic lighting allows for moving areas of shadow that just weren't possibile in Deadly Shadows creating a more realitic challenge for potential master thieves.
Enemy AI too has received an upgrade with guards turning to look at a freshly extinguished torch and even relighting them as one particular occasion indicated. Again this adds more realism and immersion to the experience.
Garrett can also now look around him as he picks locks allowing him to see trouble and extricate himself from the situation rather than getting caught red-handed.
Everything that has been added seems to have been done so with very careful consideration for what the Thief series was before it landed in the lap of Eidos Montreal. The studio seems to have a very keen understanding of what makes former Ion Storm properties tick having already done the Deus Ex series justice with Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
This game looks good and seems to play with a fluidity that complements the stealth play that characterised the original trilogy so well while adding a very modern twist. Having seen this footage there is much to quiet the fans fears. Garrett could very well be heading for the return he deserves.
Thief is due to be released on PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360 on February the 25th in North America and February 28th in Europe and the UK.