A highly stylized fourth "Thief" game is set to debut next year on the PC, PlayStation 4 and other next-generation consoles. For the developers at Eidos Montreal, crafting a next-gen "Thief" game means using souped-up processing power to transport players under the cowl of Garrett, the series' cynical protagonist who returns for the fourth edition.
"It's about what type of experience the player will have," said producer Stephane Roy. "For us, it's the immersion. It's a first-person game. There is pickpocket gameplay. You're so close to the guard in front of you that you can almost smell the guy. The immersion must be perfect. You must believe you are in this universe. That's what next-gen gives us."
Much about the new "Thief" will be familiar to fans, including Garrett's silent blackjack and the setting of The City, a mysterious steampunk metropolis. The designers have given Garrett a focus ability, as well as implemented fighting gameplay inspired by Guy Ritchie's "Sherlock Holmes" film, which featured the title character pinpointing a foe's weak spots.
The original "Thief: The Dark Project" was released in 1998 and pioneered the stealth game genre. Rather than shoot up targets, "Thief" pushed players to slip through the shadows. The critically acclaimed first "Thief" game was followed by two sequels, 2000's "Thief II: The Metal Age" and 2004's "Thief: Deadly Shadows," before the franchise faded from view.
In the opening of the new "Thief," Garrett teases in a narration, "I've been away, but I couldn't tell you where." In recent years, the old-school "Thief" games have been eclipsed by other titles that have improved upon the genre, including Ubisoft's "Assassin's Creed" and "Splinter Cell" series and Arkane Studios' "Dishonored."
"'Thief' is the grandfather of that type of game," said Roy following a demonstration of "Thief" at last week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. "It gave birth to all these big franchises. Now it's up to my team to prove that 'Thief' is still part of this. We want to convince you that we're part of your future, not just your past."