Forget causes, forget the revolution, Garrett doesn't give a crap. He's just gonna steal some expensive shit.
On the outskirts of Northcrest Manor, the peasants are revolting against The Duke. Inside security is tightening with soldiers patrolling the grounds on increased alert. Naturally, with their attention elsewhere, this is the perfect time for master thief Garrett to sneak in and steal the family's greatest treasure. Welcome to Thief.
The live demo we were shown at E3 of the game was played with a mix of aggressive and stealth styles, though the game's Narrative Director, Stephen Gallagher, emphasizes that you can play as a "Ghost" (completing objectives without being seen) or use non-lethal means. In practice, this means a lot of dropping from above to neutralize guards, sneaking behind them to steal the purses from their belts, extinguishing torches and lamps with water-arrows, and using the rope arrow to reach areas of elevation that would otherwise be unavailable.
Gallagher showed off Garrett's ability to focus, a skill that allows you to see footsteps, enemy locations through obstacles, zoom in when firing an arrow, and other visual cues that aid in stealth. These special abilities are tied to an as-yet-unrevealed plot development that allows Garrett to focus with supernatural ability. However, what is more interesting is that the game also gives you the option of turning them off if you want to play without any of their advantages. Not that using them is endless; focus abilities use up energy that can be replenished with poppy flowers, while food replenishes health.
As Garrett closed in on his target, it was necessary to find the location of the item. A secret room must be spied out through observing enemy conversations and peering at stolen documents. Once the basic location is found, you can use Garrett's thief hands to search for the secret switch around the edges of a specific object. Once opened, a puzzle is revealed in the form of a spinning pillar with several sections.
What's more fascinating is the other pillar, where the faces have been rubbed off by time. Garrett has to peer through a hole in the box to view inside the mechanism and see how the tumblers line up, in order to find how many turns are necessary for each one. This is but one operation that has you as the player must figure out via observation, showing the game's rare trust in player intelligence for a title of this scope.
After retrieving the item, Garrett slips out through the glass dome and escapes to the bridge that has been set ablaze during the revolt. The next sections of gameplay pit the master thief against time as the bridge threatens to fall down around him. It also adds some visual perspective, by switching out to third-person view for some climbing and shimmying around the buildings and structures on the outside of the bridge.
What follows is a mad dash through the collapsing buildings -- amid, over, and through burning pylons and collapsing roofs. In one brief section, Garrett can stop for a moment to try to pick the lock on a small jewelry box within the inferno, but as he does the flames grow ever closer, slinking down a set of steps. The dev handling the demo didn't have enogh time and has Garrett escape with the flames licking at his heels, the treasure uncollected.
After a series of exciting leaps and crumbling architecture falling all around, Garrett at last reaches the other side of the bridge, safe and secure with his bountiful treasure. It's a refreshing game that's apporpriate for a game called "Thief," as opposed to the more standard video game fare of "champion of the proletariat uprising!"
Thief is a visually beautiful game, and we saw it running off of a PS4. The final sequence in particular, where the bridge (which housed a neighborhood on top of it) crumbles around you in flames, is a testament both to the PS4's power and the skill of the developers in crafting an amazing series of exciting set pieces. Thief is set to release in 2014 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.