Return to a Life of Crime
PC Zone Magazine September 2001

The first glimpse of Thief 3 gives us our first insight into Warren Spector’s dark secret

People of a secretive and sneaky nature everywhere have been in a lather ever since it was revealed that Thief 3 is in development at what is still officially being called Ion Storm Austin (pending an imminent name change following the closure of Ion Storm Dallas). Then again, with an amalgamated dream team of original Thief-ers and fragments of Looking Glass Studios working on the title, and Deus Ex mastermind Warren Spector presiding over the whole thing, you can hardly blame them.

The first batch of artwork has been released for the game, and while only giving a tiny glimpse of what is to come, confirms that the murky ambience of the series is to be retained. One of the most notable changes since Thief 2 has been the decision to ditch the now outdated renderings of the Dark Engine in favour of the Unreal Warfare engine.

Speculations have abounded as to whether the Unreal engine would produce the same shadowy quality that made the other games so atmospheric – not to mention to enabling Garret to skulk about unseen in the first place. “Unreal isn’t perfect for us straight out of the box, but we’re making the changes it takes to make Thief 3 a great game,” assures project director Randy Smith. “Unreal also has power to render some stuff that the Dark Engine could never have hoped to render. The environments in Thief 3 are going to feel like you can reach out and touch them.”

Much of the initial work has been directed towards enhancing the individual player experience and in particular honing the enemy AI. The way enemies react when you make a sound has always been one of the most integral features of the Thief games, and the modelling of both hearing and sight is expected to make great advances in this instalment. “Thief 3 also has guards who patrol, see and hear, search for you when they detect you, and say ‘must have been rats’ afterwards,” offers Randy. “We have so much of a head start, we’ll be able to tune it to within an inch of its life before it ships, which is great.” Levels will be noticeably bigger as well, with a variety of dark yet lushly rendered environments, and for the first time you’ll be able to control Garrett in third-person mode.

The stealth genre has produced some of the finest ‘feel like you’re really there’ games around, and in this respect the Thief games reign supreme. Luckily, we can sleep easy in the knowledge that Thief 3 is in the safest hands possible.

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