Thief 2: The Metal Age
|a game by||Looking Glass Studios, Inc.|
|Editor Rating:||6.5/10, based on 1 review, 6 reviews are shown|
|User Rating:||7.4/10 - 7 votes|
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|See also:||Heist games, Thief Games|
Walkthrough -- Part Two
Trace The Courier
Follow Mosley, always keeping a good distance between you. Pick the pockets of anyone you pass. When you get to the ramp, make sure you have walked past it before the guard returns to his station. When Mosley heads left across the canal's plaza, use the stalls to your left to keep out of sight. At the bridge, hide in the gap until the guard passes. Then cross over the bridge and walk along the street, which runs next to the canal. Keep following Mosley and you'll see her drop a note. Once she's out of sight, read the note and put it back where you found it.
Follow Mosley again. Take a right then a left. Face the canal. You should soon hear the Pagan approaching. Follow him until you get to the graveyard, where he will pause. Wait in the darkness, by the intersection. Watch as the Pagan runs. Go through the archway to the south. Go right, then left. At the street light go left, then right at the intersection. Go left twice, then right down a small slope until you get to a wall with a fence on it and three grey stones. Get on it and activate the lever which is the top left torch. Get into the tomb and open the double doors. Go to the graveyard. Follow the Pagan's blood trail. Open the double doors and steal whatever you find. Follow the blood trail again. Open the doors of the tomb where it stops and crawl through the portal.
Trail Of Blood
Follow the trail of blood. Go into the hut and listen. Head for the stream. Search the Mechanist's body. Swim across the stream. Go round to the back of the hut. Go into the hut and search. Cross the bridge and follow the blood trail. After the garden, go south, round to the back of the house and head east. Go into the hut. Climb the ladder, search and then go back down. Go into another room and look around. Go east to another hut. Get to the right side of the bridge and go in the water and swim west. Climb out at the bridge.
Follow the blood trail again. Go into the hut with the lights on and take whatever you find. Leave the hut and go east. Go to the guard near the torch and knock him out. Head north, until you come across three torches. Go east through the trees, then north. Get into the building, where you'll find some eye sockets. Put the rubies into them. Then get into the mouth.
Follow the blood trail. You should come across four pools, search them. Go towards the purple light. Follow the stream until you get to a dead body. Go down the nearby tunnel. Keep following the blood trail. Take the opening to your left. Head west down the slope, take whatever you find and then go back up the slope. Follow the blood trail. When the path divides into three, go west. Take the blue crystals and follow the trail to a guarded entrance. Go west and follow the tunnel. Hug the south wall as you walk along the cliff. Grab the blue crystal, go back to the guarded entrance and kill the beasts.
Walk over the bridge. Shoot a vine arrow into the stones overhead and climb up. Read Mosley's letter and head south. Get the diamonds, using the tree hollow as a hiding place. Ascend the stairs. Get the apples and Mosley's letter. There's a ring among the bones. Leave the room and go down the hallway. Turn left and walk down the slope, taking out the beast as you go. Go back up and head back down the hallway. When it's safe to do so, re-enter the room and go through the south door.
When the path splits go west. Enter the room and just take everything you can find. Get into the icy room and find Mosley's letter. Go through the right-hand exit. Climb down the rope and follow the tunnel. Take the diamond from the stone, go northwest and get two more diamonds. Go south around the middle tree and pick up another diamond. Go back to where you found the first diamond. Find the other gem near the narrow path and then come back here. Climb up the rope and into the icy room with two exits. Go west and use your sword to get past the ice. Follow the trail of blood. Go through the log and find the Pagan's dead body.
Life Of The Party
Get out of the tower from the west side. Get on the roof and jump on the ledge. Go north, jump down and on the ledge and head west to an open window. Go in and steal what you find. Go to the roof opposite the bell tower. Climb up and walk across the pipe on the right-hand side. Head west over the roof. Climb up, then jump down. Head west, take the ladder down. Go through the window on the ledge and steal the vase. Follow the guard through the door. Go upstairs. Use a vine arrow to get onto the beam. Head east, turn left and go into the opening. Knock down the obstacles, go into the room. Head left. Use the telescope to open the secret door. Loot the secret room. Move two crates, go through the opening. Descend the ladder. Head up the stairs, take the west door. Go to the roof and up the stairs. Get to the next roof. Fire a water arrow down the chimney. Go down the ladder and steal everything of value. Go back up the chimney and head back to the other rooftop. Get back in the room with the telescope. Jump down into the hallway. Head up the stairs. Climb up, get through the window and jump down. Head south, then west.
Go west from the guards and down the ladder. Turn right at the bottom of the stairs. Get to the alley. Climb the wall. Get up the red wall. Take the key off the guard, use it on the door to the west. Get to the roof and find the fire escape. Go down to the third floor, loot the apartment and head down to the ground floor.
Get to the Necromancer's Spire. Take the lift. Use the highlighted book. Once on the top floor, jump from the window to the ledge. Go up the stairs and out the north window onto the ledge. Get in through other windows and steal what you find. Go to the roof. Go inside the greenhouse. Get to the armoury in the house. Blow the door.
Steal the key from the guard in the foyer and use it to get into Tuttleshank's office. Go to the roof. Get through the door near the angel. Find the voice machines and activate all of them. While doing this, loot as much as you can. Once you've completed the objectives, climb into the bell tower.
Walk past the drill and search the hut. Climb the three rocks and get across the ropes. Crawl into the tunnel and follow it. Push the switches up. Go to the lighthouse. Head through the north opening near the well. Go inside the building to the west. Burgle the house. There's a switch under the crates. Descend the stairs that lead to the lighthouse. Get the key from the priest.
Get to the Cetus Amicus and search it. Swim under the dock and into the passage. Get the key from the guard. Go back to the boat. Loot the ship. Swim under the dock and head left and through the hole. Get the scroll. Swim to the blocked tunnel. Remove the blockade. Swim to Captain Markham's ship and loot it. Find the room with the lockers. Loot them and the room. Make sure you pick up the key for Cargo Locker No 5. To get to Cargo Locker No 5, go through the engine room. Then use the key on the lock and go in.
Go up and then right. Move the barrels and enter the hall. Loot all the rooms. Go upstairs and get the key from the guard. Loot all the rooms. Use the key on the grey door south of the hall. Go downstairs and search all of the rooms. Hit the switch on the right to get into the Lost City. Go in.
Head up the slope to sites one, two and six. Get rid of and rob the guards. Go to site seven and take out or distract the guards. Search and loot the area. On the path to sites one, two and six, take the left tunnel. Find the scripture. Search all the rooms, then go to the ruins. By the lava pools, find a machine which ticks. Find site five and loot it. Then go upstairs to Cavador's room, knock him out and steal his key. Get his diary from his room. Pick up Cavador and escape with him without being spotted.
Casing The Joint
Get out of the water and head west. Throw the switch on the mansion wall. In the room with the tapestry and desk, throw the switch behind the tapestry. Put the switches to their off positions. Slash another tapestry to find another switch. Loot the rooms as you go. Now get to the second floor. Throw the switch on the left side of one of the arches. In the trophy room, put the switches into their off positions. Go onto the balcony and get to the end of it. Get the cuckoo from the tool box. In a room near the ballroom, use the levers to deactivate the alarm systems. Now go to the library through the secret passage way which opens when you press a switch low down on the wall of another nearby room.
Find and read the three books about the librarian and his helper's wife. Read the book near the fire. Then check the T, N, Y and P sections. Find the book in the P section which opens the secret passage. Go to the library's second floor and steal all the gold you find. Go back to the first floor and into the hallway. Put the cuckoo into the clock and set it to 12 o'clock. Make sure that you map half of the mansion. Once you've done that, go to the main hall, pick open the main doors and go outside.
Go back the way you went in the last mission to get to the clock outside the library, looting as you go. Set the clock's hands to 12 o'clock again. Walk through the secret panel and then up the stairs.
After getting past the guards, go up to the next level. Pick open the double doors and steal everything you find. In the security office, put all four of the switches into their off positions. Use the beams to guide you to the green room. Take the masks. Now head for the alarm room. Set the switch to its on position. Unlock the switch and set it to off. Go to the red room and get three more masks. Head back to the alarm room. Set the south-west switch to the off setting. Go to the blue rooms and get the masks.
Find and pick open the locked double doors. Pick up the cultivator. Then go back to the library. There's a switch behind the stand. Go through the passage it opens. Pick open the locked doors as you go. Loot every room as you move through the mansion. When you get to the main hall, pick open the door and leave.
Sabotage And Soulforge
Go to the wall with the three banners hanging off it. Keep looking above you, and when you see a grating, fire a vine arrow into it and pull yourself up. Follow the ledge, jump down near the pillars and then loot all the rooms nearby. Go to the plans room and read the note on the desk. Open the seven safes.
Head for the storerooms. Go left in the circular room, and head left when you get to the three banners. Climb the ladder next to the machine. Drop a signal bolt into it. Get the first stage piece. Use the machine in the next room, put the quicklime and iron chassis into it and throw the switch four times. Go to the room with the banners. Go south to some gears. Take out the robots. Now get to the rolling machine. Put the phase one piece into it, press the button, then get the stage two piece.
Return to the room with three banners again, then go to the room with three arches. When you get to the pool of water, swim down to the bottom until it's clear to emerge. Use the red button on the linking machine. Grab the regulating round. On the other side of the room is another machine, put the phase two piece in it along with a mine bulb and a steel plate. This will make the stage three piece.
Find the fountain and head for Bay E. Go up the ladder. Nearby is the machine you need to make your guiding beacon. Put the stage three piece into it to do so. Exit west, then horth. Walk through the double doors. After the arches, follow the ledge and drop down. Head east, following the corridor. Cross the courtyard, go through the door. Take the lift up. Go through the metal door. Climb the ladder. Put the switch to the B setting. Go north, then west and west again at the junction. Get to the room with flashing lights. Head north. Go through the stamping machine and go north again. Climb the ladder. Slide down the shoot and go up the lift. Put the lever to B. Get through the fire room quickly.
Loot the barracks, then get up the ladder and follow the first pipe. Go to the antenna and put the switch to B. Go to the room where there are several panels. Distract or destroy all of the robots. Make sure that both gates are up. Go north through the gates and up the lift. Go up the other lift and use the lever. Return to the room with the water tank. Go north through the room with the pipes. Find the room with the turrets. Shoot the button with an arrow. Go into the green room. When you come to an explosive device, set it off with a fire arrow, and stand well back. Pull the nearby red lever, then jump down to the floor from the ledge you get on from the catwalk. Hit the switch near the antenna. Run past the barracks, head south and then north at the junction. Lockpick the double doors. Go to the stairs then use the lift to take you down.
Head west, then left and up the slope. Hit the red switch. Go down the slope and head North. Go to the water and find the tunnel. Swim through it. When you surface, climb up the ladder. Hit the switch. Go through the hole and walk east. Climb up the ladder. Walk past the conveyor belt. Use the switch to turn off the alarm system. Go up the ladder, flick the switch, then go to Bay A. Now you want to head back out of this place. Retrace your steps to the three large banners, and turn left, then right into bay A.
Go south until you reach the double doors, walk through, and if you've completed all of your objectives you should have finished the game.
Download Thief 2: The Metal Age
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
It was less than a year ago that Thief 2 found its way onto our desktops, so it's somewhat of a surprise that a game as good as this is already out on budget. Not that we're complaining. A prime example of a sneak 'em up, the whole concept behind Thief If s brilliance is stealth and subtlety, rather than the use of violence. Faced with a series of missions, which generally involve breaking into well-guarded buildings and stealing certain items, you slowly start to uncover an intriguing plot, which is driven by some beautifully rendered cut scenes. There's bucket loads of tension and suspense, as you hide in shadows, creep up behind guards and knock them out. You also have to watch out for some cleverly hidden traps and alarms. Before each mission you have to equip yourself with all types of weaponry, from a simple club to water arrows, which let you extinguish torches from a huge distance. There are literally weeks of gameplay here, but only for the patient, as brains and stealth will always win over brute force. Glory boys need not apply. For everyone else though, this is one you have to buy.
When Thief: The Dark Project first broke into our office, it knocked many of us unconscious with its stealthy blackjack and groundbreaking use of sound. The tense atmosphere created by having to walk in shadows, afraid every creak of the floorboards is going to alert a guard to your presence, was enough to have even the most seasoned gamers gripping their mouse. Although we had some reservations about later levels, where stealth was discarded in favour of indiscriminate zombie-killing, the lasting impression is of an underrated landmark in PC gaming.
Now that the sequel is upon us, the developers have the chance to correct all the minor niggles and make Thief 2 a name to be mentioned in the same breath as Half-Life and System Shock 2. Once again it will utilise the original's Dark engine, pushing its capabilities even further than System Shock 2 recently did.
While some criticised The Dark Project for having slightly below-average graphics for a first-person 3D game, the developers still believe this engine has by far the best AI system available, and that no other can simulate sight and hearing well enough. From what we've seen of The Metal Age, we're not about to argue.
The action takes place a few years after the events in the first one, and once again you play the role of Garrett. This time round the plot will involve the struggle to control powerful technologies left behind by a lost civilisation, with a sect known as the Mechanists intent on using them to take control of the city.
As the game progresses, you learn more about the different factions and about life in the city itself. There will be a much stronger focus on interesting environments, as opposed to the abundance of caves and abandoned areas found in the first game. There are 16 levels planned, which take place in more urban settings including mansions, banks and detailed streets.
In an effort to balance the gameplay and address the issues of the 'boring' zombie levels, Looking Glass are paying more attention to the non-human characters' AI, so that they will react to sound as realistically as your human opponents. This should mean that the ordinary action sequences in The Dark Project (and which arguably detracted from the whole experience) will give way to fully stealth-driven gameplay. To this end, the new tools being introduced have less to do with weaponry than with reconnaissance and camouflage. There are also plans to include a cooperative multiplayer element, so you can indulge in some coordinated robbery with your friends. We can hardly wait.
Thief: The Dark Project was a great game, but one with several obvious flaws - lack of a multiplayer option being one of them. Even after rave reviews, it remained a curiously-low key affair, with many gamers unaware of its praise worthiness even today. Undeterred, developers Looking Glass went ahead with plans for another, listening to every criticism of their original code. By way of response to their critics, they've gone and created a stunning-looking sequel based on the same core code as the awesome System Shock 2. Naturally, the new title features multiplayer, and will even include a new co-operative mode where players have to work together to get through missions. There will also be multiplayer-specific mission objectives and challenges that require collaboration to win through. There's a swarm of new player items promised, although the development team are being careful to retain the original Thief s brilliantly balanced gameplay.
Few games can truly be said to Innovate any more, but when Looking Glass gave the world Thief: The Dark Project back in 1998, a good many jaws dropped. Gone was the usual guns blazing. Instead, you had to sneak about not killing anyone. An alien concept to most. Still, the adventures of Garrett and the medieval atmosphere was generally praised by all. So inevitably, we've got a sequel.
The story is a sort of 'Robin Hood' affair, with the exception that the noble thief gives to himself rather than to the poor. This time round, Garrett is under direct attack from the city's new Sheriff and it's not long before you discover he's more corrupt than you are. There's a power behind him, the Mechanists, who supply everyone with high-tech security devices. Unfortunately, one Mechanist in particular, Kerris, has his own designs on the city involving large mechanical robots and plenty of bloodshed. Enter the mysterious Keepers and your female contact Victoria, once again forcing you into their service as they attempt to find out what's going on and how to stop it.
We'd say it's the usual fantasy nonsense except that it's actually nicely told. The stylish cut-scenes from the original game are still evident and the whole Steampunk style elevates things above the typical ores and sorcery claptrap.
Size Is Everything
There's no doubt that Thief II is a much bigger game than before. The levels have been well designed and offer plenty of variety in the ways you can approach them. They still feel very self-contained, but at least they're big enough to last a good long while (even if they do feel a little easier than before, almost as though difficulty has been replaced by dimensions). Thankfully, there's no sign of the zombie menace that plagued the original. There are the occasional nods in that direction (graveyards, morgues, etc), but that's all they are. Ghosts put in an appearance, but these are for the purposes of the story rather than as another foe to avoid. In fact one of the more thoughtful levels, is where you're taking a trip through a pagan forest and as you stumble across one murdered corpse after another, their fates are depicted by ghostly after images.
The goals of each level are more intricate this time (although there's still plenty of booty to nick - you mustn't forget your roots after all). Framing police officials, escaping ambushes, blackmailing, and so on. They still play a bit too much along the linear 'get from point A to point B then go to point C' line, but at least they're challenging enough to make you work hard to reach them.
Befogging Your Mind
Thief always had an odd look about it. Almost as though the whole game was being viewed through a very slight fisheye lens. It was always a little too 'angular' as well. A bit too straight-edged. The Dark Engine has undergone some improvements here and there, but this is still a problem.
In its favour though, it now has much nicer atmospheric effects. The clouds in the sky are very nice (taken directly from the Flight Unlimited technology we understand) and the various weather effects, such as rain and fog, look great.
The biggest thing about Thief though, is light, or rather the lack of it. True a vast amount of the game is spent in murky darkness, which makes the lighting (and the flaws therein) so much more noticeable when it's there. A good example of what we're talking about is when you're in a fairly well-lit room, you open a door into a dark corridor and there's no light spilling out. Whether this is a limitation of the Dark Engine or a deliberate design policy we can't say. What we can say is that it tends to give each environment a sort of 'false' quality, and it does tend to show up the Dark Engine's limitations. Especially in the recent, er, light of games such as Unreal Tournament and Quake III.
He's Behind You
The sound aspect still works a treat in this game. The Thief series remains one of the few that fully explores the use of sound as an active part of the gameplay and we're pleased to say that Thief II continues the tradition admirably. We're sure it's deliberate but every noise you make seems to be amplified by ten and simply opening a creaky door while you're trying to stay unnoticed is enough to put the willies up you.
The guards are still comical -except when they're trying to put a sword through your neck, of course. The amount of speech has been upped significantly, so there's less repetition in their mumblings. Sometimes you just want to sit in a comer for ten minutes or so and listen to what they have to say about food standards, how their lot isn't a happy lot and how the Mechanists always have more reliable torches (a nice touch that last one, and an indication of how adaptive some of the AI routines are since he'd commented on a torch that was burning until we doused it with a water arrow).
Thief IIstill has enough atmosphere to immerse you, still makes you sit on the edge of your seat as a guard walks inches in front of you, and still makes you breathe a sigh of relief when he passes on without spotting you. It knows its stuff from the first game and it hasn't lost any of its nervy appeal.
Garrett, Meet Lara
However, the truth is, despite all the nice touches and solid atmosphere, Thief IIstill feels more like an expansion pack than a full-on sequel, especially when you look at how little has actually changed. It's true that giving players what they want is no bad thing, the games industry moves at such a pace that the games need to be constantly re-inventing themselves in order to stay ahead.
The obvious example of this trend is the Tomb Raider series. So far Core has offered us four games that, aside from slight graphical enhancements, have been pretty much the same. We were yelling from every rooftop following the second title that we needed to see something new, and each time we were ignored. Only now, at the fourth attempt, has the public backlash really begun and Core and Eidos know that they won't be able to pull off more of the same for a fifth title.
The same is true here. The original Thief was a bold, fresh entrant into the first-person arena. At the time no one had explored stealth tactics in such a game. It was all run-frag-jump-frag-kill. Thief was a breath of fresh, sneaky air into a testosterone-filled genre. Since then we've had 'stealth' games galore. Granted, most of them have been on the side of goodness. Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear, SWAT 3, Hidden & Dangerous, and so on. But as each one has come along it has taken hold of the softly, softly aspect, worked with it and tweaked it about. For instance, Rainbow Six allowed you to plan out tactics in advance, MSOgave you third-person perspectives. Everyone has built upon Thiefs initial skeleton.
So for Thief 2to just ignore the competition, to pretend that the intervening year and a bit hasn't happened is, well, criminal (ho ho). But that's what Looking Glass appears to have done, as Thief II constantly feels identical to its predecessor. Not to say it isn't a good game - it is. The first game was great and this is just as good. But that's all it is. What it no longer has is the freshness and the originality that the first title showed. Hence you come away thinking it's somehow lacking.
What's An Honest Thief To Do?
So what's the lesson here for Looking Glass? (They listened to us about the zombies after all, so there's no reason to think they're not paying attention now.)
Quite simply this: don't fall into the Tomb Raidertrap. If you are going to give us a Thief III, then it needs to be much more than just bigger levels with the same engine.
First of all, take a look at just how good games like Unreal Tournament and Quake III look. Aesthetically, the Dark Engine has gone about as far as it can. The fact that so much of Thief II is spent in shadows and perpetual twilight has helped to disguise the wrinkles to some extent, but you can only push it so far.
What's even more important though, is the nature of the gameplay. Sequels need to constantly reinvent, not just repeat. Make the city in which Garrett works feel like a real city. Make it live and breathe, a la The Nomad Soul. In fact, while playing Quantic Dreams' under-appreciated epic we kept thinking how great it would be to have first-person titles like Thief make use of this kind of world. Or why not have the levels merge seamlessly like Half-Lif? You managed it with System Shock 2 after all.
Anyway, this is turning into a rant against mistakes of the future, rather than a review of the present. Nevertheless, following Thief with System Shock 2 has led us to believe that Thief II would give us more than it did. What it has given us is a game that's still very good, still very atmospheric and still very playable, but one's that is not setting our world on fire as much as the first one did. A more clear-cut case of sequel-itis there has never been.
The Six Million Groat Man
One of our favourite childhood toys was a rather natty Steve Austin action figure (that's Steve Austin The Six Million Dollar Man incidentally, not 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin the American wrestler and gay icon). The best thing about It was the 'bionic eye' feature, a small telescope affair in the back of his head that allowed you to spy on your friends and made you look as though you had your nose stuck up the doll's arse (which makes the previous name clarification doubly important).
We only mention it because one of the new features of Thief 2 is Garrett's own 'bionic' eye and its zoom function, which is all it does incidentally. Some of you may have been reading various reports about heat and night vision functions. Sadly, these appear to have been the ramblings of a diseased mind as there's no sign of them in the game. Oh, it does have one other function, it can be linked to a handy remote camera device that Garrett can chuck around comers and over walls. Of course, it would have been more comedic if Garrett actually had to take out his eye and hold it around walls and the like. But then, no one ever asks us...
Disgruntled Undead Down Tools
The violent games industry was hit yesterday by the shock announcement from the National Union of Undead Protagonists and its regulatory body, OFROT, of an immediate strike following the exclusion of zombie-related honor in the PC sequel Thief II.
"Our members have been unfairly singled out as the sole problem with the Thief series, when it was quite clear we added much-needed variety and moral integrity to the game's overwhelming criminal nature," said NUUP chief executive, Arnold Knowles, in a statement to the press. Pausing only to retrieve his withered arm from the floor, he continued: "To remove our presence from this sequel is a direct slur on our members' good name and those of us with working legs won't stand for it. Furthermore, the inclusion of non-corporeal and nonunion ghosts is an insult to every hard-working member of the living dead. They're taking the brains right out of our mouths."
Knowles immediately called for a cessation of all moaning, shambling and being shot in the head activities and declared that necessary decomposition was to be kept to an absolute minimum.
The long-term effects of this action are yet to be determined with Looking Glass Technologies so far declining to comment on the action. Concerned representatives from CapCom, however, are believed to be flying in to act as mediators in the negotiations.
About 18 months ago Thief: The Dark Project blew us away. However, it wasn't rocket launchers, miniguns, plasma rifles and all that childish tomfoolery that tickled our fancy.
No, no, no - that would be too easy. Thief managed to stun us all into appreciative silence by turning the first-person perspective action game on its head: Thief controversially encouraged players to avoid combat, concentrating instead on sneaking about stealing other peoples' belongings.
For some, this was just plain boring. For others, Thief was a breath of fresh air and a benchmark in gaming realism. The only thing it lacked was the ability to nick a car and ram raid it into the nearest Post Office. That aside, Thief pioneered a new genre. What genre? The 'sneak 'em up'.
Thief II: The Metal Age continues where Thief left off. Garrett has vanquished the Trickster and the town has moved into a more prosperous era. Royalty and nobility lord it up on a daily basis, while Sheriff Gormon Truart keeps crime at a virtually non-existent level; the slightest hint of criminal activity and guards swoop in to administer instant decapitation.
The trouble is with all these rich folk poncing about there's a lot of loot lying around just waiting to be pilfered, so any self-respecting thief will take the risk to reap the rewards. Our Garrett is no exception, except for him things are slightly different: for some unknown reason the new Sheriff wants him dead.
Gratitude for saving the town from Pagan rule one year ago doesn't even enter into this vile policeman's head. Garrett won't stand for it, of course, so he sets off to discover why his head is wanted on a plate. One thing leads to another and it's not long before our master thief stumbles into a plot of corruption and betrayal that goes beyond mere thief persecution.
Once again, politics play a huge part in the story. The game contains three main rival groups; the mysterious Keepers; a technological sect known as the Mechanists; and the Pagans. Their contempt for each other runs deep, so as far as sub-plots go, expect plenty.
Thief II does contain one very welcome change from the original: you can forget about zombies, ghouls and all that other undead lark. Looking Glass has decided to keep Thief II 'real', as project director Steve Pearsall explains: "Garrett will be operating mostly in die city itself, so the missions will be set in more of an urban setting. You'll see missions in places you'd expect to find in a city - mansions, museums, banks, warehouses and churches."
That's a huge relief for those of us who found ourselves floundering in the underground crypt stage on the original game. Furthermore, Thief II spans 15 gargantuan stages. Associate producer Lulu Lamer jokingly implies that one particular level is almost as big as the whole of the original game. A slight exaggeration possibly, yet playing the single level demo on this month's cover disc will give you an idea of what she's getting at.
There's also a hell of a lot more variety this time round. Instead of simply ninning around nicking stuff, you can get involved in a whole host of nefarious sidelines. One stage sees our world-weary thief plan and execute an after-hours bank robbery, and you can also try your hand at framing somebody for a crime they didn't commit. If that's not devious enough for you, how about kidnapping someone? Interestingly, you also get the chance to sneak aboard and stow away on an enemy boat. And in a strange twist of fate, you're also called upon to investigate a murder site. Poirot anyone?
Basically, there's an entire city at your disposal, almost every major building in the game plays an important part in the story at one point or another. And, as you can see from playing the demo, you can traverse the entire city via the rooftops, or as it's known in the trade - 'the thieves' highway'.
Its Dark Out There
Thief II uses the third revision of the Dark Engine. The second version was used in System Shock 2 incidentally, so graphically things look pretty hot, if a little on the dark side. And get your head around this spark of brilliance: you can actually hide in the fog. This is a world first, and rest assured it's a spine-tingling experience. Imagine it: you're hiding in the mist, you can see out, but your enemies can't see in. Talk about a thiefs best friend. The potential for mischief is limitless.
As in the original game a 'lightometer' at the bottom middle of the screen informs you how visible you are to prying eyes. When the meter is dark you are safe and cannot be seen. When it lights up you are visible and in danger of being rumbled. There are no changes at all in that department apart from the fact that the light density spectrum has increased, meaning there are even more levels of shade. You'll also notice the appearance of coloured lighting, something that was strangely absent from the original game. Another little quirk of inspiration comes in the form of variable translucency. In other words, expect to see muddy water as well as crystal clear water. Yet again this has the potential to help some of the more cunning thieves, especially if you can find a way to stay underwater for a long time...
As a special bonus Looking Glass has used the cloud routines from the Flight Unlimited series to create an authentic-looking sky. And guess what? They've also gone and put bloody weather in there as well. Rain lashes down (or even sideways due to some cool wind physics), as does snow. Certainly one thing we never counted on was being caught in a blizzard. Is there nothing these guys can't do?
Another pleasing, yet underrated, aspect of the original was the wonderful use of sound. Amazingly this has been improved upon. Guards mutter even more gibberish to themselves, and shout more absurdities while trying to detect you. You can also eavesdrop on private conversations, many of which contain important clues as to the whereabouts of valuable items and other stuff.
You can even listen at doors and windows to find out if anyone's lurking behind them. Much of the banter is actually quite amusing, it's almost as if the developers have decided that if we're going to have to listen to this medieval drivel, we might as well be amused by it. Ambient sound has also been improved. Music from street performers wafts through alleyways, and the clamour of a busy marketplace echoes across the rooftops. Thief II could well be an acoustic masterpiece.
Together We Steal
So what about that elusive multiplayer mode? Rumour had it that Thief II was going to attempt the impossible and actually have a few thieves running around the same environment. At this point, Steve Pearsall makes his excuses: "Even though we have a multiplayer mode working in the engine and have some test multiplayer levels up and running, we have decided to hold off on shipping any multiplayer levels with Thief 2."
So what's the problem exactly? "We think we can add a new twist to multiplayer play just as we did to single-player first-person gaming with Thief, but we don't have the resources to do a new kind of multiplayer and ship a finely tuned single-player game at the moment," says Pearsall.
Shame really, but you've got to take your hats off to the Looking Glass bods: rather than release a dodgy version, they're holding back until they get it just right. In the long run that's probably for the best, because that can only mean Thief III is already in the pipeline... In the meantime, we can reveal that the multiplayer option will be co-op rather than deathmatch, and that gameplay will focus on joint puzzle solving. For instance, you may come across a room with two guards, both of them standing next to alarms. In order to get past said guards you need to kill them at exactly the same time, so that the other guard doesn't raise the alarm. In other words, each player takes a guard. So there you have it, Thief III - you heard it here first. Which brings us nicely around to the AI. Once again, we presume you're going to play this month's demo. Doing so will reveal to you the frightening intelligence bestowed upon the city's inhabitants: normal citizens seem to have a heightened sense of panic that always sends them running for the nearest guard. When a guard hears of the intrusion, he'll dash instantly to where you were spotted and attempt to nobble you.
They don't give up easily either, and some guards are better with a bow and arrow than they are with a sword. The moment they spot your greasy, dank hair flopping round the comer of a wall, they'll open up with a lethal salvo of arrows. Still, the abundance of archers means you can steal arrows straight out of their quiver - assuming you can get close enough of course.
There are also some very strange and interesting servants wandering about...
Automated drone things, constructed by the technologically advanced Mechanists, wander about doing their master's bidding. Some of these drones are only able to see and some are only able to hear, which adds a new curious dimension to the gameplay, especially when there's a mixture of both in one room and you have to employ a kind of softly, softly, flash bomb approach to get through.
And if all that's not enough, there are also security cameras to deal with. Worse still, there are huge mechanical beasts that seem to have taken a wrong turn off the set of Robocop. If these behemoths spot you it's goodnight Garrett.
If you thought the first game was tough (and most gnarled gamers did), you really haven't seen anything yet. If you take the difficulty of Thief and multiply it by six billion you're getting close to Thief II.
Yes, developers can be cruel, but they can also offer a semblance of light at the end of tunnel. In this particular case it's the new weapons and gadgets that are at your disposal. Most notable of all is Garrett's mechanical eye. Remember in the first game when the Trickster ripped our hero's eye out? Well, in a startling bit of continuity, Looking Glass has given the new improved eye a few Steve Austin-type bionic powers.
This neat little gizmo can be thrown, dropped or placed in various locations to give Garrett a sneak peek of what's up the next corridor or room. It can also flip between normal, night and heat vision. You can zoom in and have a closer look at certain situations, and it also has a built-in automatic distance compensation for the bow. Whether this is some kind of auto-targeting system is unknown at this stage because it's still not implemented, so we'll just have to wait and see. Sounds good, though.
So What Else? Much More...
There are some brilliant new explosive devices, such as standard mines and gas mines that knock out anyone in the vicinity. Flares also come into play, so you can see exactly where you're going, even in complete darkness. Looking Glass has also promised some amendments on the lock-picking aspect of the gameplay. But once again this is something that Looking Glass is still in the process of tweaking, so we've yet to see the results of that particular innovation. Sadly, it looks as though the much maligned moss arrow will stay, however, more arrows will now be available, including vine arrows, which stick to surfaces other than wood or earth. A new invisibility potion will be a helpful addition for beginners and finally a 'catfall' potion can be used to fall or jump from massive heights.
We have extremely high hopes for Thief II: The Metal Age, as you've probably gathered from this massive six-page preview. And, OK, we've already mentioned it a couple of times, but if you don't believe the hype, why not try out the demo? Remember, it's just an alpha version and a lot of the shadows and textures still have to be smoothed, but that aside, we're sure you'll find it impressive. All you have to do now is wait until next month for the full review.
Until then, try crawling across the rooftops of your own hometown, or rubbing black shoe polish over your hands and face and flitting from one dark alleyway to the next. Yo never know, you mivht able to break into y local game and steal a copy.
Then again, perhaps not - stealing is illegal. Didn't you know?