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Thief 4 : Vocal Minority


Discovering that Thief 4 was in development is perhaps the most significant piece of gaming news that I’ve heard this last generation. Seriously. Few games can stake claim to bring a major milestone. Painfully few. Yet Thief was the very first FPS stealth title, producing something that lifted the suspense of stealth to nail-bitingly fantastic heights.

Coupled with a gripping plot and an intriguing steam-punk universe, Thief had it all – a level of quality and refinement it sustained for three successive titles. But perhaps one of the most compelling and perfectly-fitting pieces of the puzzle was the voice actor, Stephen Russel, who completely nailed Garret’s charm, cunning and self-serving deviousness.

No mean feat, when you consider that he also made the character a highly likeable anti-hero:

So why on earth has Russel been dropped as the voice of Garret for this most welcome of sequels?

Well, it would appear that Russel, and indeed the rest of us, lost-out on a technicality: Eidos Montreal wanted actors that could both voice characters and do all of their own stunt-work using modern motion-capture techniques. Inspired by Naughty Dog’s work on the Uncharted series, Eidos clearly felt that this approach was more likely to result in believable, emotive performances.

Audio Director, Jean-Christophe Verbert:

“Being able to capture the voice at the same time as the actors’ movements and facial expressions, all while the actors play off each other, delivers a much more convincing experience than traditional techniques of recording each characters’ dialogue separately and then animating everything by hand afterwards,”

Ignoring the immense irony in Nolan North’s work being suggested as reason to prevent others from resuming voice-acting work: this strikes me as a singularly narrow-minded “me too” approach that is driven by other, much less admirable motives.

Narrative Director, Steven Gallagher:

“With the new visual of Garrett we’d created, we found that there was a disconnect that we couldn’t ignore between the concept character and Stephen’s voice today.”

And therein lay the rub. The new-and-improved Garret is no doubt the result of much market research, demographic studies, soul-searching and distillation with one, overarching aim in mind: profit. With the kind of money being thrown at this project, we couldn’t possibly have someone quirky and leftfield in the role now, could we?

The end result? Judge for yourself. My analysis? Anodyne.

Hopefully, I’m just overreacting to this through my rose-tinted spectacles and Thief will prove to be every bit as special as its predecessors. Hopefully. It just saddens me to taste the flavour of ‘broad market appeal’ in a franchise that was built on such polar-opposite foundations.

Such is the way of the modern gaming industry, I suppose.

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5 Comments

  1. Never actually played a Thief game so ill look forward to this.

  2. Nu-Thief (at least it wasn’t Thi4f or some such) looks like another dire reboot for the dudebro crowd a la Tomb Raider. The original three games closed the circle perfectly. I was excited about this – then I saw the Garrett redesign and learned about Stephen Russel being dumped (he was also the voice of Karras in Thief 2, and Mr. Handy/Gutsy in Fallout 3 among others, which shows just how damn versatile the man is). Dishonored now does everything the original Thief series did without pissing on fond memories… I’m avoiding nu-Thief like the rat plague.

    • @NorthWind You can imagine the meeting with the suits. “Hey, how can we make it ‘better’? You know, how they made Syndicate ‘better’?”

    • @NorthWind I hear you man, but I’ve got enough love for Thief to give it a go even without Russell. I’ve heard great things about the visuals and level design with the extra grunt of PS4. Could be one of the most intriguing launch titles in recent memory. 
      I’m just not buying their argument about not being able to marry mo-cap of one actor with voice of another. Pixar? Dreamworks? I mean, seriously: there’s FAR more evidence to suggest that cherry-picking the best of both worlds yields better results than taking a more traditional route. 
      And, yes: thank god they ditched the frankly awful Thi4f name!!

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