Thief, the fourth game in a 16-year-old series is now available in the UK. Featuring a heavy emphasis on sneaking around and, well, theft, we take a look at how stealth has been implemented in games since the original Thief crept into our lives.

Evolution of stealth Thief the Dark Project

Launching in 1998, Thief: The Dark Project was ground-breaking in how it managed stealth.

By some marvel of steampunkish technology, protagonist Garrett had a light meter with him at all times that would tell you how visible he was. Slipping out of shadow or even moving at all would betray you to the game's many enemies and the awkward combat system often meant that being spotted was the end of your mission, and your life.

Even if you stayed in full shadow, the game's stellar audio design provided plenty of hazards but it was also your best friend. You could stand behind a door and listen carefully to hear a guard's footsteps as he approaches, before emerging from cover to bop him on the head.

If you didn't want to worry about leaving conspicuous bodies behind, you'd fire water arrows at a distant torch to draw the guards and waltz right into the Baron's bedroom as they gormlessly peered into the gloom.

Evolution of stealth Metal Gear Solid

Solid Snake is another well-known infiltrator from 1998's Metal Gear Solid through to current times. In the early games, he spent a lot of time in well-lit rooms and corridors, which didn't leave much room for shadows.

Instead, Snake learned to make do with the things that all evil bases have littered about their halls: lockers and cardboard boxes.

Footsteps weren't really a problem here and neither was the intelligence of the guards. Who doesn't remember ducking under a cardboard box and waddling along right behind a guard on patrol? Or a tank.

Evolution of stealth Skyrim

With the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves' Guild, the Elder Scrolls series have provided a wealth of entertainment for would-be thieves across the years. You would spend your early hours crawling through the streets while shopkeepers and passers-by stared at the lunatic in their midst.

Little did they know that you were honing your skills. Get your stealth rating high enough and soon you could sneak right under their noses in broad daylight.

Of course, Skyrim rendered much of that hard work pointless. More often than not, you could place a bucket over the unwitting shopkeeper's head to break their line of sight and simply walk around the room grabbing everything that wasn't nailed down. Even better, remove the bucket and you could sell it back to them without a hint of recognition.

Evolution of stealth Dishonored

Dishonored in 2012 has one of the best implementations for stealth. Guards can see Corvo (our dishonoured hero) from miles away, which only makes sense since you can see them.

Upgrade your Blink power while a guard is looking the other way and you can whoosh all the way across a room to wrap your hands around his neck in under a second. Look up and Blink again, you can look down and laugh while the other guards discover his prone body.

It's easy to exploit their fatal weakness - a complete inability to look up. In fairness though, the city of Dunwall is in the middle of a deadly rat plague. When there's the constant risk of people-eating rodents scrabbling at your feet, even the most conscientious guard will be more inclined to watch the ground than the sky.

Evolution of stealth Thief

The fourth Thief game is now out in the UK and, of course, we're back in shadows. Garrett has new and deadlier arrows to fire at guards, as well as a wrench for opening passages locked by grates.

He's learned to fight in the 16 years since his debut, but the guards have learned as well. Now they'll amble over and switch on that light that you turned off with a skilful shot from across the room. Cheeky buggers.

Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your knees, peering out from behind crates and market stalls. The ‘Thieves' Highway’ rooftops offer much more freedom to run, and those pesky guards who stand right in your doorway can be choked from behind. Or you could just shoot them in the head with an exploding arrow.

Your call, really.