Thief, the latest role-playing game to hit the shelves, is more about brains than brawn and one of the rare PC games that succeed as a psychological thriller. Thief is making a quiet splash as a thinking man's Quake. In Quake players need to kill everyone on a level to advance to the next stage. This is not so in Thief, where stealth is paramount. The tension is overwhelming. It starts with footsteps in the distance that will freeze you in your tracks as you try to hide in the shadows until the guard passes - if there are shadows nearby. It is possible to win one-on-one fights, but that still might not get you very far. Once, I hastily entered a room to avoid a guard patrolling a dimly lit hallway. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong room and found myself face to face with another guard. 'Who are you,' he asked. Pulling out my short sword answered his question louder than words would have. I found myself winning this fight and thought I might yet get away with my mistake, but the wounded guard ran away shouting, 'guards, guards . . . intruder!' I was surprised and impressed that the guard ran for help. I really did feel like a thief as I tip-toed around, spying on the guards and analysing patrol patterns. Eavesdropping also yielded useful information. This game requires players to think out tactics before making a move. For example, I found myself hiding in the corner of a courtyard contemplating whether a well-aimed water-arrow shot from my bow at a distant torch may just darken the courtyard enough for me to sneak across unnoticed by the patrol guards. There are many, varied environments for you to explore in Thief. The graphics are superb and scream out for investment in a 3D graphics card. The keyboard can be remapped to your liking. This is crucial if you are accustomed to a personalised keyboard layout. A sound card is essential since sound is your early warning system. This is one of the first games that makes use of those new 3D sound cards. Standard sound cards alert you to someone approaching, but you waste time trying to determine from which direction. A 3D sound card should solve that problem. Thief costs $250, but if you want to try the game before you buy it, you can download the free trial version on the Net at www.eidos.com and play the first mission.