In Volume, the new game from Thomas Was Alone designer Mike Bithell, Rob Locksley wants to teach people how to steal from Rich Evil Bastards, so he creates a VR simulation of their homes and workplaces and broadcasts himself sneaking in and looting the joints. He gains followers, inspires internet memes, and energizes his fans to emulate his adventures - with mixed results. His simulations aren’t entirely accurate, but while “close enough” won't keep his band of merry men (and women) from getting into trouble, it is enough to attract the attention of a particularly rich, particularly evil bastard, Guy Gisborne.
If these names are evoking visions of Errol Flynn (or Kevin Costner *shudder*) it’s because they’re lifted right from the inspiration for Volume, the origin story of Robin Hood. Granted, sneaking through virtual simulations of offices isn’t quite swashbuckling through Sherwood Forest, but the basic concept of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor is there. Alan, your helpful AI pal, was originally created to help the aforementioned bastards, but Rob reprogrammed him to help out with his training. As you stealth your way to each level’s exit, picking up gems along the way, the controls feel wonderfully simple, letting you cling to the wall or jump over it without having to think too much about how. The puzzle nature of the levels becomes increasingly complex as you develop your skills: you’re just ducking around corners at first, but eventually you'll have to avoid snipers and roving guards.
What stood out in my short time with Volume is the sharpness of the writing and the perfection of the voice acting. Bithell’s style is intelligent, witty, and genuinely funny, and the voice work supports it beautifully. (I mean come on, people, Andy Serkis.) The stealth is more like Metal Gear VR Missions than Thief, nailing the balance of complexity and simplicity that make you think a solution doesn’t exist, only for it to seem blindingly obvious once you've discovered it.