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Dishonored Review

Dishonored pack shot
Developer:Arkane Studios
Publisher:Bethesda
Genre:First Person Action/Shooter
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.dishonored.com/
Release Date:October 12th, 2012 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
 

It's rare these days that a game actually manages to blow me away.

It could be the jaded nature of the videogame critic's mind, but I can't help but compare titles to other games - and I usually find the common links between them, as developers attempt to cash-in on the perceived tastes of gamers.

Like, for example, the similarities between the new Medal of Honor and every recent Call of Duty game - or Call of Duty itself with every other bloody shooter ever made.

So, when I say I can see the similarities between Dishonored and a number of other titles - and yet it still blows me away - you can see that this is something special.

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Playing like a cross between Deus Ex's non-linear world, Thief's supernatural stalking and the steampunk images familiar to any expo-goer, Dishonored manages to blend these three aspects into a whole which is hugely fulfilling - if critically short.

Placing the player in the boots of Empress' guardian and advisor Corvo Atano, Dishonored is the tale of this man's fall from grace.

Within a few moments of the game's setpiece opening, Corvo finds himself wrongly accused of the murder of the fair Empress and is locked up in a dingy jail cell. From then on, Dishonored details his fight to restore order to the empire he valiantly served, and bring vengeance down upon on those who wronged him.

Corvo's backstory isn't massively explored, which allows the gamer to enjoy the political intrigue and sheer beautiful world that the developers have crafted in the whale oil-driven city of Dunwall.

A steampunk dystopia, Dunwall is a city on the brink of a dark age. Where once the whale oil-driven industries of the city brought light to the empire it controls, a plague of hungry rats has left the city in ruins, with two-thirds of its population dead, dying or reduced to zombie-like beasts.

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Superimposed over this horror is the city's reliance on new technologies, like the towers which swing searchlights - and rocket launchers - over crowds, ‘walls of light' which burn all who cross them and ark towers which give everyone a nasty shock.

It's this disparity between order and chaos, rich and poor which makes the industrial nightmare of Dunwall come to life, and as a playground for supernatural trainee assassin Corvo there is none better.

Given supernatural powers by the mysterious 'Outsider' - some kind of devil-god thing (it's never explained), Corvo sets out with the help of a loyalist faction to depose the Empire's new, evil leader - but how you do this is entirely up to you. You don't actually need to kill anyone. Ever.

Corvo's powers allow him to teleport short distances, climb to the roofs of tall buildings, possess rats, fish and humans, summon swarms of man-eating rodents, pause time and more. As with Deus Ex and Thief, you'll never be able to upgrade all the powers, so choosing the ones that match your particular play style is key.

I favoured powers suited to the stealthy approach I was taking through the game, often possessing animals to enter target buildings through vents or sewers.

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Similarly, I upgraded Corvo's specialist equipment to suit the quiet way I did things, using his crossbow, agility and ability to see through walls to complete my objectives with the minimum of fuss.

If, however, you favour the all out assault option, and prefer to kill your targets, rather than disable or dishonor them (as I did), then there's plenty of scope for that too, with the game offering a number of slightly... louder weapons for you to use.

It's this freedom of play which makes Dishonored so enjoyable - and it also has an effect on the (admittedly weak) final outcome. Plus, the more noisy you are - the more you kill wandering guards and such - the more chaos you create, and more difficult the later levels become.

Graphically, Dishonored on the Xbox 360 leaves a little to be desired. The first time I saw the game's visual style, I double-checked that my HDMI cable was still in the back of my TV. This game doesn't look ‘good', in the traditional sense, but boy does it make up for that.

The art style is a cross between Bioshock's art-deco nightmare and cel-shading, but it works well, and is backed up by some brilliant voice acting - despite the classic Bethesda guards, which repeat the same phrase over and over. 'Could this city get any worse?... Of course it could' could be another 'Arrow to the knee', methinks...

The musical score is also hauntingly good, staying with you even after you've taken a break from Dishonored's addictive gameplay.

My only beef is that the game is rather short. You can finish the title in under eight hours, and though the game's multiple routes and various approaches offer a lot of replayability, there's a definite sense that Dishonored has been written with a sequel in mind, which is a little galling when you realise it.

Summary

Overall, Dishonored is well worth a look if you're tired of identikit shooters with a chip on their shoulders. Bethesda has crafted an interesting, dark world for you to explore, and provided a brilliant selection of ways to do so. Sure it's a little on the short side, but you're bound to play it through a few times more, just to see what difference your actions will have - such as whether disabling that walking monstrosity armed with an exploding bow (the menacing Tallboy) would be the better option, rather than just simply teleporting past it.

The bottom line
8.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • Deep, well crafted world to explore
  • Good story (if short)
  • Caters for many different approaches to gameplay

Not so good stuff

  • Short campaign
  • Graphics aren't too hot


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