One of the most anticipated games of 2012, Dishonored is a stealth-based adventure that ditches the maxim revenge is a dish best served cold. Rather, it invites you to write the recipe. Players might like it hot, with plenty of violence and rivers of blood, or cold, with stealth and sabotage the order of the day.
If you like, you can walk the line in between and take a customised approach to each task. As Corvo Attano, you are the disgraced former protector of the Empress of the plague-stricken Dunwall. Framed for the Empress' murder and implicated in the disappearance of her daughter, Corvo is taken prisoner by the city's new leaders, but is soon freed by self-proclaimed loyalists whose stated goal is to put the heir back on the throne.
Conveniently, his targets for revenge are the same individuals standing in the loyalists' way. Eliminate the traitors, and all is well. Right? That depends on how you do it. Using a combination of mechanical weaponry and supernatural abilities, Corvo can kill everyone he meets if he wants. Of course, leaving a trail of dead and wounded in a city full of plague-carrying rats will deliver consequences that make the Black Death look like man flu.
Modelled on London at the height of the industrial revolution, Dunwall is a dark, ugly theatre of hatred and despair. Its inhabitants are beautiful and hideous in one. The only visual downer, really, is a matter of scale. Call me a perfectionist if you will, but when I decapitate an officer of the city watch, I expect his head to remain the same size when it rolls next to his useless corpse. I've picked up lemon-sized heads, pineapple-sized heads, but very few head-sized heads. This absurdity distracts from all the righteous vengeance and dark consequences the player is meant to be weighing up.
The scroll wheel menu has come a long way since it first came to popular attention in Secret of Mana, but this one has taken a detour into a baffling place where it's altogether too easy to end up waving a mechanical heart at your advancing enemy instead of shooting them in the face or teleporting to safety.
The combat isn't as varied as it could be, but when everything clicks, it's one of the most satisfying action-adventure experiences: gritty, gory, and blood-chilling. The balance, and the value, comes in knowing that it feels just as gratifying to work in the shadows, making fools rather than corpses.
Platform: Xbox 360, also on PS3, PC