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Dishonored: the return of true stealth

Monday, 8th October 2012 12:47 GMT By Dave Cook

Dishonored goes back to a time where stealth games were awesome. VG247′s Dave Cook looks at why sneaking brings out the best in us.

Dishonored – out this week

Dishonored, Arkane’s first title since being bought by Bethesda, is out for this week for PC, PS3 and 360.

It’s a stealth-action story of steampunk betrayal.

Get every review score.

Watch the entire first mission.

The opening moments of gameplay in two videos.

See where to buy Dishonored cheapest in the UK.

Dishonored releases today in the US and on Friday in the EU.

Picture this: you’re playing as some cloaked hero, slinking across the slate rooftops of a heavily-guarded compound. It’s raining heavily as you peer through the dark of night, down into a courtyard below.

You see them there, the guards going about their nightly patrols, completely unaware that you could have them killed at a moment’s notice and no one would be any the wiser. Right now, you’re a god. And it feels good.

Suddenly, you see a break in the chain of command, a momentary lapse in one of the guard’s concentration, and like a rocket you’re off. Darting across the slates, you leap down, landing softly on the soil without a sound.

The tension is reaching breaking point as you slowly walk on your haunches, inching closer to the guard, and you know that one wrong move or sound will cause him to turn, meaning detection, and, almost certainly, death.

But it’s a flawlessly executed kill, a true piece of grizzly art as your knife slides across the guard’s throat, spilling blood across the paved walkway of the courtyard. Like a flash you’re gone, disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. And it feels really, really good.


Dishonored isn’t just a good game, it’s testament that new IP can still flourish in these cookie-cutter times. It’s a triumph, pure and simple.

This is why stealth games are brilliant when done well, and Arkane Studio’s Dishonored, releasing this week, captures this tension and a feeling of true empowerment brilliantly. It recalls classic games like Deus Ex, Thief and the Tenchu, and that’s high praise indeed. Arkane’s Harvey Smith – Deus Ex, System Shock – has his dabs all over it.

Stealth can be brilliant when it makes you feel powerful. You’re Batman, essentially, emerging from the shadows to incapacitate enemies, create confusion among their ranks and to instil fear in the hearts of the wicked.

Deus Ex is a great comparison to Dishonored. The first time you play it, you feel weak and confused. It’s not an easy game. The stealth mechanic is tough to master and the enemies aren’t stupid. It treats you like an adult.

In Deus Ex your enemies can see you from miles away. If they do, it’s open season on your foolish ass for letting yourself get caught. But once you retry many times, and finally complete levels with perfect stealth, the gratification is second to none.

This need for perfection and to complete stages without being detected, even once, is the key to a solid stealth game. I spent a stupid amount of hours on Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven trying to get Master Ninja rank on every stage, every difficulty and every guard layout.

I eventually did it – and probably should have done more with my time – but it felt brilliant. It makes you feel badass in the way gunning down hundreds of enemies with balletic flair and an ice-cool one liner cannot.

Perhaps it’s because success in stealth games requires real discipline, patience and outright smarts to achieve. You need to be clever, act on the fly and know when not to proceed. It’s about restraint, rather than offensive tactics.

You also have those amazingly chilling moments where you stop dead in your tracks because you think an enemy has spotted you – or is very close to seeing you.

It’s tense as all hell, and the feeling that comes with averting chaos by hiding, or simply having the guard walk by and not seeing you is also powerful. Pacifism can be just as powerful as the blade.

Dishonored encompasses all of these things, as do all of the other games I’ve mentioned here. If it’s so powerful, why aren’t more games doing this? Hell, even Call of Duty 4′s All Ghillied Up mission had some really tense stealth moments that stick in the mind.

Perhaps it’s because the notion of the popcorn-blockbuster, bang-bang shoot ‘em up spectacle is still what focus-tests highly these days, or maybe it’s just an industry-wide thought process that will subside one day.

Let’s not forget that the original Metal Gear Solid triggered a raft of stealth titles in Tenchu, Syphon Filter and Splinter Cell back in the day, so maybe we’ll see Dishonored having a knock-on effect too.

If, like me, you enjoy stealth, that is a promising prospect indeed.

Oh, and buy Dishonored. It’s the shit.

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26 Comments

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  1. ManuOtaku

    Thanks for the review Dave, i did had high hopes for this new IP, and thankfully it did deliver it was on my pre-order list, the sad part is that i will be receiving the game in 1-2 months T_T, but this past months were great for this type of game we did got one of the best 2D stealth games with Mark Of the Ninja, and now this game, it is a great time to be an stealth gamer.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    The wait will be sweet Manu, it truly is one of the most interesting new IPs of the generation, make no mistake.I just hope it isn’t too interesting that it fails to sell. See also ICO etc etc.

    This deserves to succeed.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. bpcgos

    Man, this make my heart tempting (te same feeling when playing MGS for the first time) Cant wait!

    #3 2 years ago
  4. TheBlackHole

    They’re marketing it like it’s an action/open world game, so it’ll sell bucketloads.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. ManuOtaku

    #4 i hope you are right, we need more examples of new IP´s doing well in this industry, we gamers need to vote with our wallets, and send the right messages to publishers.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @2: Yep, my heart nearly broke when i found out that Spec Ops The Line didn’t sell well at all.

    Hah, i just love that game. :(

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Talkar

    If i’m used to playing Hitman on the highest difficulty, and only killing the targets, and only with accidents. How close to that difficulty in terms of stealth is Dishonored really?

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dave Cook

    @7 it’s hard man, honestly. If you’re going for completely non-lethal undetected playthroughs then yes it’s tough.

    In fact, the more you get spotted and the more you kill, the harder the game becomes as it goes. More enemies, more rats, more security. All organic too, not like a daft little meter on the HUD tracking it. You just see the world reacting to your presence. It’s ace.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Talkar

    @8
    Thanks!
    The game has definitely peaked my interest. As long as i get to be truly stealthy, i’ll be sure to play it tomorrow :D

    #9 2 years ago
  10. Soong

    Great article, but MGS didn’t trigger Tenchu as Tenchu: Stealth Assassins came out way before MGS on the ol’ PSX ;)

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Dave Cook

    @10 absolutely :) But I mentioned that because I felt it triggered the genre’s popularity. Like, perhaps Tenchu may never have received sequels had MGS not started a trend.

    I may go back and edit that bit to make it more clear hehe.

    Still, I love Tenchu. I really do :D

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Pytox

    I’m getting it hell ye :p

    #12 2 years ago
  13. hives

    My friend played it on Gamescom and he didn’t like it, because he is not into stealth games at all… And he said “You don’t know what to do in this game”. So, yeah… I’m afraid that many games are too used to more linear and hand-holding game experiences.

    But, hell, who cares about people like that. I can’t wait. It reminds me of Deus Ex and Thief and these are my fav games of all time, so… How can I not buy Dishonored?

    Friday, Friday, gonna go stealth on Friday…

    #13 2 years ago
  14. GK

    these years gamers are so dump,for them need everything to show,every thing to do for them.and creators becomes the same.
    it’s good that there are at least few games where you just drop in and you have to do everything for yourself.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. SlayerGT

    “Dishonored isn’t just a good game, it’s testament that new IP can still flourish in these cookie-cutter times. It’s a triumph, pure and simple.”

    I just hope it sells

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Dave Cook

    @15 me too mate it deserves to. I whole-heartedly want to see this game sell well.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. SlayerGT

    To be honest Dave its not even a game I intended to play. I respect and appreciate what the game is. I want to try it now. Just need to find the time :/

    #17 2 years ago
  18. AHA-Lambda

    Good God I can’t wait for Friday :D

    If there is any justice in the world this must sell well :(

    #18 2 years ago
  19. Len

    GMG have got a 25% off code that can be used with this which I’ve just done so will be waiting for midnight tonight! :)

    So so looking fwd to this… :)

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Phoenixblight

    @20

    Uh GMG will be releasing the codes between today and tomorrow so you still have to download the game.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Len

    Err obviously. Got my key as soon as I bought it so just need to put it in to Steam and pre-load. :)

    #21 2 years ago
  22. naffgeek

    I was going to leave this until xmas but I am gonna buy it now just to support someone doing new IP.

    I would love this to knock Fifa off the top of the charts, if only for one week.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Giskard

    This and XCOM on the same day. It’s like they don’t want me to do anything but play games all day long.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. DSB

    I just hate that the US version releases at 6 AM in Europe :P

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Dimaco

    @20 so did I!
    Downloading into steam right now… :-)
    Can’t wait!

    #25 2 years ago
  26. bitsnark

    I’d say personally, that last month’s Mark of the Ninja marked the return of ‘true’ stealth, rather than this, despite its accomplishments in this regard.

    Sadly, a lot of people missed that game.

    If anything, Dishonored marks the return of true player freedom and ingenuity of approach, rather than being pigeonholed as another entry in the stealth genre and being judged on those merits alone.

    #26 2 years ago