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Avatar ImageReview: Dishonored
By: | October 7th, 2012 | Xbox 360
Review |X360

Stealth games are often hit or miss. In my opinion, the best stealth experiences are the ones that give you more options than you could possibly want to dispose of your enemies, which leads to some particularly crafty and devious play — something right up a ninja or assassin junkie’s alley. It’s why Tenchu has always been one of my favorite franchises of all time — diversity is key.

Dishonored seeks to mix things up with something a bit different – psychic powers, swords, all draped over a kinda-sorta-steampunk veneer. Surprisingly, it mostly works. Mostly.

As Foghorn Leghorn would say, “what’s the hook? What’s the gimmick, son?!” For Dishonored, that’s easy: psychic powers. Corvo, the game’s lead, is framed for regicide and must clear his name in any way he sees fit: whether that’s by peaceful takedowns or bloody stealth kills.

The story is fairly simplistic, but the joy you’re going to get from playing isn’t necessarily from the narrative framework — it’s how you choose to play along with it. Although the game has some ham-fisted “consequence” mechanics (such as slight ending changes — all thirty seconds of them — and hokey consequences like “more zombies on the street” the more you kill), you can actually approach missions in a multi-facted manner, and it works.

For instance, for every mission in the entire game, you can go in guns/swords blazing, or you can sneak in without killing a soul — or anything inbetween. A number of missions involve poison, or if you’re the old fashioned type, you can just cut them where they stand, or duel them.

Often times you can poison key foes, make their deaths look like an accident, or cause an all out war: it’s your choice.Missions are so open that there’s no real “failure” option. Just like Demon’s or Dark Souls, sometimes you can just slice up a key NPC right then and there and not have to worry about it breaking your game. So despite some Fable-like shallow “consequences”, the actual gameplay is what matters most, and you truly can do just about everything.

If you’re really into visuals, the console version is probably going to be a disappointment. If you’re playing on 360, you’re going to really want to install the game — lest it looks like a fairly dated original Xbox title. Even then, after the install, it still doesn’t look very impressive, with tons of visible screen tearing and draw distance issues.

To be clear, the game is mission based. It is not open world. Each mission will have a ranking screen, displaying your statistics and items collected, and so forth. In that sense, it lends itself very well to replayability and completionists, which I’ll explain a bit more later.

Outside of blinking (which I recommend getting to level II immediately), Corvo’s moveset feels fairly limited at first. You can use a few offensive abilities, possess creatures or humans, summon rats, and that’s about it. Although there is potential there with setting traps and using tranq darts, you’re more often than not strapped for cash, and can’t actually buy or find ammo/upgrades.

Eventually (in what feels a bit late actually), the game opens up and you start to gel more with your abilities, using them in tandem with items, just like Batman: Arkham Asylum/City. Whether you have the patience to wait or not is entirely up to you.

In fact, you basically have to go out of your way to get runes (level up items), bone charms (accessories that grant bonuses), and money/loot. Thankfully, grabbing runes and charms is heavily alleviated with a special item called “The Heart”, which shows every secret on-screen in a neat radar-like fashion, complete with distance trackers and everything. But frustratingly, you have to always have to have The Heart equipped and taking up an active hand to see where anything is — which leads me to my next issue — the ability controls.

Outside of holding LB (L1) to select an ability or item from the wheel, you can use the direction pad to quick-map four abilities at a time — that’s it. Your sword is always in your right hand, and abilities and all tools are always in your left — no negotiating. My playstyle is conducive to using blink and the crossbow interchangeably nearly every few seconds — among other abilities and items.

Sadly, this setup is not as user friendly or as fun as I would have liked. I have to constantly press the dpad to switch to another item or skill mid-blink, which gets annoying very fast, and slows down the what would otherwise be fairly frenetic gameplay. Why isn’t there an option to have blinking on the left trigger and anything else you want on the right? Or a dedicated button for blinking?

After my first playthrough (which took around 6 hours), I felt a bit underwhelmed. As in I literally thought to myself — that was it? But then after going through a few more times, I realized how fun taking different paths could be. It’s one thing for developers to say “the game offers a ton of choices”, but it’s another thing to actually experience it. Plus, there’s a number of optional ancillary objectives to wet your whistle should you choose to seek them out.

If you buy into it (and I was kind of in the middle), there’s a lot to do here, and it never once falls into the trappings that Bioshock did a few times (particularly in reference to the hokey final boss)  – in short, Dishonored never comprises itself when presenting you with a playground to play in, which is a very good thing.

If 6-12 hours isn’t enough for you to justify a purchase, provided that you’re not a fan of replaying things or tracking down every last trinket, there’s also DLC on the way (at least, the main menu indicates this) — which, given the mission-based format and replayability of the game, will lend itself very well to Dishonored.

At the end of the day, Dishonored doesn’t change the face of the first person or stealth genre, but it contains some fairly neat concepts and presents them in a very playable manner. If you’re not into replaying things over and over, you may want to wait for a price-cut, but if you have an open mind, I can’t see you not liking Dishonored.

This review is based on a physical copy of Dishonored for the Xbox 360.

  1. avatar noobyvonnuemann

    Thanks for an honest review.
    You point out real flaws with the game. Helps me; helps the industry.

  2. avatar F

    I think the review is quite good, actually. Chris explained, with detail and examples, what his problems with the game were. If he had just said, “This game is poorly designed and I hate the weapon switching”, then, yes, I would have had a problem with the review. But, no. Chris gave honest examples from his time playing the game. He said that he wishes the game would let you choose any two weapons you could want, because he found it often the case that that would have come in handy and would have been less tedious than switching with one hand constantly.

    Reading about people complaining that he gave it a speed run, which means that he’s clearly an idiot, speaks to me that people either didn’t read the review, don’t understand the review process, or both. For one, Chris said quite plainly that he played the game multiple times. “After my first playthrough (which took around 6 hours), I felt a bit underwhelmed… But then after going through a few more times, I realized how fun taking different paths could be.” Right here he is literally saying that he went through the game and tried as much of the game’s options as he could.

    Secondly (and I’m not a reviewer myself, although I’d like to be one day), the first time a reviewer plays a game, he would have no idea how long the game is. If he took his time the first play through, he might play past the end of the embargo and be late with the review if the game was, say, 60 hours long. So, yes, he may have played it as fast as he could the first time, but that’s almost a necessity some times. Also, most of the other reviews of Dishonored I read said the game was about 6-12 hours long, so suck it.

    So, in the end, this is a great review. It’s precise, gives good examples, and has fair, well thought out points for each pro and con i the game. Giving the game a 7 out of 10 seems fair for the problems he expressed. He thought the game was good, but not quite perfect. As he said, stealth games can be hit or miss. It just seems that Dishonored was mostly hit, with a bit of a miss.

  3. avatar wwoodhur

    Hey just wanted to say this was a great review. Keep up the good work, and good luck weathering the storm of people who want to yell at you for giving a game they like a score of 7/10.

  4. avatar Sticky Caulk

    I love this review. Saved me from buying a game I enjoyed enough with a rental. I will bookmark and visit often in the future.

  5. avatar Jack

    If anyone ever tells you that you need to change your opinion cause everybody else says something different, they should be promptly ignored.

    Keep doing what you’re doing. Good review.

  6. avatar nathan

    Thank you for this review. Reading it and the comments has tipped me over to buying this game and IMO it’s great. I knew we had completely different opinions in video games.

  7. avatar Jack

    To all you folks who say that his review is wrong, because other people have put out different reviews… I don’t think you quite understand how opinions and reviews work. Games and movies are subjective, when One likes others may not. My favorite game has a 6/10 avg review (darkspore) but I would give it a 10/10.

    Chris has spoken honestly and told the world what he thinks of the game. Just because it doesn’t match other reviewers opinions, doesn’t make it bad or wrong.

  8. avatar Martin

    I think it is “funny” that people berate a reviewer for giving a low rating and say people lively hoods are at stake and all that, but why isn’t anyone complaining about other sites/reviewers giving abnormal high scores ( 9 out of 10, 10 out of 10 )which in my opinion is not to be taken seriously anymore.
    These positive reviewers gave Mass Effect 3 a 9/10, which in my opinion only was 7/10 at the highest, the same goes for the first Assasins creed which wasn’t good either.

    So I applaude Chris Carter for being honest

  9. avatar Martin

    They said the same about Assasins creed 1, Mass Effect 3, Max Payne 3 , Skyrim.
    But in my opinion 7 out of 10 is a good grade and I can take this more seriously than these outrageous perfect grades

  10. avatar Duder

    Good review. I agree that the game has several noticeable flaws. I also found the game world and characters flat and uninteresting. My vote for overhyped game of the year, if not of this generation.

  11. avatar bro

    I actually completely agree with this review, Dishonored was too hyped up. A 7 doesn’t mean bad just not absolutely amazing like everyone has said. This game has flaws in it and he raises some good points to defend his score. The characters, honestly, were horrible, i didn’t care at all what happened to anyone. The plot twists were beyond predictable among other things, and gameplay needs to be tweaked. So, i say, good review.

  12. avatar Sleek

    Thanks reviewer for being the only critic who isn’t jizzing all over this mediocre game.

  13. avatar BWM

    Good job, Chris. Even when I disagree with them, I always like to read reviews that don’t automatically give games all kinda of bonus points for having choice or a detailed atmosphere. Those are merely matters of preference but you can tell how huge a factor it is in many game scores in the last 10 years. A video game is first and foremost a game, so I support reviewers who focus their attention on gameplay aspects and the core experience.

  14. avatar Thundermuffin

    I heard it was because Bethesda wouldn’t pay up…

  15. avatar anon

    holy shit you’re a bunch of idiots. shut the hell up about his review. it’s his review! if you want to be heard go create a website where you review video games so you can give it a perfect score. he played it the way he wanted to play it. he didn’t need to completely engross himself in the game such as read every note and book in the game. holy shit some of us don’t want to live in the game because we know it’s fake. you all just want this game to have a great score so you can all be happy. shut the hell up. when any game comes out that i want, i read the highest rated review and the lowest rated review. you have to take in all the aspects and make your own judgement. and once again, a review is really an opinion. just because you think the game is great, and a lot of critics say it’s great, doesn’t mean it’s going to be great. can’t believe how idiotic you all are for reacting like a bunch of babies to this review. i respect it because he was just being honest and himself.

  16. avatar Anonymous

    nah reading a bunch of reviews doesnt make you a savy consumer it makes you an idiot for letting other people make your decisions for you. people reading a bunch of reviews just keeps you with a website

  17. avatar SweatyGremlins

    When you compare it to the crap IGN and Gamespot put out I don’t see why they are complaining.

    It’s a good game, but it feels ‘done before’ in some ways. Could probably score higher, but scoring games is a stupid arbitrary practice anyway. Basically I think the word ‘good’ sums the game up well.

  18. avatar Hectic

    Nice review. Dishonored is a shallow game. It promises tons of things but delivers a few. In an artistic point of view it is really good. But both the gameplay and storytelling are a mix of repetition of the classic games of the genre and a flawed idea of game design.

    I believe the gaming industry is poisoned by the idea of “the player can act as she/he wishes and still wins”. This thinking is against both the notions of design and gaming. To the contrary, this is actually “undesigning”. If there are no set of clear rules, than there will be no real challenges and no real game. This “design” approach started with Deus Ex 2 and -unfortunately- endures today.

    So, another good looking, yet soulless game fills the shelves. You won’t experience anything new with this game if you are not six years old…

  19. avatar seefilms

    I played the game. And I totally agree with Mr. Carter.
    Though it took me twice as long (or more) to complete.
    I thought the story left me cold. The premise is interesting and dramatic but the follow through comes off cold and calculated.
    The game play was good…but it really is a hassle to use all of the things you collect along the way. After awhile I just stuck with essentially the two basic special abilities.
    I thought the graphics were great…but I didn’t really feel I understood where I was…what the world was really like. I felt like I went from one similar part of a city to another similar part of a city.
    And I really didn’t care for how the characters were drawn.

    It’s a total 7 in my book.

  20. avatar Python

    Keep it up. I was just looking for a game website to give this over-hyped, over-rated game the score it deserves. The review was every bit as real as the game itself. I think I’ll visit this website from now on instead of Gamespot.

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