Going back to the streets of Dunwall for another sojourn through rat infested alleyways, encountering survivors, liars, manipulators and grizzly guards all with a vested interest in your existence is, in short, great. Dishonored earned itself plenty of plaudits back in 2012 for its vision of a dystopian steampunk city in the grip of a vicious plague, and it’s not lost anything from the jump to current gen consoles. The recently released definitive edition isn’t an incredible visual improvement on the original, making this more of a port than an impressive remaster, but given the sheer freedom Arkane Studios offer during Dishonored’s 15-20 hour playthrough and the slew of DLC this edition offers, it’s well worth picking up for either a first visit or repeat trip.
For those who missed out three years ago, you’re lucky enough to take control of Corvo Attano, the former personal guard to the land’s murdered Empress. Busted out of prison by loyalists after being wrongly charged for her death, your task is to dismantle the hierarchy responsible for the cover-up by taking out government’s figureheads and leaders one by one in whatever way you see fit. Each level is centred on an assassination, with Corvo dropped into a level, given a marker and essentially told to get there in whichever way you see fit. There are multiple ways to do almost everything in Dishonored; you can sneak around on foot, or traverse rooftops, poison guards or choke them out and brutally murder your targets or keep them alive having essentially ruined the rest of their entire existence with help from a casual acquaintance or by broadcasting a diary of damning secrets.
What Dishonored does so well is give you a big open space, scatter around a few collectibles and the odd side mission, offer you a variety of lethal and non-lethal weapons and essentially lets you choose your own route to glory. The game is flexible enough that it’ll allow you to go gung-ho if you’ve had enough hiding on ledges or behind boxes, even though more dead bodies equates to more rats, more death and a darker ending. Should you wish to play the game without being seen or killing a single soul, then you’ll find very little frustration on offer purely because of the wide variety of tools the game offers to help you get from A to B. Fancy getting past that tall electric barrier? You can take out the power, turn into a rat and sneak past innocuously, freeze time and walk on through unmolested or quietly slit a throat or two to cause a distraction and sneak on by. The possibilities still feel excitingly plentiful regardless of how you choose to approach each task, with saving and replaying sections actively encouraged in order to make sections to play out exactly how you wish them to.
Given this release seems to have been a way of drumming up interest in the series ahead of next year’s sequel, it’s not the greatest shock to see Dunwall’s rooftops, sewers and characters looking much the same as they did on last gen consoles. This definitive edition doesn’t really add all that much to Dishonored’s visual fidelity, even if the game’s focus was on presenting a distinctive style over graphical majesty. Character’s mouths still tend to flop up and down as opposed to forming recognisable shapes when speaking, which should be an area for attention for the follow-up alongside making things like the loaves of bread you frequently scarf down or the rats you’re often surrounded by look a bit less….well, rubbish.
But these sorts of issues can be easily fixed, and Arkane already have plenty of good stuff to work with regardless when it comes to crafting that sequel. Dishonored’s definitive edition is a reaffirmation of everything the first game in this series did right; great level design, interesting powers, intriguing plot and the offer of a genuine feeling of freedom. As such, it’s a great way to either tide you over during the wait for Dishonored 2, or a great excuse to give an impressive example of modern, open-ended stealth a try.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 8.10 Format: Xbox One / PlayStation 4 Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Iwan Lehnert purchased a copy of Dishonored: Definitive Edition for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of five days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.