GAME REVIEW The choices are wide open as you explore the despicable city of Dunwall in one of the year's best video games.
Simply put: You need to play "Dishonored."
It's not epic in scale like "Fable," "Dragon Age" or "Elder Scrolls." Rather, the environment is the densely populated city of Dunwall, where everyone only cares about himself and those you help will just as quickly stab you in the back if you don't protect yourself.
The genius of "Dishonored" lies in its game play. You're Corvo Attano. Once the bodyguard to Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, Corvo was framed for her murder and sentenced to death. After a rather easy escape, you/Corvo embark on a revenge scheme that sounds pedestrian until you slither inside the city walls.
"Dishonored" differs from standard open-world games by giving you the ability to alter how you play the game, not just what missions you decide to take on. The two obvious routes are to go for stealth or full-blown bloodletting. Neither lacks consequences, however.
Go the stealth route, and you'll find achieving your missions fraught with dangerous alleys or another guard always ready to spot you and put you down. Try slashing and shooting your way through, and locations quickly become overrun with soldiers who will outnumber you before you have a chance to escape.
Depending on how you play, you sense the city's denizens adjusting to your actions. You are given all the tools to succeed in either venture, but success will not come easy.
And boy, oh, boy, about those wonderful tools: Knives, crossbows and guns get the job done when you're backed into a corner by thugs or sneakily attacking some poor sap from one of Dunwall's many nooks and rooftops. Add in special abilities that you're granted when hunting down mystical objects, and before long you'll relish how quickly you can alternate ways to dispatch foes.
Nothing beats the freedom of clearing a four-story mansion of enemies by possessing someone or calling upon a horde of rats to devour them or just putting a few crossbow darts in others. Even better, remain in the shadows and rafters, finishing the mission without killing a soul and no one knowing you were ever there.
Rare is the game that, like "Dishonored," creates a city that feels so alive and abundant with so many opportunities. Sure, the aura of death lingers everywhere because nothing in this city seems to deserve salvation, but Dunwall is a place you want to revisit time and again to see how you can alter its fate.