Dishonored PS3 – Getting to grips with sandbox gaming’s honours student

The very first guard I encounter in Dishonored is looking me dead in the eye. With a flick of o a literal wheel of opportunities opens up, presenting an array of solutions ranging from elusive to barbaric. If I didn’t care about the noise, I’d set his stupid face alight with an incendiary arrow. If I didn’t want to get my fine velvet gloves dirty, I’d simply ‘Blink’, teleporting a short distance away to safer ground. If I was feeling showy, I’d fire a bullet, slow time and possess him to walk into its trajectory.

I need to make the call – if I don’t act now he’ll shout over to his workmates and turn this cloak-and-dagger kidnapping mission into an unseemly bloodbath. But for a second, Dishonored’s devilish toolbox leaves me paralysed with indecision, and all I can think about is what a rare sensation this is in a 2012 videogame: the feeling of scary freedom.

Games like Uncharted 3 and Modern Warfare 3 are how we got here. Undeniably thrilling, intensely scripted titles that aspire to create a cinematic experience and challenge your reflexes rather than your cerebral folds. They can hardly be lambasted for delivering us such finely crafted treats, but too much of anything – even shooting your way through a ruined subway system – gets tired.

Just as footy fans start to harbour Spain a grudge for winning sodding everything, gamers have grown to resent the leash that guides them from one spectacular, utterly rehearsed moment to the next. Games like Hitman: Absolution, Bioshock Infinite and Arkane Studios’ Dishonored are a direct result of that spell of dominance for linear gaming.

The saturation of the marketplace has taken its toll, and the pendulum’s swinging in the other direction. Suddenly, publishers are desperate to release titles that don’t give you amazing experiences, but give you the tools  to create amazing experiences for yourself.