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Playing the Stealthy 'Dishonored 2' Like 'Bulletstorm' Is Very Fun

Playing Arkane's sequel with non-lethal precision is rewarding—but piling up the bodies has a wicked appeal that's oddly familiar.

by Mike Diver
Oct 5 2016, 5:55pm

'Dishonored 2' screenshots courtesy of Bethesda

One of the outgoing console generation's more colorful, theatrical shooters, People Can Fly's Bulletstorm is apparently receiving the remaster treatment in 2017, reports Eurogamer and other sources. This, I am into: The 2011 title looked like a Gears-alike on the box but didn't play like a traditional waist-high-cover affair, thanks primarily to its combos-enabling "skillshots" and protagonist Grayson Hunt's fantastic energy leash, a device that could whip enemies toward the player only to be sent flying into deadly spikes or exploded into chunks by all manner of nasty guns.

The crude humor didn't always find its mark, but much like 2016's reboot of DOOM, Bulletstorm took one hook—in its case those spectacular skillshots, while DOOM's gory glory kills never get old—and built an uncommonly compelling game around it. No need for anything more, but the goofiness of the game's campaign was endearingly dumb, and when it comes out again for new systems, it's well worth a play—be that for the first time, or as a chuckles-ready refresher.

And you can get a flavor for how Bulletstorm's energy leash-assisted kills work through a very unlikely source, arriving before the remaster: Arkane Studios' sequel to its excellent stealth game of 2012, Dishonored. I played a very small slice of Dishonored 2 at E3, but much like its predecessor, this isn't the kind of game that can impress inside 20 minutes—and nor should it be made to. I came away from that experience unmoved, and was neither shaken nor stirred on seeing the clockwork soldiers of genius inventor Kirin Jindosh at Gamescom, in a hands-off preview situation.

But now that I've had three hours to pick my way through Jindosh's shape-shifting mansion, all sliding doors and changing rooms, taking both the non-lethal and corpses-everywhere routes to completion of the game's fourth mission—taking out the man himself, before he can perfect his clockwork soldier design—I'm very optimistic. Dishonored 2 is looking like a mighty fine quarter-four game, releasing at a time when competition for player hours is going to be incredibly fierce: Watch Dogs 2 is out four days after it, and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare the week before. Granted, the game is incredibly fresh in my head, and thus the post-preview glow hasn't dulled any, but if you asked me today which of those three (very different, all eagerly anticipated) games I'd like to play more of, right now, it's Arkane's adventure.

Which I sample as Emily Kaldwin, who was but a little princess to be rescued by the (returning, also playable) Corvo Attano in the first game, but now, 15 years later, is quite the skilled sneak, not to mention pretty handy with a sword. In my first run through Jindosh's Clockwork Mansion—patrolled by both the towering, beak-headed, blade-armed warriors of his design and human enemies packing more traditional punches—I stick to stealth as much as possible and don't deliberately kill a single organic life form. (Wait, does eating a peach to regain some health count? It doesn't? We're good.)

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"Deliberately" because while I personally deliver no lethal blows to Jindosh's security, when you destroy the vision of a clockwork soldier by popping its head apart with a couple of crossbow bolts, it switches to audio tracking only, and will attack wherever it detects noise—including when a "friendly" human comes running by in pursuit of Emily. It's a totally unfair fight—these creations of whirring gears, wooden armor, and razor-edged appendages must be eight or nine feet tall, and if you're caught between an immovable hard place and the full-frontal attack of one of Jindosh's monsters, there's really no way out. The rest of the time I shoot sleep darts from the shadows and tiptoe my way toward silencing any backup-calling sorts before they so much as get a hunch to my presence. I also make good use of one of Emily's unique abilities, "Far Reach," to leap to high points in the mansion and slip between the moving walls, away from the eyes of the enemy.

Far Reach is a lot like Corvo's "Blink" teleport from the first game, but better. Blink permitted almost-instant travel from point to point across a short distance; Far Reach, however, can be both for movement and for essentially lassoing items into Emily's hands. See that mana-replenishing vial that's just beyond your fingertips? Simply extend your reach the supernatural way. And what works for small items is just as effective when a 190-pound, thick-jawed, and incredibly cheesed off enemy is charging at you: Far Reach will whip them into the air, toward Emily. The attack won't kill them—if you're playing non-lethally, you can then bump them on the head and knock them out cold. But if you've got a taste for chaos, well: Here's where the unexpected parallel to Bulletstorm presents itself.

'Dishonored 2,' Clockwork Mansion gameplay trailer

A quick d-pad-mapped switch between Far Reach and pistol-packing explosive bullets will send the helpless airborne foe flying back to where they came from, blood gushing. Grenades have their uses, too; or perhaps you'll cleverly flick your victim into a previously positioned mine. But the simplest, and probably most gratifying method of grunt elimination is to Far Reach the soon-to-expire right onto the tip of your pointy pal, Emily's always readied blade—which used to belong to Corvo. The animations are few, but they do vary—in much the same way that DOOM's glory kills are mixed up. But there's nothing repetitive about seeing a crew of seven or eight soldiers before you and, one by one, shish-kebabing them into the afterlife.

When it comes to the actual point of the mission, I eliminate Jindosh two ways. The first is somewhat convoluted but satisfyingly so, using his own puzzle-like laboratory equipment to fry his brain and destroy his memories of how to create the clockworks in the first place. He's alive, but totally harmless. The other is completely fuss free, merely a dash from cover toward the man as his back is turned, leaving a bullet in his temple before sprinting free of his guards' attention.

Jindosh's mansion is a playground of possibility, presented much like a compact Hitman (2016) level, with a great deal of player-accommodating flexibility regarding the paths you can take through it and a secondary objective (the rescuing of an old ally). If you can see a route, chances are you can take it—although there's a degree of trial and error involved. But with hours to spend luxuriating in the design of this single mission, experimenting with Emily's abilities (which also include a ghostly "Shadow Walk" and the enemies-linking multi-kill technique "Domino"), Dishonored 2 finally clicked with me, and perhaps more so than the original game.

I must have enjoyed my time with Dishonored as I made it to the end credits, but I can't say I remember much about the story or how I saw it out—its 19th-century London-styled setting of Dunwall, and singular art style, were what kept me hooked over the characters' fates and whether or not my arsenal was set to kill or stun. This taste of its sequel has got me hungry to properly go at it all guns blazing, swords slicing, and teeth gnashing, leaving a trail of cadavers in my wake. Which I appreciate is the opposite approach to many players. But once your brain lights up with the possibility of playing Bulletstorm-style in a game that, surely, never once looked to People Can Fly's title for inspiration, it's hard to shake the enthusiasm for a gleeful murder spree mercifully shorn of terrible dick gags.

Dishonored 2 is released on November 11 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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