In a market dominated by sequels, it's always a joy to see an original game storm onto the scene - especially when it looks as thrilling as Dishonored does. A stealthy first-person powerhouse, it charts the murky footsteps of a supernatural royal-bodyguard-turned-hitman called Corvo Atano as he despatches enemies using a mix of magical powers and extreme violence. It's already being compared to big hitters like Deus Ex, Thief and BioShock, and with BioShock Infinite now delayed until 2013, Dishonored's debut in October couldn't be timed any sweeter...
Whereas BioShock was set in an underwater city based on 1920s and 30s Art Deco design, Dishonored ventures down the Victorian steampunk path set by literary masters Jules Verne and HG Wells. The game offers its own unique look that mixes painterly visuals, dark, comic-book humour and foggy Jack The Ripper terror. And set against the backdrop of a plague, it can get pretty bleak at times, although thankfully, not overly depressing.
Yet remarkably it's not just the visuals that have got us most excited - the gameplay seems pretty awesome, too. And brutal too! Unlike the assassins of Assassin's Creed or the Hitman franchise, Corvo has some pretty weird powers. In one scene demoed to us at E3, we tried to outwit some guards by using a short-range teleportation power, which allows us to pop up in all sorts of places. In this case, we accidentally materialised right in front of our adversaries, forcing us to kill one of them with our bare hands, while the other fell victim to a horde of magical rats. Nice!
You can possess things, too. A popular pass-time at E3 was to launch yourself off a building and quickly transfer yourself into the body of another character, just before your previous host splatters onto the nearby ground. In another example, we took over the mind of a fish and swum up a drainage system in order to infiltrate a previously inaccessible house. If that doesn't sound original to you, then what does? Dishonored offers all kinds of emergent gameplay where you can mix powers and weapons to unusual and stunning effect.
Because the game moves at such an incredible and seamless pace, the stealthy parts where you're creeping around the amazing locales, never get boring. There is also so much choice and freedom in how you play it, with many new ways of combining your supernatural abilities to make even scarier ones.
Sure some of the things look strangely familiar - the Tall Boy characters, which are essentially men on robotic stilts, recall the terrifying horror-legged Striders of the seminal shooter Half-Life 2, which isn't too surprising considering that both games share the same artist.
With a development team that also includes former programmers from the likes of Deus Ex and Thief: Deadly Shadows, there is a lot to be intrigued about in Dishonored. It may not be a sequel to a big name blockbuster, but you can probably bet that this is just the beginning of an epic series and eventually it will spawn a few sequels of its own.