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Dishonored preview: We unmask the biggest surprise of 2012

Prep for Monday's review with our massive hands-on

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Another way to gain Lady Boyle's trust is to flirt with her. In her diary she says she'll "bed the first man who asks", which you can take advantage of. If you succeed, she'll lead you up to her bedroom where you can quietly kill her and escape through the window. But this is no good if, like us, you're going for the non-violent solution.

GREAT ESCAPE

We follow Lade Boyle through the party and down to the basement. When we're in a quiet area, we knock her out with a sleep dart. One of the scarecrow's stipulations was that she be delivered to him unconscious. In a cellar full of barrels, the scarecrow's waiting in a boat. "You don't know how much this means to me," he says, "I'm sure she'll come to appreciate me in time. After all, we have forever." We're left with a feeling of unease as the boat disappears into a tunnel.

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Dishonored is a grim game. Giving Lady Boyle to the scarecrow might have seemed like a better alternative to killing her, but his creepy dialogue suggests otherwise. The entire game is draped in misery; from plague-riddled corpses piling up in sewers, to bloody-eyed 'weepers' - zombie-like infected citizens who haven't died yet - scurrying around abandoned apartment blocks.

It's bleak, but it's beautiful, with the most compelling and considered art style since Deus Ex: Human Revolution. You feel the urge to explore every single corner of the dense, detailed levels - and you're actively rewarded for it with collectables and upgrades.

There are other, messier ways we could have finished the party mission. We could have simply executed all three of the Boyle sisters, then fled from the house. But with so many guards and Overseers to contend with, our chances of escaping alive would be slim. We could have hacked the Wall Of Light - a device that disintegrates any unauthorised personnel who wander through it - then possessed Lady Boyle and made her walk through it.

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The level is full of ways to infiltrate the party itself. Our method was picking up an invitation that a guest dropped, but we could've possessed a fish in the river and swam up a drainpipe, or entered through the sewers. The amount of freedom and ways to complete objectives is dizzying. Arkane cites Deus Ex and Thief as reflecting Dishonored's 'core values', and it shows. It feels like a spiritual successor to both games, with a bit of Hitman and BioShock thrown in - but it still has a totally unique identity of its own.

With our mission complete, we stroll casually through the mansion's gates and meet our contact in the river who helps us escape by boat. If every mission in Dishonored is as rich, detailed, and entertaining as this, it's set to become the most exciting, original game of the year.

Remember to come back on Monday 8th October to read our definitive verdict on Dishonored and get essential tips for conquering Dunwall.

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