The winner of the best gameplay demo at E3 is easily Dishonored from Arkane Studios. Arkane, a sister studio to Bethesda, counts Deus Ex designer Harvey Smith among its employees. The company developed Arx Fatalis and assisted with BioShock 2. You can see elements of all three games in Dishonored.
In both the demo and our hands-on, the ease with which stealth movement is handled is impressive. This is a game where measured players can have a real awareness of what’s around them, and stay in control. Crouched movement keeps the player silent, while the ability to lean out from behind corners without being seen is key to keeping tabs on the movements of guards. It’s immediately obvious whether a guard is blissfully unaware of the knife about to be plunged into his neck or not, because as soon as he’s alerted, graphic novel-style lightning bolt icons flash red above his head.
Corvo moved about the complex with style, either avoiding or knocking out guards, and using rooftops and windows ledges to his advantage. Of course, his many powers came in handy too. The key ones for the stealth run were Blink – which is essentially a short range teleport move, and invaluable for moving from cover to cover and crossing gaps; Dark Vision, which allows the player to see where guards and other people are through walls; and Possess, the aforementioned ability to merge your body with another, from fish and rats to humans. Powers are upgraded with runes, and these are found using a device called The Heart – a steampunk heart that players can hold in hand: it beats faster the closer Corvo is to a rune.
I creep forward, using Dark Vision—a type of thermal/x-ray vision power—to see how many guards are nearby. Dark Vision also shows the guards’ cone of vision to help avoid detection.
I lurch a little too close and alert the guards…then accidentally stand up like an idiot. At that point I may as well wave a flag and shout “I’m over here”. Sure enough, guards pick up on my location, draw swords, and attack. One of them pulls a pistol. I die horribly while fumbling through my abilities with the game pad and longing for a mouse.
A couple deaths later I start to find my thumbs with the controller. Using the Blink (a short range teleport) ability, I quietly teleport to an adjacent, hidden area away from the guards and down below the street. I eventually come to a waterwheel. Riding the water wheel, it deposits me into a sewer which I use to ultimately gain entry to the building.
For the first showing they went with a more stealth oriented route complicated by attempting to kill nobody but the targets. It was beyond wild to see the character sneak up on a guard, choke him out, pick up the body and then teleport up on top of a taller structure to hide the unconscious man. Infiltration was done via possessing a fish of all things, going in through a drainage pipe and then hopping out. From here a series of careful teleports brought him through the brothel to the first target. Rather than confront him directly our protagonist can use a pipe in a nearby room to funnel steam in on the man and his prostitute companion. Then making your way upstairs to the second target, it's a simple matter of possessing him so he walks out onto the balcony and then blowing him off with a wind blast. Sneaking is complicated by seemingly very aware enemies and sound that moves realistically meaning a thick door might prevent you from hearing any enemies coming your way.