In a season of outstanding PC ports, each new game has begun to arrive accompanied by the same question: Will this one kick ass on PC, as well?
Arkane's Dishonored is fantastic. It's also rooted in what some would call a holy triumvirate of of PC gaming: Deus Ex, Thief and Half-Life 2. It stands to reason, then, that the people making it wouldn't skimp on the PC features.
And, unsurprisingly, they haven't, and the PC version is terrific. That said, what is surprising here is the the console version matches the PC for almost every feature, and feels more "PC-ish" than most other games. The PC version itself isn't superior in some room-clearing, floor-mopping way; I played through the entire game on Xbox 360 before starting on PC, and found the game to be thrilling, deep, complex, nuanced.
That said, if you're planning to pick up the game and have your choice of platforms, the PC is still the way to go. Here's why:
Some of Dishonored's abilities, notably the quick-teleport "Blink" ability, just work better with the precision granted with a mouse. Aiming your blinks can feel a bit lugubrious and imprecise with a controller, particularly when under duress. There are few more enjoyable moves than to warp to behind an attacking enemy and then slit his throat, but with a controller, I too-often warped right into my assailant. With a mouse, I feel much more in command of my blinks.
Picking up from the precision of the mouse, the keyboard also gives a welcome degree of control when compared to the controller. Again, that's not to say the controller implementation is bad, just that the keyboard is better. If you've grown comfortable with all of Corvo's many deadly moves, switching between them using the number keys on a keyboard allows you to quickly chain combo moves in a way that the console's radial dial, no matter how elegant its construction, could.
I've already extolled the merits of leaning in games, specifically voicing my pleasure that the lean had returned to Dishonored . And while the implementation on the controller—hold "Y" and then move the thumbstick—is quite smart and works well once you get the hang of it, it's still no match for the Q and E keys on the keyboard.
Thief and Deus Ex players will be right at home playing Dishonored, and when I play using a keyboard I find myself leaning much more than I did while using a controller. A lean should be a natural extension of your movement, and without dedicated buttons, there's no way to make it perfectly smooth.
This might be the biggest difference, for me—I'm playing the game on hard, and as a result get spotted more and die more. It's a real boon that the PC version has a dedicated quicksave button. I appreciated being able to save at any point on the Xbox 360 version, but navigating a few menus would necessarily remove me from the action. Particularly with a game like Dishonored, repurposing the "back" button to trigger a quicksave would have been fantastic.
Better still, the PC version has scary fast load times, usually a matter of a couple of seconds. (I'm playing on a fairly run-of-the mill, non-SSD hard drive.) It's not the kind of thing you'd even notice unless you'd already sunk a dozen hours into the console version—suddenly, quickly saving, trying something, dying, and reloading takes about 20 fewer seconds each time. That adds up.
Dishonored has lovely visuals, but not because of a high polygon count or detailed textures—the game derives its visual splendor almost entirely from Viktor Antonov's art design. Dishonored does look better on PC running at true 1080p than it does on the Xbox—my graphics card's superior antialiasing, in particular, strengthens the lines and clarifies the draw distance. But really, the game ha a softness to the big ol' Unreal-engine textures that makes everything look soft and warm, and both PC and console versions have it. Like Borderlands 2, Dishonored isn't a game that needs eye-cuttingly sharp textures to look good.
Where the PC surpasses the console version is in clarity of motion—the framerate and the animations. This game looks fabulous running at 60 frames per second, particularly once action heats up. I'm not sure by what alchemy Arkane managed to design such a fluid and enjoyable first-person swashbuckling system, but I'm loving how much clearer the action looks now that I can see it running at a more consistent, higher framerate. (Luke brings up something worth mentioning here—sometimes, the PC version can hang on scenes as it loads them, starting with the opening camera-cut in the first menu. This actually happened to me as well, when I was using an AMD card. I recently upgraded to a GeForce, and it's gone away, but still worth noting.) The quick stabs, the brutal, matter-of-fact decapitations, even the hilariously varied expressions on enemies' faces, all come across much more clearly at a high framerate. On console, action felt more chaotic and jumbled—part of this, surely, is because I'm just better at the game now than I was when I played on console, but the framerate factors as well. The PC version lets you really see Dishonored moving at its best.
None of this is to say that the console versions of the game are lacking—whichever version you pick, you'll be getting a hell of a good game. But if you've got the option and want to see Dishonored at its best, opt for PC.