Knife of Dunwall is the second add-on for last year's excellent assassination game Dishonored, and it's just what the doctor ordered: more missions, each with multiple ways to neutralise their morally dubious targets. The first DLC, Trials of Dunwall, had its charms, but its challenge maps were never going to be any substitute for exploring brand new parts of this world of magic, plague, short-range teleportation and whale oil-powered machines.
That said, only one of Knife's three new levels/missions could truly be said to be new. Of the others, one is a straight-up revisit to one of the later levels of the parent game, and the other seems to have been rather obviously assembled from bits of several others. No matter: while the city of Dunwall's angular, towering architecture is a big part of Dishonored's appeal and so it's hard to not crave more of it, even more essential is the simple pleasure of finding a way, via brains or brawn, into a place that your enemies don't want you to reach. That side of things we definitely get more of here.
The story runs parallel to Dishonored itself, placing you in the guilt-ridden shoes of the assassin Daud, the real culprit behind the regicide of which the main game's hero Corvo was accused. Knife of Dunwall's storytelling is muddled to the point where it's not entirely clear quite what Daud's trying to achieve or why, and an abrupt, hurried-feeling ending designed to set things up for the next DLC doesn't help things on the plotting front. But at the end of the day the goal is to neutralise a set of well-protected baddies and it's up to you how to do it.
Or, indeed, if you do it: the option for non-lethal resolution remains, and tends to involve more elaborate and satisfying solutions. It's all so overwhelmingly similar to Dishonored that it's easy to forget you're playing as a different character, despite occasional voiceovers from Michael Madsen as Daud.
That aside, similarity is only a good thing. After the rather one-note action of that other cerebral blockbuster, BioShock: Infinite, a return to the grand choice of Dishonored feels even more liberating. The new levels aren't that large, but if you're the type of player who likes to comb every nook and cranny, eliminate every enemy and pilfer every piece of loot without being seen you'll get a good couple of hours out of each of them.
And on a pure sightseeing level, the first level's a wonder. It would only be polite not to give too much away here, but suffice this mission means a closer look at the strange, sinister whale oil industry so essential to Dunwall's unusual technology. If you're a player who prefers methodically creeping alone the rafters rather than sprinting down corridors without looking around you, expect to see some dramatic sights below you.
There's been a subtle increase in the amount of enemies, or at least how closely they cluster together, and more daunting foes are now more commonplace. This has a palpable and positive effect on stealth-orientated players, as tried, tested and abused methods of picking off guards one by one are no longer quite so reliable. You'll need to think smarter, wait longer for openings and employ more gadgets to distract and disorientate. Daud gets a few new toys to play with, as it happens, such as mines which can either fry or stun anyone who treads near them, choking gas and, most entertainingly, the option to summon one of his underlings to lend a helping murderous hand.
Sadly, none of these things help to make the straight-up action experience particularly long-lived. Knife of Dunwall is simply More Dishonored rather than Altered Dishonored. So, as with Dishonored vanilla, while you can simply sprint towards your objective, stabbing and shooting anyone who crosses your path, you'll have each mission dusted in less than half an hour. It's a shame Dishonored can't quite be all things to all gamers, as was the original claim, but if all you crave is linear violence you're not exactly short of other choice.
Don't come looking for meaningful change, then - only an extension. If you are someone who likes to stop and smell the roses (even amidst the carnage), that's absolutely a good thing.