Hitman: Absolution – E3 Preview

Title   Hitman: Absolution
Developer  IO Interactive
Publisher  Square Enix
Platform  PC, PS3, X360
Genre  Stealth, action
Release Date  20th November, 2012
Official Site  http://hitman.com/

Insert Sam Jackson biblical quote here... we're not Googling it

Hitman is one of those series that attracts a lot of heat from the media. It does not shrink away from violence. In many ways, developer Square Enix wanted to remind the gaming community that Agent 47 was the original assassin, and how did they do this? By making Hitman: Absolution kick some serious arse. We managed to get along to the Square Enix booth at E3 to get a first look at the level Streets of Hope.

In Streets of Hope, Agent 47 has to track down information on a missing girl who is being held by the Wild Cougar gang in the town of Hope. John Brick, brand manager at Square Enix lead us through the presentation, explaining that, as in previous titles, every mission had multiple approaches and means of completion. In Streets of Hope the objective is to kill a number of key gang members and interrogate the leader to learn where the kidnapped woman is.  On entering Hope, 47 comes across two of his targets standing in the street. He could out right gun them down but that would cause a lot of heat and draw the police to him.

One of the new features in the game is instinct mode, which is very similar to Batman Arkham City’s detective mode, allowing the player to see enemies, patrol routes and other hidden useful objects. Instinct mode does run on pure instinct (read: awesome) and this runs out over time, but it does give the greatest assassin in gaming the edge over the competition. During the demo, 47 notices that a petrol pump is leaking, clearly visible in instinct mode, and uses this to his advantage. After setting some C4 on the pump, he kills his target making it look like an accident.

A particularly interesting feature in the new game is the scoring. Nearly everything you do in Hitman: Absolution has a score attached to it. Kill a target and your score will increase; kill them quietly and it will increase even further; kill a civilian, however, or be discovered, and your score will drop. In the E3 demo, 47 blows up the petrol station I mentioned earlier and, as a result, kills a large number of civilians (although admittedly looks very fucking cool doing it), therefore losing a lot of points due to civilian deaths. Scores were kept in Hitman: Blood Money but it’s nice to see this on screen at all times. Level scores will be tracked online, allowing players to see their friends’ scores and online global leaderboards, so that they can then compete to be the best assassin.

A little further into the Streets of Hope demo, the new instinct mode became an even more useful tool when 47 had to kill a large number of enemies before entering a building. Using the new point shoot feature, which runs off the instinct power, 47 can tag a number of enemies and pull off a series of headshots, killing everyone in an area before they can react. This does drain instinct dramatically though, so it can only really be used as a last resort or in dire situations.

Due to the scale of the maps, it can sometimes be a little confusing where the player is and isn’t allowed to go, but this has been addressed by a handy popup on the mini-map, showing when the player has entered a restricted area. The levels themselves are huge, with Streets of Hope being pretty much a small town which almost fully explorable. Maps are also filled to the brim with weapons; anything from bottles to screw drivers and even bones can be picked up and used for brutal murder.

I also managed to get a little hands-on time with Hitman: Absolution following the presentation. I remember hearing that there were some concerns following the trailer that the game was suddenly changing to become more action-orientated and less about sneaking around. I can safely say, however, that yes… while IO Interactive and Square Enix have given 47 the ability to shoot the shit out of most things, the key idea behind the game, shown through the scoring system, is to get in and out of levels as quietly as possible. The tools are there, but the incentive to use those tools is not.

I truly enjoyed what I saw of Hitman: Absolution during E3. From what I’ve seen, the game is Hitman: Blood Money scaled up and then some – the maps are huge, the methods of completion multiplied tenfold. It also plays surprisingly well on a console (I’ve only ever played it on the PC) and even in this pre-release build was incredibly polished, so I’m looking forward to seeing what IO and Square Enix manage to do in the few months before the 20th of November release date. Agent 47 was the original assassin and while Assassin’s Creed 3 is bloody impressive, Hitman: Absolution is ‘disemboweling with a screwdriver and blowing up hundreds of people with some well placed C4′ impressive.

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