Hitman: Absolution Preview – Silent But Deadly
Fans of the Hitman series have had to wait six long years for a new instalment into Agent 47’s stealthy story. It may even come as a surprise to some that Absolution is, in fact, the first game in the much-loved Hitman canon to be developed purely for the current-generation consoles, but it seems that IO Interactive have done the unthinkable and actually lived up to the hype of such a long wait.
First thing’s first though, Absolution doesn’t reinvent the wheel, not totally, anyway. It brings a fresh take to a lot of established Hitman tropes, whilst adding new elements into the mix. You’ll still be sneaking around grandiose environments, wearing disguises and finding your own way to take down targets. Yes, the Hitman experience is still very much one that becomes the player’s story, as there are always multiple ways through any given level, with rewards for playing differently.
In fact, rewards are one of the ways that Absolution will help newcomers to the series. Veterans will already be acutely aware of the fact that Agent 47 can take out enemies in a multitude of ways, but the rewards that act as score multipliers will give you ideas. For example, distract a team of cops by dropping a chandelier, gain a 5% total score modifier. This is just one of the numerous in-level achievements you will have to complete to max out your score. Scoring is important in Absolution, as there is a constant reminder that you need to be the best Agent 47 you can be, with a regional average and friends list comparison reminding you that you’re not doing as well as you can. It’s an example of how IO Interactive have made the Hitman: Absolution world a more connected one for the player to enjoy.
That isn’t to say that story has been forgotten here in favour of other elements, because Absolution’s tale is a dark one, but it’s wonderfully told and creates a strong drive to continue onward, to find out what happens next. There’s absolutely no way I’d consider spoiling it this early on, but Agent 47 has never had so much personality as he has here.
The power of the current generation is stressed at times in Absolution, with gorgeous visuals and great attention to detail on display, not to mention some stunning set pieces and beautiful cut-scenes containing some incredible facial animations. As you’d expect, huge crowds offer 47 relief from hiding, but his instinct meter also comes into play, in a big, big way.
Every successful action taken rewards 47 by filling his instinct bar up. Think of this as Batman’s Detective Mode, allowing you to plan out routes, watch the enemy and see objects you can interact with. More than that though, if you are unfortunate enough to be wearing a cop disguise whilst walking past other cops, they’ll suspect that you aren’t who you’re pretending to be, so holding the instinct button down will allow you to try and blend your way past them. This can cause incredible tension as the bar reduces slowly, the player desperate to evade the questioning eye of the onlooker as they walk slowly past. The instinct bar also provides other skills for 47 to use, including one that allows the player to paint targets (aim for the head!) then execute them immediately, before they’ve had a chance to react.
Throwing objects is a new distraction technique this time around; you can also throw knives, either to kill or distract, allowing for even more planning and tactical movement. There are just so many ways to tackle the enemy, from straight up fist fights, to guns, or perhaps you want to sneak through a vent and throttle them from behind; you could even completely avoid them altogether. You can even hang from a ledge to hide, then pull an enemy off, or if circumstances favour you, just sneak up behind them and push them out of an open window. The sneakiest of all though, is to pretend to surrender, then when they get close, attack them, before hiding their body in a dumpster. Despite the story being linear, Hitman: Absolution feels like a huge sandbox, full of toys and non-playable character’s to interact with.
The level of difficulty settings available also offer something for everyone. People who haven’t enjoyed Hitman titles in the past will find solace in the easier difficult levels, where hardcore fans…my word, you’ve been well catered for. The hardest difficulty removes all HUD elements, offering a brutally difficult experience, and one that will truly test the best players out there. Combined with the online leaderboards, this could make for an unprecedented level of hardcore competition among players.
Absolution doesn’t have a multiplayer aspect in the traditional sense, but Contracts is a far nicer fit anyway. What Contracts does, is take distinct moments from the single player campaign, but add twists to them. There are specific targets, and sometimes a specific kill-method, other times you’ll have to find your own way to do things. Once you’ve taken the target out, you have to escape the area, but you’re timed. All of this is taken into consideration when it comes to scoring your efforts.
It looks as though IO Interactive will be offering regular challenges to players, but allowing players to create their own challenges for the world is a master-stroke and will ensure that players will keep coming back time and time again. Indeed, even during the campaign if you pause the game, you’ll be offered the chance to play out the “Contract” that applies to where you are in the game.
Hitman: Absolution looks set to try and please just about everyone. It’s a dangerous game to play, but there really does seem to be enough here to have the hardcore followers of the series in raptures, whilst bringing in newcomers too. The visuals and voice acting is wonderful, and the tension is unbearable at times. It may be early days, but the long wait appears to have been more than worth it.
Here’s hoping Hitman: Absolution delivers, when it is released on November 20, for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.