Remember Hitman? We certainly do. In fact, we here at PALGN are pretty big Hitman fans. We were there when Mr. 47 came into the world in Hitman: Codename 47. We were revelling in the advancements made in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. We had some fun with Hitman: Contracts, and it would have been impossible to tear us away from the brilliant Hitman: Blood Money. Did we see the dreadful Hitman film? We're not going to comment on that. No, now is not the time for the past. Now is the time to talk about the future, and today we're talking about Hitman: Absolution.
Hitman: Absolution begins an unspecified time after Blood Money, with series protagonist (or is that antihero?) Agent 47 in a spot of trouble. The famed silent assassin known for quickly and quietly offing targets is trapped in Chicago. He's got no weapons, no equipment, and to the casual observer no hope for survival. Why? Because 47 is on the run. Someone, somewhere has cottoned on to Agent 47's antics and is none too pleased, putting a city wide alert on the profession killer. With no place to hide and the tables turned, this hunter has become the hunted.
Our demo began with Agent 47 hounded by police through an abandoned library, with the crafty killer staying out of sight by sneaking behind book shelves, planning the perfect escape. It wasn't going to be easy though, as improved AI and enemies that communicate between one another would almost doom Agent 47. We say almost, because just as enemies have seen improvements, 47 too has a few new tricks up his sleeve.
Notably, Agent 47 has an 'instinct' ability. Acting almost like x-ray vision, instinct allows Agent 47 to call upon years of professional work, and predict the movements and locations of threats. Mechanically, that means players will be able to spot enemies located behind cover, as well as see the intended path of moving targets. Knowing where enemies are will be more important than ever, as game dialogue has enemies communicating detailed information about environment and surroundings that will be integral to 47's plan of escape. Knowing that he'll need to get almost too close for comfort to listen in on NPC chatter, Agent 47 is more agile than ever. Switching between cover is quicker than previous games, and 47's new nimbleness allows him to climb ledges for a wider range of navigation options.
Sneaking around unseen and listening in is all well and good, but this comfort zone doesn't last forever. Just as with previous Hitman games, sooner or later Agent 47 has to act. For our demo, it began with the assassin hitting the fuse box to distract guards and kill the lights, giving him the perfect opportunity to sneak up behind an unsuspecting victim. We noticed that sneaking up behind enemies seemed a lot more forgiving and less fickle than previous games, which will no doubt make Absolution more accessible.
An enemy within arms reach, Agent 47 grabbed the target, but didn't kill him. Instead, he decided to use him as his means of escape. Dragging him around in a vice like grip, 47 essentially used the poor officer as a human shield, giving him the perfect hostage for getting past other guards. Naturally the local security didn't take too kindly to this treatment of one of their own, and shortly after a firefight broke out. Though it might seem unusual for a Hitman game, Agent 47's combat abilities have too seen some improvements, mostly those expected of a game featuring third person cover based shooting, such as shooting from cover.
A well placed shot on a hanging chandelier provided 47 an exit from the armed officers, but he soon found himself faced with an even bigger threat; a towering Japanese mecha. Okay, that's a lie, it was a helicopter, but it was just as serious and ready to make mince meat of the escaping assassin. The aforementioned cover based mechanics came into play here, as 47 was required to stay out of the chopper's sight as well as gunfire. Unfortunately for 47, cover has its own vulnerabilities, particularly to bullets (like most things), and we saw cover quickly ripped to shreds should 47 linger too long. The entire sequence was quite exciting and cinematic, especially in the way the previous scenes transitioned into this, as well as the powerful soundtrack that kicked in at just the right times.
Dont let the above fool you. Even though we saw quite a bit of action, Hitman: Absolution hasn't lost its roots, and it didn't take long before Agent 47 was back to his old dress-up-doll state, with the promise of the most advanced disguise and blending system found within the franchise. In order to make it across the guarded building roof, Agent 47 had to find himself a disguise, and through his exploration and searching he wound up in the smokey den of a hippy hide-away, with its resident having a fine old time with peculiar looking paraphernalia. This brief moment of relaxation was disturbed by a police bust, officers pouring in to raid the place. Still in need of escaping, here is where we saw one of the new disguise features, with Agent 47 covering part of his face as he walked past nearby officers to prevent them from recognising him. The demo ended with 47 making his way into a crowded subway station, blending in and thus successfully preventing capture.
Overall, we were quite impressed with how Hitman: Absolution is shaping up. Production values certainly seem to be in line with what one would expect from a high value modern game, and the demo we were experienced showed a lot of promise. It was interesting to see a more direct focus on action segments, something rather uncommon in the franchise, however we were told that freedom of choice is still a major component of the game experience, and its entirely possible that there were quieter alternative solutions to the ones we witnessed.
We'll have more on Hitman: Absolution in the near future.