Seven things we want to see from Hitman: Absolution
- Hitman: Absolution
- IO Interactive
And not one of them is an exploding dildo... Ahead of our first look at Hitman: Absolution during E3, Patrick Lindsay discusses some of the essential components IO need to include in Agent 47's next escapade to keep the Hitman series singing sweetly.
Earlier this month the first Hitman: Absolution teaser trailer hit the web, stirring up a mess of excitement as it’s the first Hitman game since 2006. Since it’s been 5 years since I last got to strangle anyone with a fiber wire, I’ve had substantial time to think about the new game, what would be cool to see, and what IO should stay away from for this next instalment... [Screens from Hitman: Contracts]
Debuting in 2000, the Hitman series has been largely unchanged since 2002’s Hitman 2: Silent Assassin. Unfortunately, this means that many of the game’s interfaces remain rooted in their awkward, clunky PC roots. Hitman gameplay and animations seem somehow designed around a mouse-and-keyboard approach, and the fact is that console gaming has experienced a meteoric rise over the past five years. IO should take into account that most gamers will be playing Hitman: Absolution with a game controller, not a mouse and hotkeys. Hopefully this will be reflected in all aspects of the game, from item selection to environmental interaction to character movement – if so, it will go a long way towards making this game less frustrating for console gamers.
Before you misinterpret my previous point, while I think that Hitman: Absolution should be easier to play, I don’t at all think it should be an easier game. The Hitman series has made a name for itself based on meticulous and challenging gameplay, and I would hope that IO keeps the same level of challenge in the new game. What’s important is that the game be challenging, not just frustratingly difficult. The challenge that comes from figuring out the how the puzzle pieces fit together for this particular hit is far more cerebral than the difficulty in surviving impossible firefights or combating ammo starvation (or any of a number of cheap tricks devs have used lately to make games “hard”), and ultimately overcoming that cerebral challenge is far more rewarding.
Part of the fun for me when I play Hitman games is to try and go through the missions without anyone noticing anything amiss – killing only my target, avoiding setting off any alarms, and if the enemy knows I was there at all, it’s only because of the pools of O-Neg I left in my wake. Some people on the other hand would prefer the more direct, kick-down-the-door approach. In Hitman: Absolution, I want the ability to do either.
The greatest thing about Hitman games has always been its open world concept; you’re dropped into a gameworld, and your only objective is to “kill this dude” – the rest is up to you. A Hitman mission can either be a well-planned game of Mousetrap, or a bloodbath – but IO have always been smart enough to leave that call up to the player. In a world of increasing streamlining and simplification, let’s hope the same holds true for Absolution.
Agent 47 is a high-level assassin, neutralizing important figures from world leaders to heads of crime families. It only makes sense that your actions have repercussions in the game world. IO have already introduced some form of consequences with the rating system – post-mission analysis can label you anything from ‘Silent Assassin’ to ‘Butcher’ depending on how professional or sloppy you were. The notoriety system introduced in Hitman: Blood Money expanded on this further, with people reacting to you if caught on tape. Let’s see IO expand on this to add another layer of challenge in Absolution. Make too much of a mess in a mission, and people will be on high alert in future levels. Kill enough civilians, and your bald head is #1 on the cops’ Most Wanted list. Having the consequences of your actions carry over into future missions would encourage you to think ahead not only to the rest of your current mission, but also to future missions. You want to be a professional? Act like one.
Another way to give your actions some weight is to give them a monetary value. As a professional killer, the murder of innocents may fail to resonate with you on an emotional level, but if it hits you in your wallet – subtracting money from your mission payout for every sloppy civilian death or dead guard – that’s a language you’d understand. You cold blooded sonuvabitch, you. The totals that you amass across Hitman: Absolution could be used for upgrades based on your own playstyle. Like to snipe? Give your sniper rifle a thermal scope and armor-piercing rounds and you’re a force to be reckoned with. If you prefer the direct approach, buy yourself some body armor and an expanded clip for your shotgun. In addition to increasing replay value, a fleshed out in-game economy would really allow you to play Hitman: Absolution uniquely.
#6: Genre integrity
Hitman games are first and foremost stealth action games – remember those? Recent attempts at current-gen stealth action titles have resulted in streamlined attempts that really step away from the genre. Splinter Cell: Conviction, for example, while a good game, emphasized combat more than any other Splinter Cell title, giving the player more linear levels and forcing them to kill their way through instead of sneak.
This is the one area in which IO could really drop the ball. After all, the game is called Hitman, not Mass Murderer. It’s not so much an action game in which you happen to hide a lot as it is a puzzle game in which people tend to die. Sacrificing some of the classic cerebral Hitman gameplay for more action in the name of streamlining would be doing a huge disservice to the series.
#7: A well-executed single player experience
Hitman games have always been very methodical, very meticulous, and above all, single player games. While I know the temptation to slap on a multiplayer mode is strong, it wouldn’t be doing the Hitman: Absolution any favours. Hitman games have never lent themselves to the fast-paced, run’n’gun bloodshed of multiplayer, and including it would feel forced and awkward. Replay value in these games should stem from trying to increase your rating, or exploring other ways to nail your mark, not from a Team Deathmatch mode. Too many great single player games have received half-baked multiplayer add-ons lately (ahem, Dead Space 2) that have made me say “no thank you.” Instead, spend the time refining the single player experience to be the best it can be.
Although it will be a while yet until we see Hitman: Absolution in the shops, I’m excited for it nonetheless. The success of the series is based on a gameplay style unique to the franchise that make it instantly recognizable as Hitman. If IO recognises what makes their series great and is unafraid to keep the core stealth action gameplay intact, Hitman: Absolution will definitely be a title to keep in your crosshairs. Oh yes I did.
The Hitman: Absolution release is currently a loose 2012.
Words: Patrick Lindsay
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