Hitman Absolution impressions: stunning game world, superb gameplay
- Hitman: Absolution
- IO Interactive
After viewing a one-level gameplay demo of Agent 47’s latest escapade, we’re confident that Hitman: Absolution will be an absolutely excellent adventure.
The current vogue for CGI trailers is splitting opinion in gaming circles, or at least it certainly is here at made2game. On the one hand, they create plenty of excitement and expectation for a title. On the other hand they show no gameplay, just hints of what is possibly to come in the game proper, so all that expectation could conceivably be false. Let’s call it the Dead Island effect. Hitman is one such game that has gone down the CGI route for its debut trailer.
While it’s understandable that IO don’t want to show off too much of a game that is still many months away from completion, it does seem a shame because in the flesh, Hitman is looking like a corker. In cased you’ve missed it, here’s that Hitman: Absolution trailer. (Presumably that’s Diana in the shower there? Must be, surely.)
To the uninitiated, the trailer makes Absolution look like its ditched the subtle killing for a more action-heavy slant. Judging by the level being shown off at E3, this is simply not the case. At what stage of the game this level takes place is unclear, but very early on is likely. The setting is a disused library somewhere in Chicago, and following a city-wide Manhunt it’s where Agent 47 has been tracked down to by the cops (a few details on Absolution's backstory can be found here).
Freedom of choice has always been an integral part of the Hitman experience but in the library level of Hitman Absolution, you don’t have face the choice of how to off your target, you have to decide how you’re going to escape. Yup, the hunter has become the hunted and an unarmed Agent 47 must evade detection by the considerable number of rozzers and get the rock out of the place. The demo was scripted in such a way that the IO chap playing it was at pains to show the assembled as many takedowns and evasive manouevres as possible while 47 was in the library.
Watching someone follow a well-rehearsed route is obviously no substitue for playing through the level yourself but it was possible to get a sense of the, er, possibilities and it also showed off the new ‘Instinct’ feature of the game (which my touch-typed notes call ‘bat snese thing’). Instinct allows you to see the likely routes that enemies will take, showing up as glowing orange lines along the floor. It also highlights objects that could potentially be of use (in the demo a power chord glowed, was picked up, and then used to choke one of the coppers). When wearing a disguise, Instinct can be used to help impersonate whoever it is that you’re trying to pass yourself off as, and it can also highlight areas likely to be good hiding spots or shortcuts.
You’d be forgiven for having a suspicion that Instinct is a byword for ‘dumbing down’ but it actually appears to be a very handy tool for avoiding frustrating mission-restarts (and we’ve had plenty of those over the years of playing Hitman) and anyway, you don’t have to use it. What we did find a little odd was the radar showing where guards/police were placed, but not in which direction they’re looking. In the library, our demo man shows us much sneaking, some strangulations, a neck break using a stolen baton, dangling from a ledge before grabbing someone and throwing them off it, hostage-taking and using a body for cover, a shoot-out and breaking a chain to send a heavy object crashing through floors and onto some cops. Yup, there’s choice, and lots of it.
For the rest of the demo, which shifted from the library to a marijuana factory in an apartment via some pidgeon coops and a rooftop, I was absorbed by the exquisite level of detail that’s gone into Hitman: Absolution’s game world. The apartment, for example, was inhabited by a bunch of pot-heads, panicing about the sudden police presence and thinking themselves about to be raided. Not only was the dialogue amusing and well-delivered (the funniest bit: one of them desperately trying to flush the stash down the toilet) but the apartment had everything from hippy culture posters on the walls, records lolling around out of their pyschadelic sleeves and just a general attention to detail that was most awesome. Dude.
In fact everywhere you looked throughout the demo, in fact, you’d notice the small things, be it cracks in the wallpaper or dust from the books in the library. Likewise the characterisation, while not in the same league as L.A. Noire, was high quality, with believable faces and spot-on mannerisms. After the hustle, bustle and noise of the E3 show floor and so many different games I’ve forgotten the specifics but my notes also say ‘Music is really cool, rock.’ There’s some quality games journalism for you right there. Was Hitman: Absolution the single-player game of the show? By sticking to its 'freedom of choice' guns and classic gameplay but with new tricks, I rather think it might have been. We can't wait to see what else is in store for Agent 47.
The Hitman: Asbolution release date is marked for 2012. No more than yet, that.
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