Preview: Hitman: Absolution
Six years. That’s how long it has been since Agent 47 graced the gaming world with the spectacular title Blood Money, which introduced a smarter, more intuitive stealth system that not only made you feel like a contracted killer, but a professional one at that. Absolution aims to take all of those elements and improve on them, while making Agent 47 and his victims look all the more sexy in the new Glacier 2 engine. In short; 47 is back, and he’s brought his two Silverballers along for the ride.
Title: Hitman: Absolution
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Expected Price: R499 (PS3, Xbox 360), R339 (PC)
Release Date: November 20th
Hitman: Absolution is set after the events of Blood Money and catches up with Agent 47 just before all hell breaks loose. Considering Blood Money released six years ago, I think a little refresher is in order. At the end of Blood Money Agent 47 was able to fake his death with the help of his long-time ICA handler, Diana Burnwood. This allowed 47 to get the jump on The Franchise, killing their leader at his own funeral and apparently ending a massive conspiracy. But in true videogame style, The Franchise was one a small time player in an even bigger conspiracy plot, setting the stage for Absolution. Blood Money ends with 47 going missing, with Diana and the ICA not knowing his whereabouts, which were also kept a mystery to the player.
Absolution kicks off with 47 storming Diana’s safe house, which was seen in the first real trailer for the game. Apparently 47′s first hit is on his former handler and partner, who upon death begs you to go and “search for the truth”. After killing Diana, Agent 47 is deemed a traitor by the ICA and forced to go on the run, not only evading his former employees but the tipped off law as well. This scenario means that 47 will have to utilise black market dealers and other sources for weapons and gadgets, as well as use what is available around him. This also suggests that this latest story will be a lot more personal and focused on 47 himself, while previous entries detached you from the cold blooded killer as he took down target after target. It’s not the most original story you’re going to find, but considering 47 isn’t your typical protagonist, there is a lot of room for interesting story and plot twists.
Hitman titles have always been revered for their emphasis on stealth and the brilliant execution of their various game mechanics. The ability to make all your hits look like accidents was a massive feature in Blood Money, and it’s good to hear that this feature has spilled over into Absolution. Missions will still be set in small sandbox areas, allowing you a great deal of freedom when planning your hits on targets. These small open areas also offer various different ways to hide, blend in and eventually kill your target. From some of the gameplay shown, 47 will be able to hide in shadows, blend into his surroundings by interacting with various world objects and even take complete unseen routes by utilising vents and high perches. Of course, no Hitman game would be complete without the ability to hide bodies and steal clothing for disguises, allowing you to literally walk past guards and your target unseen. None of this is essential new to the franchise, but it’s the way they’ve been built on that makes this latest Hitman very different.
Agent 47 now posses something called Instinct, which allows him to see enemies in a pseudo X-ray vision type way. Not only will this help you identify various enemies it will also display their walking paths and level of alert. So think Agent 47 with something like Eagle Vision from Assassin’s Creed or Detective Mode from Batman: Arkham Asylum and you’ll get a good idea of what Instinct mode is. It’s a rather big addition to 47′s repertoire, but if you’re more confortable with a more realistic Hitman you can always turn this new feature off, as well as disable Absolution’s new Mini-Mao. Unlike previous entries, Absolution will feature a mini-map in the HUB that will relay a lot of important information to players. Apart from marking your targets, the mini-map will inform you of you suspicion levels and which enemies are close to recognising who you are. The map will also inform you when you’re in high risk and restricted areas, as well as show the current status of your target or targets. Again, this can all be turned off for a more pure experience, but whether or not these new features make the game easier is yet to be seen.
Instinct isn’t only used for seeing enemies through walls and is tied in with various other stealth mechanics throughout Absolution. Instinct is used when covering your face to avoid detection in a disguise, but most notably Instinct is used in a new feature called Point Shooting. Point Shooting is extremely similar to the Execution mechanic in the latest Splinter Cell entries, allowing you to take out various enemies quickly and efficiently. Instead of automatically killing a set amount of enemies, entering Instinct Mode will slow everything down and allow you to take out the enemies yourself, all Red Dead reception style. It’s a tried and tested mechanic, but how well it fits into the more subtle Hitman formula will be interesting to see.
Hitman: Absolution may not feature a distinct multiplayer mode, but it does offer an interesting alternative. Contracts Mode allows anyone to create custom challenges within single-player campaign missions, which can them be uploaded and attempted by other players around the world. You could chose to challenges players to complete missions with certain weapons, in a specific amount of time or in a particular order. There are numerous possibilities and ways to create challenges, and playing other custom created challenges is bound to make even the most boring missions a lot more challenging and engaging. Additionally, challenge progress will be recorded on online leaderboards, allowing you to compare your progress to players from around the world.
Sadly, that’s all we really know about Hitman: Absolution at this stage, but considering there’s just over a month to wait until its release it’s not such a big problem either. If you’ve played Sniper Challenge yet you’ll know just how beautiful the new Glacier 2 engine looks, and there’s no doubting the amount of effort IO Interactive has put not this long-awaited sequel to one of gaming’s most revered franchise’s. Agent 47 is set to return late in Novemeber, and needless to say we cannot wait. Be sure to check it out at rAge this weekend as well.