by Chris Davis
previewed on PC
Last year, after almost half a decade of fans begging and screaming for a new entry into the Hitman franchise, developer IO Interactive finally relented to our demands, announcing the fifth title in the series, dubbed Absolution. The news of a new Hitman title was wonderful to hear, especially in the wake of the less than stellar Kane and Lynch games that had been released since the 2005 hit Blood Money. What was demonstrated last year though was decidedly a title that, while intriguing, wasn’t a true Hitman experience. Instead of a sandbox, exploration-based stealth game, what we saw was a strongly scripted, linear level that evoked the feel of Splinter Cell Conviction. It looked great, to be sure, but with no demonstration of traditional Hitman levels being present and only the promise of what we know and love being in the game, many of us were a bit put off.
Since E3 2011, publisher SquareEnix has been building a market campaign designed specifically to show just what is new and different with this latest title and it wasn’t until this year’s E3 that IO Interactive finally lived up to their promise. And, despite all the shooty, naughty nun, murder-focused trailers we’ve been receiving over the past year, I’m proud to declare that every Hitman aficionado will have something to smile about come this November.
Real Men do it with Garrote Wire
E3’s hands-off demo took place much later in the game, sometime after Agent 47 has a falling out with the International Contracts Agency and is now on the run. This is made evident not only by the removal of the trademark barcode tattoo from the back of his head but also by the fact that he seems even more cautious than normal. His crusade against his former employers at the ICA has brought him to the small South Dakotan town of Hope, a scene that feels just like any other small town you can drive through in the United States, albeit from a very outdated perspective. Agent 47’s targets are members of a greaser gang called the Cougars that holds control of Hope, the leader of which, Lenny, is about as dumb as a post save for his knowledge of a woman named Victoria whom 47 needs to find. Before you can interrogate him, however, several of his cronies need to be dealt with, a task our demonstrator went right into.
Sneaking in through the backdoor of a small convenience store, one of the gang members is chatting up the female clerk as 47 hides behind cover. The target finally leaves, heading upstairs behind the counter, the giddy clerk all too oblivious of our favorite bald assassin. To distract her, 47 activates a radio on the counter behind him which draws the woman out, allowing him a slim window to sneak by and head upstairs. Spying the target looking out the window and talking on his cell, 47 sneaks up quietly and kills the man with his trademark piano wire. After hiding the body in a closet we head back down the stairs only to find that the clerk has returned to the counter and is blocking 47’s progress. Rather than kill the innocent woman, the assassin pulls his trusty Sliver Baller pistol, complete with suppressor, and fires at the car just outside the front of the store. With the car alarm blaring and the clerk investigating, the player easily slipped out the door from whence he came.
Much like its predecessor Blood Money, Hitman Absolution builds on the 2005 hit’s grading system, but this time in a far more real-time focus. Rather than forcing the player to play through the entire level before knowing the results of their run, a corner of the screen’s HUD indicates the player’s current skill status, grading the player based on kills, the method thereof, whether you were detected, et cetera. The IO Interactive rep for the day’s demo clearly wanted to show off the potential of what the new Glacier engine is capable of and went directly for the next target.
Across the street in an autoshop lies the next member of the Cougar gang, but unfortunately the place is covered with police officers. Sneaking behind some tires, 47 enters the shop quietly, making his way upstairs toward the victim. After sneaking around for a bit, though, 47 is spotted by an officer. Before he can react, 47 shanks the man and the officer's lifeless body hits the ground with a loud thud. Our demonstrator decides not to hide the body and continues upstairs, eventually finding the Cougar member. 47’s next kill is a little more brutal, running the man straight through with a screwdriver. Finding some C4 and certain that the cops will eventually find their now deceased fellow officer our player decides to make the deaths an accident, dragging the target’s body outside behind a leaky gas pump. Sneaking back through the shop the player hides behind a stack of old tires as an officer is blocking his escape route. Equipping the C4, the player tosses it next to the gas pump, causing a loud enough thump to draw the cop’s attention away. Slipping by, the cop has no time to react as the player hits the trigger, causing a huge explosion that kills everyone in the vicinity. As more officers converge on the scene none of them take notice of the conspicuously well-dressed bald man walking away from the fiery scene. Two down, three to go.