by Chris Davis
previewed on X360
You Better Watch Out...
At the beginning of the last console generation a newly formed studio named IO Interactive created what would become one of the most interesting takes on the stealth action genre ever created: Hitman. With its inaugural outing Hitman introduced us to a far more methodical approach than had ever been attempted in games like Metal Gear Solid or Tenchu before it. After four successful titles over the course of six years, IO decided it was time to try something new and while their follow-up efforts with Kane and Lynch have certainly turned heads once again they have not lived up to the legacy and grace that the adventures of the world’s greatest assassin experienced.
Five years since the series' last outing, a lot has changed in the industry and the fear that the influence of modern gaming aesthetics might adversely affect the game are well placed. Judging by the demo I was allowed to see, however, Hitman Absolution looks to be the comeback tour we’ve been wanting for so long.
Agent 47, the darling of the International Contracts Agency, has seen and carried out just about any kind of assassination ever conceived of. From drug lords to murderers, from paedophiles to mob witnesses, no target is too difficult to get close to so long as the one who calls out the hit has both the cash and the right connections. 47’s lengthy career has had him travelling the globe in search of his next target from Russia to Columbia to even the White House, but his riskiest assignment yet takes him to a place that has been consumed by crime and corruption: Chicago.
After having taken care of his latest victim, 47 is on the run from the Chicago PD. Alone, out-gunned, and without any of his trademark equipment to aid him in the evasion of his pursuers, 47 crashes through the window of a derelict building with dozens of cops hot on his trail. It is here that our demo begins.
Hidden in the darkness from the men chasing him, the library’s rundown environment coupled with the raging storm outside makes for an ideal environment to play a game of cat and mouse. Huddling behind toppled bookshelves and dust-ridden desks, 47 makes notice of his only viable exit: the large open doors on the other side of the building. Unfortunately, between him and that exit there are over a dozen police officers whose loud-mouth chief insists that they shoot first and ask questions later.
Hitman Absolution’s gameplay in this particular instance is a dramatic departure from the games we have come to love over the years. While certain missions will retain the classic Hitman formula of a sandbox environment to explore and plan out your actions with, this occurrence is an example of what gamers can expect to be playing a majority of the time when the game sees its full release. Similar in approach to recent stealth titles like Splinter Cell Conviction and Batman Arkham Asylum, 47 has to play it cool without the element of social stealth to keep him safe. Staying out of sight is in his best interest and the darkness of the library is his new companion.