Hitman Absolution E3 2011 First Look Preview -- Our Favorite Hitman Is BackBy Eric Eckstein - Posted Jun 10, 2011
Our first look at the Hitman Absolution E3 demo is of rain on a window and a body thrown through glass. We’re not entirely sure which of Agent 47’s sins he’s struggling to be absolved from, but he’s in definite trouble. The Chicago police department are swarming a library, seeking him out as part of a citywide manhunt, and he’s weaponless. Clearly, a job has just gone wrong for our favorite hitman.
What’s running on this pre-alpha PS3 build is IO’s proprietary Glacier 2 engine, internal tech from famed developer IO Interactive, and the visuals are breathtaking, with the beams of flashlights cutting through the dark or the attention to detail in his trademark suit…but this is not the Hitman I remember from Blood Money, the last foray of our “hero.” In fact, Hitman: Absolution seems to be a bit of a re-invention for the series, integrating more cinematic, linear gameplay into the mix, almost akin to Splinter Cell: Conviction or Batman: Arkham City as he hides in the shadows. In fact, Agent 47 can engage an “Instinct” mode, which is a dead ringer for Detective mode in Batman, allowing him to see where enemies are and infer where they are headed by seeing a visible path for each person.
This development speaks to one of the core design principles: Allowing the player to see through the eyes of Agent 47. This lets players make more informed decisions, and giving more freedom of choice to the player. It also allows him to sneak about, dashing from cover to cover in secret until he can slowly take out the overwhelming law-abiding police force one by one.
Yup, he’s a hitman and a cop killer, and we have to assume they’re all bad instead of you being a really evil guy for taking out Chicago’s finest indiscriminately. And the deaths are brutal. One gets silently strangled with a power cord, another one choked by hand, while one other gets brained by a bust and thrown into a hole. Absolution puts the player into pure survival mode for this chapter, as he sabotages a fuse box to distract the police and escape. But the only way to ultimately make it out alive is to take a rookie cop hostage. Holding him as a human shield, Agent 47 tries to back his way out of the library but all eyes are on him as is every cop’s weapon. Eventually, 47 breaks his neck, and all bets are off. Gunfire pops loudly, but you can’t engage in a total firefight if you’re going to come out of this one okay. Instead, he dashes away up a flight of stairs, dropping a chandelier on his pursuers by shooting a chain, and crossing a beam until he can make it outside onto the roof of the building, triggering a cutscene.
But it’s not over. A helicopter flies in, the wind knocking over the pigeon cages as it searches for him. He dashes through them and leaps between buildings, until emerging unbeknownst to a patrolling cop. It’s time to do what Hitman does best: Disguises and impersonations. With no one looking, Agent 47 offs the cop and dons his uniform. This lets him walk about with impunity, to some degree. He walks inside a nearby apartment, and finds himself in a pot den, with one jumpy stoner rushing to the john to flush the weed. When the real police arrive, our nerves are rattled again as they ask aloud who he is… but then we brain one of them with a bong and manage to avoid an incident.
Still, our Hitman needs to escape and as he rides an elevator or walks past scores of boys in blue, his Instinct reads give him clues as to how he’s being perceived. One cop in particular wonders inside his mind “isn’t he going the wrong way?” as you head for an exit, forcing the player to stop at a nearby table to try and minimize any scrutiny until the officer moves on. A SWAT team hurries past, and one guy recognizes you (or mistakes you?) for someone else before you quickly make it onto the street. Blending into a giant crowd at a train station, an Inception-esque score blares as the Hitman Absolution demo concludes.
While amazingly well-done, everything in the Hitman demo seemed incredibly scripted and linear and far removed from the more open nature of previous Hitman games. There didn’t seem as if there was a ton of choice in how you escape, other than which cops you take out and when. It’s not what I remember, but the mission was also not representative of an assassination plan per the other games. However, everything I saw was incredibly polished. If it wasn’t a game in the Hitman series, I wouldn’t bring it up as a nitpick, but just sharing an observation. So far though, Hitman Absolution looks incredible, a visual feast that features one of the best cinematic experiences at E3 2011, only rivaled by its sibling, Tomb Raider. Between Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider and IO Interactive’s Hitman Absolution, 2012 is going to be one gritty, gorgeous year for SquareEnix, and we’ll definitely be sneaking more peeks to let you know how this assassin plays in the months to come.
Hitman Absolution is coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in 2012.