For as much as we’ve seen of IO Interactive and Square Enix’s long awaited Hitman: Absolution over the past year or so, it always seems to surprise us whenever we get a new look at it. We’ve played through the first five chapters of the game (included as part of the final pre-release preview code) at least 3,459 times, and delightfully unexpected stuff just keeps cropping up. So to get you primed for the game’s launch in a couple weeks, we thought we’d give you a little taste of some of the highlights--some humorous, some horrendously violent, some just because they pleased our senses--from our time with Hitman: Absolution's opening levels.
Chapter 1 -- Chicago
The first level in the game is your standard tutorial setup. No real challenges to overcome, just a series of encounters designed to familiarize yourself with Agent 47’s sneaky-death-dealing-in-disguise ways that culminates with you taking out your former employer, Diana Burnwood. The level takes place in a sprawling compound inhabited by security guards, yard workers, and even personal chefs. The highlight for us though came during the ledge-walking training sequence where you have to sneak to and enter through a window that looks out onto a cliff.
But before you can climb through, you are treated to an inspiring phone conversation between a guard and his doctor who informs him that he doesn’t have prostate cancer. In his elated state, he blurts out, “Whew! No one can piss on this day!” which is unfortunate because this also happens to be the scenario that teaches you how to pull people out of windows. We were super happy for the guy for about half a second, and then we remembered why we were on that ledge in the first place and did what had to be done.
Chapter 2 -- King of Chinatown
We have seen this level a number of times before now, but there are still tons of details to seek out and enjoy. Your primary task is to take out the titular “King” as he makes his way around the crowded streets of Chinatown. There are dozens of ways to go about doing this, but my favorite couldn’t have been simpler, but it was the abruptness of it that made it so memorable.
After taking out a fry cook and swapping outfits, I took my place behind the grill facing out towards the counter where the King stopped by to grab a bite to eat. Following a brief exchange about how it would really help our relationship if the vendor paid his bills on time, I ducked down behind the grill as if to tie my shoelaces, pulled out my silenced pistol, popped up, and buried a slug right between the King’s eyes. In the ensuing panic, I managed to slip into the screaming crowd just as security guards arrived to investigate. I ended up finding a perfect hiding spot between a pillar and a stack of crates and waited until the heat died down before slipping out and finding the exit to finish the level. Sometimes the simplest things are the most enjoyable.
Chapter 3 -- Terminus
In this level, you have to make your maneuver through the lobby of a baddie-filled hotel to reach an elevator so you can access the upper floors and meet the game’s primary villain for the first time. For as many great moments as there are in this level, the opening sequence is my favorite. When the scene opens, 47 is standing in the scummiest, grimiest alleyway you can imagine as rain pours down around him. At the far end of the alley, red neon letters spell out “Terminus” on a building (aka your destination). Not only does the scene showcase the game’s stellar lighting design, but when combined with the rain effects--especially the way the neon and other light sources look glimmering in rippling puddles along the street--it’s as if you are actually standing in that dank, damp alley yourself being verbally assaulted by an equally damp and dank homeless man. So much of Absolution’s design is about mood, and this scene is literally dripping with it.
Chapter 4 -- Run for Your Life
At the end of Terminus, the hotel erupts into a towering inferno, and this is where you start the next chapter. There are some great cinematic moments during this level, but the standout for me comes at the very end of the level as you find yourself having to weave your way through a super crowded train platform, avoiding the scores of police officers searching the area for you. What makes it especially intense is that all the cops use flashlights to scan the crowd, so not only do you have to make sure to avoid getting too close to them, but you have to dodge their lights as well. It gets even more heart-pounding at the end when you have to wait for the train to arrive so you can board it and escape. If you ever wanted to know how long 45 seconds really is, this is the sequence for you.
Chapter 5 -- Hunter and Hunted
The final previewable level takes place in an especially colorful strip club filled to the pasty-drawers with patrons and scantily clad ladies. Aside from the obvious eye-catching elements, there are so many phenomenal little details to pick out this scene. From the bartender calling out to customers to take their drink orders to the fact that you can drop a disco ball on an unsuspecting person’s head, lots to enjoy. But my favorite was the first option you have for taking out the designated target. After subduing a guard, I used his keycard to access a backroom that just happened to be adjacent to one of the private dance rooms in the back of the club.
The key feature of this particular room is the two-way mirror that connects the two rooms. Once in place, it’s just a matter of waiting for the target and his essentially topless companion to enter the room and take their positions. Assuming you want to avoid simply blowing away both of them, you have to time your shot around the stripper’s gyrations. For as many times as I’ve seen strip clubs in games, this is the first time I’ve killed a dude through a two-way mirror during a strip tease. I don’t know what took so long, but boy was it worth the wait.
As you can tell, Hitman: Absolution is overflowing with little moments and details that will have players comparing notes and sharing stories for months to come. The ones highlighted above don’t even really scratch the surface of what Absolution has to offer. And you better believe we look forward to uncovering all of the game’s hidden gems when it lands on store shelves November 20.