[NYCC 2012] Preview: Hitman Absolution is pure stealth assassin bliss
The Hitman series has been thrilling fans of stealth action for over a decade now, with the famously bald Agent 47 having cemented himself as a truly iconic character. Hitman: Absolution however, sees a big twist for the series, as 47 has crossed out the barcode on the back of his head, symbolizing his status as a now rogue agent. Having seen some of the fantastic preview footage of the game, I was very excited to go hands-on with a recent build at New York Comic Con 2012, getting a look at the new features that make this Hitman sequel unique.
At the core of Hitman: Absolution is the classic gameplay fans have come to love. Agent 47 can easily dispatch his enemies with a variety of killing tools, stash the body and slip into his victim’s clothes to escape detection. The game uses a simple circular minimap to display NPCs, showing how they are moving about and what alert status they are in. An orange NPC will be suspicious of the strange looking gardener with the Uzi, and will often attempt to search you out. A red NPC meanwhile, knows that something is afoot, and must be dealt with before he can alert some pals. To keep NPCs from getting suspicious, you’ll have to use a combination of stealthy movement, and the ‘Instinct’ ability, a resource (regenerating in easier modes) which lets Agent 47 avoid suspicion by attempting to better blend into his surroundings.
The first mission involved infiltrating a mansion in search of 47’s old boss, who has now been made a target. I was very pleased to see that the game still offers a variety of different tools to use for the assassinations. I found a radio in the kitchen which could be used to distract guards, as well as many chances to sneak up and bean unsuspecting victims. I chose to activate the automatic window blinds, something to which the keycard-carrying guard was not a fan. As he moved in to turn the lights down, he quickly caught a statue to the skull, letting me complete my assassination mission once through the previously locked door. On the way out, I also got to try the pinpoint targeting system, which lets you freeze time and pick your targets carefully, then let loose with a cinematic bloodbath courtesy of 47.
With his former lady boss dead, 47 had some second thoughts, choosing to abandon the corporation to help save a young girl his boss had been protecting, an apparent escapee from the same testing which produced 47. He dropped the girl off at a church for safekeeping, leading me to believe she may be related to the infamous sexy nuns seen in an earlier Hitman trailer.
From there I tried another mission, now tasked with killing the so-called “King of Chinatown.” The game truly offers an absurd number of possibilities, mentioning that there are 12 possible ways to make this go down (with achievement bonuses for those who retry the mission with the different tactics). The easiest one I found involved setting off the man’s car alarm, then setting off explosives when he came to investigate. Getting access to the apartment with the sniper rifle was a bit trickier (especially trying to escape afterwards), and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to lure the King under the precarious hanging cargo waiting to be shot down, assumedly crushing him.
Though my playthrough ended shortly after a few attempts at this mission, I was definitely looking forward to more. Hitman: Absolution looks to be the best Hitman game yet, and should be a major breadwinner for publishers Square-Enix. Keep your eye on this agent for sure!