I had the opportunity to see a developer walkthrough of Hitman: Absolution here at PAX East, and the game is shaping up to be the most flexible and accessible entry in the series.
The level we saw takes Agent 47 through an orphanage in pursuit of a young girl of unknown importance. Unfortunately, a thug and his cronies are already on site, shooting up the place. You’ll have a choice to make: do this bloody or keep it quiet.
We saw both.
First, the developers took us through using a more professional approach. 47 moved from cover to cover smoothly, covering his tracks and pacifying enemies with nonlethal attacks. From there, it’s a matter of dumping them into freezers, laundry shoots and even ball pits to keep them out of sight.
Popups will let you know if an enemy becomes suspicious and, even more importantly, when they settle back down. You can pick up items for distraction, like rattles or toy robots, or simply grab a syringe and put a foe down for a nice, long rest. Of course, what fun is silence?
The second time through, we were given the opportunity to see necks broken, axes buried in heads from up close and at a distance and more use of the Instinct feature. With this, you can sense where enemies are located and, in combat, use “point shooting” to mark and execute enemies, detonate explosives and more. It’s a limited resource that can be recharged by progressing through the levels.
The impact of the explosions was impressive. Fire realistically sets the environment aflame. The slow motion results of the marked executions was impressive, especially when it came to the slow motion blowback of enemies caught in the blast.
The enemy AI seems brilliant, with enemies adapting to your actions and smartly reacting to the presence (or absence) of their comrades. Sometimes, being more violent will reward you with additional information from a foe. Apparently, torture works just fine.
For those new to the series, you’ll experience a self-encapsulated story. You won’t be missing anything by coming aboard at this point. For those that have been following Agent 47’s assignments for years, though, you’ll find small nods to previous adventures. Legacy players will also benefit from the emotional weight of some of the narrative moments.
We were teased with one final bit of information. When next we see Hitman: Absolution (probably at E3), we’ll get a look at the more open levels that will encourage more experimentation.
Hitman: Absolution will be very quietly stalking you until it releases on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC later this year.