Hitman Absolution: Agent 47 is Up to His Old Tricks
It’s been six long years since the last entry into the Hitman series and I like to think that Agent 47 has spent his hiatus thinking up new and unique ways to dispatch his targets. This week at E3 I got a chance to go hands-on with Hitman Absolution and I’m happy to say that Agent 47 does indeed have a few new tricks up his perfectly pressed sleeves.
The demo available at E3 had only one mission playable, but the possible ways in which the mark could be dealt with gave the mission excellent replay value. Agent 47′s target is a drug kingpin who calls himself “the king of Chinatown” and like any good king, this guy likes to conduct his business in plain view of the people. Naturally, this presents some complications when it comes to dethroning the King as Chinatown is hardly a secluded getaway. The streets are teeming with potential witnesses and stealthily murdering a man standing in the middle of a crowd poses quite the challenge.
Chinatown is rendered in extraordinary detail. Realistic flames leap from woks, ornate pillars are adorned with dragon carvings and paper Chinese lanterns hang from ropes overhead. I have to say I was also impressed by how alive the crowd felt. They gathered around food vendors, had realistic conversations and became very concerned if I decided to pull out my shiny Silverballers (Agent 47′s trademark guns.) And if the crowd became alarmed it was really only a matter of time before either the King’s personal security or one of the wandering cops came to investigate the situation and that always led to disaster. It was good to see the game was still punishing players for going in guns blazing.
So after testing the crowd’s reaction to having an armed gunman among them I decided to opt for a more stealthy approach on my second try. The first thing I did was try and pull up a map to get a feel for the level’s layout. To my dismay I discovered there was no map, as in other Hitman games. I did however find “instinct mode” which showed my target as having a bright red outline when activated. After identifying him, I wandered up to the King’s pagoda and listened to a cell phone conversation in which he requested that a drug dealer bring him some “candy.” That didn’t really seem to be much use to me as I assumed the dealer would come to meet him and they’d still be both be in plain sight.
So after some wandering around I came across a fuse box in a back alley. A hint popped up telling me I could use this to cause a distraction. “How handy!” thought I, as I cut the lights in the alley. This brought the attention of a guard who was muttering about the damn fuse box. I introduced the guard to my piano wire and swiftly acquired a brand new guard outfit. That left the small problem of a dead man in only his undergarments sprawled out on the pavement. So I did what any good Hitman would do and started dragging the body toward a dumpster.
Unfortunately, the King’s drug dealer (I recognized him from a hint during the load screen) happened to round the corner while I was in the act of concealing the body. It was pretty embarrassing for both of us. I was dragging around a half-naked dead man and he was dressed in a very unflattering 90′s track suit. Luckily, he hesitated long enough for me to pounce on him and initiate my melee attack. Melee in Hitman Absolution is decided through a quicktime event in which the player must press a sequence of buttons to pummel the enemy. Square hits him in the jaw, circle knees him in the sternum, etc. It’s one of the less impressive features of the game, but it did the trick of downing the drug dealer.
Well, it seemed kind of silly to change out of my newly acquired guard outfit, but I figured it would be of more use to disguise myself as a drug dealer. I donned the grotesque white track suit, hid the bodies and continued down the alley to see if anyone else was wandering about. But instead of finding more people, I happened upon the drug dealer’s apartment. Two shiny lines of cocaine were laid out in the apartment and when I approached a hint told me that I needed the Fugu fish to poison the coke. There was also a sniper rifle in the apartment but that just seemed too easy. So I set off in search of poison fish.
I had been lurking around a food cart, contemplating murdering a chef for his outfit when the King of Chinatown strolled right up to me and started asking where his drugs were. I was momentarily confused. I checked the control layout for an “answer question” button. There was none. Agent 47 stared blankly at his target. The target stared back. After about 3 seconds I tried to slink away. The King of Chinatown followed. I wandered aimlessly through the crowd for a minute before I realized that the King wanted me to take him to his drugs. Well things could not have gone better if I’d actually planned them that way! I took the King back down the alley (good thing I’d decided to hide the bodies) and up to the dealer’s apartment where I dispatched him with a bullet to the head. The target was dead, there were no witnesses and I exited Chinatown without incident. The hit was a success.
I felt pretty good about how the scenario played out. I’d come up with a plan but was easily able to improvise on the fly and change my tactics as necessary. I wasn’t too thrilled with the close combat system and the lack of a map was frustrating but putting that aside I found the demo very entertaining. After talking with some of the other E3 attendees playing, I found there was a myriad of different ways to off the target. Players could push him down an open manhole, blow his car up, poison his drugs, cause construction equipment to fall on him or take him out with a good old fashioned sniper rifle.
Overall I felt Hitman Absolution was worth getting excited about. The environments were bursting with detail, the gameplay was challenging and the number of options a player has when faced with a task is a welcome change from the many games at E3 that allow the player no real choice in completing their objectives. As long as the developers over at IO Interactive don’t start throwing a bunch of action packed levels into this stealth-based game, it should please fans immensely.