Hitman: Absolution

[E3 2011] Sing for Absolution

Agent 47 is back in Hitman: Absolution, and my how things have changed.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: June 17, 2011
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Without a doubt, the best kinds of surprises at E3 are the ones that are so pleasantly unexpected that you end up leaving the demonstration of a game utterly flabbergasted. It had already happened once with our game of the show, BioShock Infinite, but that was something that had captured most of the E3 buzz from the moment people started streaming into their behind-closed-doors showings. Hitman: Absolution, for some reason, wasn't getting nearly the same kind of praise, and we aim to fix that.

Let's be absolutely clear here. In something like a decade and a half of E3s, we've never seen something like the 20-some minute hands-off demonstration put on by IO Interactive. Granted, it was "just" Hitman, but with a complete ground-up redesign of not just the developer's core engine, but their entire tool chain, this is no longer the Hitman you know. With the new tools in place, the team was able to effectively create a story for every level of Absolution. At any point, Agent 47 can choose to crash into the events as they play out or do what he does best: skulk in the shadows and eliminate threats one by one.

What's truly amazing about this revitalized take on Hitman's classic stealth gameplay is that it's often more fun to watch things happen. As the demo opened up on a dilapidated Chicago library, we were treated to the most immediate benefit of the new engine: the cobweb-caked shelves, the light that would spill in during lightning crackles, the way dust just hung in the air, seeming undisturbed for years. It all blended with a booming one-note-heavy soundtrack that made 47's entrance that much more atmospheric. But it was in watching the dozens of cops that spilled into the library below him as 47 perched on a thin ledge behind a column that we really got a sense of all this "story" nonsense.

As the cops fanned out, 47 was able to kick off his Instinct, which would show enemies through walls and even a burning trail to indicate where they'd be walking soon if undisturbed. But as he sat there listening, the story of the level became apparent. Chatter was almost constant, and each of the cops that spoke up seemed to have their own defined personalities. Veteran cops would pick on a rookie, telling him it was just hazing as he tried to restore power to the building. That, of course, wouldn't do, so 47 waited until the power box was no longer guarded, then sabatoged it, plunging the fuzz into (relative) darkness.

What followed was a textbook example of divide and suppress. 47 can lean over objects to take down enemies, pulling their bodies behind cover and out of sight. His Instinct can help show when enemy patrols will diverge, allowing for quick kills. As he snuck silently around the library nearly always just on the other side of multiple enemies, he quietly picked them off. At times, the absence of a verbal response from a buddy would lure a cop away, at which point he could be taken out.

Being on the run, 47 doesn't really have the normal toys he would employ pre-mission. Here, in this silent library, he has to make the most of what he can. A power cord becomes a makeshift garrote, easily strangling a victim. Marble busts become powerful blunt instruments, while a policeman's baton or gun can be wrestled from him and used immediately or after taking someone hostage.
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