An in-depth look at Hitman: Absolution @ E3
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 12th Jun 2012
Up until the presentation at E3 2012 much of what we knew about the upcoming sequel in the Hitman series, Hitman: Absolution, revolved around previous briefings (at E3 2011 and PAX), the very small amount of information handed out in dribs and drabs as part of the PR campaign, and the small slice contained in the Hitman Sniper Challenge mini-game that was released last month. The view that we had largely revolved around Agent 47 and his stealthy escape from the Chicago PD in an abandoned library, with an emphasis upon his extra senses, keen abilities, and his patented techniques for taking out the enemy silently and swiftly.
For that reason the refocusing upon a new and different environment in the game was both startling and pleasing -- this time instead of the dark and forbidding cliff-edge of a building full of cops we found ourselves in an urban setting in which the focus included city gangs, their members, and the need to take out their leadership, all the while avoiding thugs, the police, and potential witnesses -- all part of the official presentation in the small theater at E3.
The complete E3 2011 Library Demo
The presentation began with a brief video and introduction, and then we were walked through the mission in which Agent 47 was tasked with seeking out and assassinating the gang leaders, and as the hand's-off demo progressed we had the chance to see a broader range of tactics and the enhanced Hitman Senses -- called "Instinct" -- that offer gamers the ability to master their environment by seeing the world the way that Agent 47 does.
What Instinct brings to the table is an enhanced and intuitive understanding of not just the environment and the objects in it that may be of potential use to him, but also a color-based glow-effect that highlights different characters in that environment, for example police officers highlight in yellow, while the target highlights in red, allowing Agent 47 to identify and track his target but also remain situationally aware of other potential threats in the immediate area -- skills that are a product of both his rare genetically engineered nature and the special skills that he has acquired through a lifetime of training and employing his special skills.
A New Game Engine
The process of creating Absolution began with the development of a new game engine that was intended to solve many of the limiting factors that previous games in the series faced -- for example in Blood Money the developers introduced the crowd-component as part of the blending options for moving through the environment and, wanting to further develop that, built into the new game engine support for up to 1200 people in any given game area crowd -- an improvement that really stands out in the Chinatown segment that they provided as the stage demo (see video below):
Hitman: Absolution E3 2012 Stage Demo
Of course blending into the crowd is only one element of the process -- as with the previous games Agent 47 can make very effective use of taking out strategic characters and changing into their clothing or uniform, effectively allowing him free access to areas that otherwise would be off-limits, which is a very effective strategy to use when you decide to make a silent and secret kill using poison or the garrote.
A New Personal Objective
This time around Agent 47 is following a different path -- in the past games his motivation has always been centered around the missions that he was assigned to by The Agency, through his handler, Dianna, so when he gets assigned to kill her it seems as if his world is coming apart. Despite personal misgivings Agent 47 completes the contract, but as she is dying Dianna tells him things that he did not know and asks for a personal favor... Remember that it was thanks largely to Dianna that he made it out of the last game alive, and he knows that he owes her.
The favor that she asks is for him to search for a particular girl in Chicago -- but after completing the hit on his former handler his world truly does go off the rails as The Agency turns on him -- suddenly the mythical ghost-like Agent 47, who has always existed as a murky almost unbelieved entity, has been completely outed! The police now have his photo and an accurate description of him, and he is on everyone's most-wanted list! Of course that betrayal cannot go unpunished, and for Agent 47 the process of evening the score begins with finding the girl -- and taking out some strategic targets along the way.
The Saints Trailer
A new element to the game is the Challenge System, which provides level-by-level a variety of challenges that take different forms, such as unique or different kills, multiple kills, stealth and the like, that is organized in such a way as to encourage level replay (in fact this immensely adds to the replay value of the game) which will find gamers playing through levels again and again to look for ways to obtain a higher challenge score.
The story of Agent 47 began on PC with Hitman: Codename 47 in 2000, continued on PC, PS2, Xbox, and GameCube with 2002's Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, then really exploded on PC, Xbox and PS2 with 2004's Hitman: Contracts. It is fair enough to say that those first three games created the huge following and fanbase that the series enjoys, but most gamers will say that it was Hitman: Blood Money in 2006 that really set the hook -- largely because it was the first game in the series to arrive on the Xbox 360, but mostly because it offered a much deeper relationship with Agent 47 and, naturally, a better understanding of what made him tick.
Set for release in November of this year, Absolution will continue the story and serve as the most revealing game in the series so far, filling in gaps in the background of both Agent 47, The Agency, and the people behind it, but mostly it will deliver a Hitman fix to gamers who have been waiting for nearly seven full years for that pleasure.
The infamous "Skin" trailer in all its glory.