Apr 7, 2012

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PAX East – Hands-Off Preview: Hitman Absolution

PAX East – Hands-Off Preview: Hitman Absolution

On location at PAX East in Boston, Eric and I had the chance to be the first two at the convention to view live gameplay from the first Hitman game since Blood Money in 2006, Absolution.

What Square Enix made clear was its goal to make Hitman: Absolution a more personal experience for both the player and the main character, Agent 47. ¬†Within Absolution, Agent 47 will be tasked with killing Diana Burnwood, 47′s only real connection to the world around him.

The demo showed a mission called “The Orphanage” and required that Agent 47 infiltrate an orphanage to retrieve a girl named Victoria at the request of Diana. Square Enix chose this level because it felt like the linear style of the gameplay in this particular mission allowed for the developers to show how choices within the game altered the path.

In the first playthrough of the Orphange, the player focused on the element of stealth, infiltrating the area and removing only those who were necessary. The development team has designed this aspect of the game to appeal to those players who have played previous Hitman games and enjoyed the goal of complete stealth, like a true assassin. Agent 47 can use objects in the environment to distract hostiles, whether it be for throwing to take an enemy’s attention away from a passageway, or hiding in a closet. The rewards for playing this way are indeed numerous. Players will have the chance to listen to the individual stories told by the enemies and understand the fears they face, or just to realize that the enemy is high and reaching for the stars painted on the ceiling. Perhaps more important to veteran Hitman players is the ultimate goal of “Silent Assassin,” which the developers described as being harder to achieve than in previous games.

New to the game is the ability to play as an action-movie, guns blazing. When discussing the reasons why they have made this alteration to the game, the emphasis was on opening the game up to a larger audience. Traditionally, being discovered in a Hitman game meant mission failure. In Absolution, should a player be quick enough, killing all the enemies within a certain area will allow for the player to essentially save the mission without every enemy within the level flocking to Agent 47. This new element will also allow players to contain a mistake. Playing this way will provide a much different gameplay experience, however, and some people might consider a second playthrough using this style because the player becomes knowledgeable about areas and items he or she would not have found out about by going completely silent.

Players also have the chance to use “point shooting.” While entering a room, the user will have the chance to select various targets within the room, whether it be an enemy’s legs, an explosive container, an enemy’s privates, or all of the above. Many people should have a lot of fun utilizing this feature, yet it somehow was not as gruesome as some of the melee kills within the game. Within the demo, Agent 47 proved himself to be quite a fine axe man.

Yet even by allowing players to play the game in a style new to Hitman and not absolutely requiring a player to remain in stealth, the Square Enix team made it a point of stating that it loves the fan-base the game has and does not want to “piss it off.” Everything that made people love the previous Hitman games is still there, and playing the game the classic Hitman way will only be rewarded.

Absolution, in a pre-beta build, ran quite well throughout the roughly fifteen-minute demo in each style of gameplay. The only major hiccup occurred during the second playthrough when a large explosion occurred after using the “point shooting” system. and the game froze. Luckily, the Square Enix team had a video of the demo prepared to show us the final minute of gameplay . Otherwise, the game ran well on the PlayStation 3, and most importantly, the development team seemed excited about Absolution and the game itself showed a lot of promise.

Hitman: Absolution is currently set for release in 2012 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.