NYCC 2012: Hitman Absolution Hands-On Preview; “An Opportunity You Won’t Refuse”

When I first entered the Square Enix booth at New York’s Comic Con show, I was immediately drawn to a specific game. “Hitman: Absolution” was being beautifully displayed at over fifteen different LCD’s at once. Now, for a mega 47 fan such as myself, this was knee buckling. Day one of Comic Con and I was fortunate enough to play the opening level of the game. The level opens with a slick cinema scene that sets the tone for the opening game play. The mission objective is to assassinate the head of the cliffside mansion.

In the opening scene, one can clearly see how much detail was put into this game. A few feet ahead and you see the main gates of the mansion are sealed shut, prompting you to find an alternate route. Interacting with the environment, you clearly have a choice of options, just like in your traditional Hitman game. A new subtle lighting casts colors on certain pathways giving novice players a leg up. Playing on the normal difficulty setting has its own challenges, all other difficulties were not available to play in the preview. I suspect that Absolution will give the most hardened of gamers a challenge in the new “Professional” mode.

There are two new features added to Absolution which give the game a more “hollywood action” style. Firstly, the developers of  Hitman: Absolution have created a quick-time event sequence for close-quarter combat. The player must press a sequence of buttons to pummel the enemies down. Depending on the system you are playing on, “Square” (PS3) or “X” (360) hits him in the jaw, Circle/B  knees him in the sternum etc. Personally, it’s one of the features that I felt was very different from a traditional Hitman experience, but nonetheless it worked flawlessly. The second new addition was the use of targeting your enemies, a feature that is well known for those who have played Splinter Cell: Conviction or Red Dead Redemption. Basically through your “instinct mode”, you will mark targets and after marking them, you will press the action button and watch 47 execute the enemies in a stylish slow-motion scene.

Visually, Hitman: Absolution has been built from the ground up. The powerful Glacier 2 engine has been made to accommodate all features of this new title. There are no signs of slowdown or visual downgrade at all. There are certain scenes where the draw distance diminishes slightly and characters’ faces are made up of fewer polygons, but otherwise this title is clearly triple ‘A’ visuals. The audio and soundtrack are absolutely superb, all presented in a slick and stylish package. To give an example of the phenomenal voice acting and music, I must detail a specific scenario from one of the mission’s in the demo. In the ‘Cliffside Mansion” mission, I began to grapple along the edge of the mansion’s wall, conveniently on the cliff side of the house overlooking a high fall to the ocean and rocks below. As I was next to an open window, I begin to hear one of my targets talking on his cell phone near the window. The conversation plays out, and the player comes to learn that this target was awaiting his prostate cancer test results. As the call ends, we hear that the doctor has informed our lucky target that he is cancer free and is immediately rejoiced. Just pausing at this moment, the level of realism and voice acting gone into this minuscule scene is unparallelled to most titles on the market. The target takes a breath of fresh air and leans out the window taking in the sun and ocean breeze, probably with the thoughts of a renewed life coming to mind. Five seconds later, I move next to the window and Agent 47 pulls the target out by his neck sending the screaming target falling to his death.

Throughout my play session, I was able to assassinate the target by a variety techniques. From poison to bullets to strangulation, it was all back again in a series we have come to love and enjoy. How you react and what actions you carry out next will decide on whether you progress in the game or complete the level undetected. This will all unfold at a slow pace. However, your mind will be racing on how to survive this mission and accomplish your goal in the cleanest way possible of course. What I have always loved about the Hitman franchise is that it is a thinking man’s game, if you play it that way. It is not a shoot and run, or button smasher, but rather, requires more intelligence and long term thinking which is terrific.

Overall my multiple session’s of Absolution were very enjoyable and only furthered my excitement for the already anticipated sequel. Hitman: Absolution will be releasing on November 20th for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. For more news on this or any other topic make sure to keep it locked onto Gamers Xtreme, and as always, “Game On!”