Agent 47 has become a cold-hearted, calculating icon amongst killer clones in video games. Since his debut in Hitman: Codename 47 back in 2000, this silent assassin has gained a large following. That’s why everyone is happy to see him finally returning to what he does best next year. At E3, we were able to sit down and see the first ever gameplay of the upcoming title. Agent 47 is deadlier and more efficient than ever before, but this time he’s the target.
The preview kicked off with Agent 47 smashing through a window into a Chicago library. The local police waste no time in filing into the structure to find the hitman. The seasoned killer-for-hire makes his way through the building stealthily, making sure to utilize the cover system to switch between objects when it’s clear. I couldn’t help but be impressed this early on in the demo due to the unbelievably smooth animations I was seeing in a game this early in development. Making sure I remain at peak excitement throughout the demo, Agent 47’s new abilities were shown off right away. Among these was Instinct mode. This mode outlines people (through solid objects), highlights their respective routes, shows interactive points in the environment (ledges, vents, etc) , and has some contextual uses that I’ll detail later. While this mode has been present in other games (see: Akrham Asylum), it definitely comes into its own in Hitman: Absolution. The reason for this inclusion is that the team wanted players to really get into Agent 47’s mindset. He is the ultimate assassin and, as such, it is crucial that those controlling him understand how he is observing the situation at hand. This ability cannot be used constantly however. In the full retail version, a meter will limit its use. Players can fill said meter by dispatching enemies silently.
As the cops continue to search every nook and cranny of the library, Agent 47 is slowly making his way to the exit. That is until the lights are turned on. After quickly identifying a fuse box, 47 sabotages it to make sure his exit is shrouded in darkness. On his way to this objective, we see the new detection system which comes in form of a gray arrow, letting us know which direction the enemy is spotting 47. The longer you remain in sight, the longer and narrower the arrow stretches until they fully acknowledge your presence by engaging you. Although he has strengthened his exit strategy, there are still a handful of cops who are standing in his way. Since Agent 47 is completely unarmed at the moment, improvising plays a major role in this level. A nearby power cord is used to strangle the first cop. The second officer comes face to face with a stone bust of a head. The final policeman gets grabbed off of a ledge and thrown into a hole below, much like Assassin’s Creed.
Stopping mere feet from the stairs leading to the exit, Agent 47 is posed with another problem. The lights in this section have been turned back on and a large group of police have taken up positions in front of the stairs. Thinking quickly, 47 grabs the nearest cop as a hostage and pulls out the pistol obtained from a dead officer’s body. He slowly backs up the stairs facing the group of pursuing officers until he is out of sight. He brutally disposes of his human shield and makes a dash for the stairs leading further up onto the roof. Here we see the classic Hitman formula come into play. A cop investigating the area lends his costume to 47 as a disguise after taking two bullets to the back. Dressed as a cop, Agent 47 strolls casually across a rooftop being watched by a helicopter. In the next room, a bunch of hippies are frantically trying to rid the apartment of weed since they noticed the increased police presence. Silently, our protagonist sneaks through a few rooms until he comes across a man enjoying a bong. Cops enter the room and immediately acknowledge the weed. Believing this has the potential to be a huge bust, they move further into the room at which point our disguised killer grabs the bong and breaks it across the first cop’s face and then transitions to the second cop for an effective hand-to-hand kill. Now we get to see another important use for Instinct. Cops filled the corridor that 47 was heading down and they were becoming increasingly aware that he was heading in the wrong direction. Using Instinct, Agent 47 will perform certain actions that are dependent on which disguise he is wearing. Since he’s dressed as a cop, he tilted his head down as if he was listening to the police radio chatter coming out of the walkie talkie. This boosted his disguise back to full and no one questioned his actions further.
Several cops down and 47’s disguise remains in tact. After taking the elevator to the bottom floor, the final exit is within sight. The problem presenting itself now is that SWAT has taken up position in front of that very door and Instinct cannot be used since the meter was drained from its previous use in the hallway upstairs. Those who played L.A. Noire or Assassin’s Creed and are familiar with the various ways to hide will feel right at home with the next mechanic. 47 walks up to a desk and the prompt pops up to “hide.” He digs into a box of donuts (yes, it’s a cop stereotype joke) as SWAT rushes past him to head upstairs. Finally clear of position, the hitman makes his way outside and disappears into the mass of people.
The demo left me feeling confident that IO is going to bring us a spectacular entry to the Hitman series when it hits sometime next year on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.E3 2011: Hitman Absolution Preview,