Agent 47 has been absent from gaming for too long. Skulking in the shadows, waiting to reveal himself once more like the sneaky neck-cracker he is. My level of anticipation for the Hitman: Absolution unveiling was matched by a huge amount of trepidation – after all, Hitman: Blood Money, for all its grizzly visuals, always felt rather light-hearted at its core. First impressions of Absolution and it looks like a far grittier take on the slap-headed assassin.
Our man 47 is currently in Chicago, with the police hunting him down and cornering him in a public library. While breaking down the exact hands-on demonstration would be nothing but a bore, there were certain moments that I noticed that both impressed and left some concerns.
Firstly, developer IO Interactive’s Glacia 2 engine looks phenomenal. The level of environmental detail and interactivity across the stage was impressive and both animations and character models are consistently slick. One area had 47 taking cover in a shed full of bird cages, as a helicopter outside searched for him. It’s hard not to be impressed by the lighting and particle effects that saw the helicopters spotlight search around the room and the blades forcing bird cages over and letting pigeons fly around the room.
But that said, there wasn’t a huge amount in terms of action. Agent 47 took out a few officers with stealth moves, smashing their heads with a bronze bust, choking them from behind and snapping necks. The animations are brutal and 47 is quick and efficient. Later we saw a full on gunfight that highlighted the various angles you can tackle missions. In fact, I got the feeling that the Hitman franchise is heading further towards the gameplay styling’s of Square Enix’s other revitalised franchise, Deus Ex.
The developers stated that this would be a more accessible entry in the franchise and it was clearly evident from the Instinct viewpoint. It highlights where enemies are around the room, allowing the player to see through walls and judge exactly the path characters will walk. It’ll allow gamers to better judge stealth kills and how to successfully navigate around the environment undetected. A bit too generous, perhaps?
It’s still early in development, and it’s hard to tell whether it will have the same sense of dark humour as its predecessor. They’re clearly aiming for something more cinematic, with some of the most grandiose visuals of the series to date. Assassin’s Creed-style parkour movement added some freedom and verticality to the action and costumes made a welcome reappearance. A lot of different ingredients for the long-awaited fifth instalment but we’ll be watching this one very closely.