It's been over six years since we last saw Agent 47 in Hitman: Blood Money (which I reviewed here), since then we've played through the adventures of two other notable Assassins, so how does the old guy stack up these days? I've been playing through a preview build of a set of levels from the full game of Hitman: Absolution to find out.
The end of Blood Money
saw 47's handler, Diana Burnwood, effectively running the International Contract Agency (ICA) since she and 47 were the only employees remaining alive. At the start of Absolution
, 47 is sent to assassinate Diana in a safe house where she has been hiding for some time. It seems that Diana has betrayed the ICA and stolen some valuable property, a little girl called Victoria.
So begins the latest set of Hitman
missions, as before you'll have objectives to complete by killing certain targets, only this time you'll be acting more on your own, piecing together the story behind Diana's betrayal.
Agent 47 has obviously been training in his six years off since he's picked up a few new abilities. The major addition is what I like to call "Instinct Vision", which replaces the level maps from previous games with something more like Eagle Sense or Detective Vision. Enemies are located through walls, targets are flagged, items of interest are pointed out and the level or area exit is highlighted.
Another addition, your Instinct meter can be used to evade notice when wearing a disguise or to line up several head-shots at once to quickly take down a room of enemies. The abilities are limited by the level of Instinct in your meter, which is built up by completing objectives. This may seem like a departure from Hitman
's more traditional stealth focus, but you don't have to use it, in fact in the hardest play mode, Instinct is completely disabled.
This hardest "Purist" mode also does away with almost all other aids like the HUD, mini map and most of Instinct Vision and leaves you with the crosshairs and very little else. You still get the warning signs of being noticed and the floating action context indicators. You also, bizarrely, get an indicator of where your target is when you try Instinct Vision. However, all the rest is up to you.
As you may have seen in the "Run for your life" play-through video, 47 is the subject of a police manhunt which can make things hard. The police are mostly confined to sections of the game leading up to or away from more traditional hit missions. These sections are there to spice up the game play and are broken into a few small areas in sequence that feel a lot like challenge rooms. However, since the police are on high alert they remind me of traditional levels after you have alerted the guards to your presence. You almost feel like you're being punished for something you had no choice about since the manhunt is part of the game's story and can't be avoided.
47 has also gained some hand to hand abilities, now being able to subdue other characters without using a weapon. You have the choice of breaking their neck or choking them into unconsciousness if you'd prefer not to kill them. You can also engage in straight up fisticuffs if you can't creep up behind your target, a short Quick Time Event will dispatch your foe to the land of nod.
If you're detected and approached you can fake surrendering which will fool some enemies into getting closer to you where you can disarm them and use them as a human shield. If they were the only alerted guard, you can knock them out and return to being undetected.
This leads on to another change, the AI has been vastly improved. It's no longer the case that accidentally showing a lone guard your fibre wire will alert the whole level to your presence. You can be detected by individuals and only if they radio in your location will you be known to others. However, your current disguise will be blown even if only one person spots you, other characters will become suspicious of you much more quickly.
All in all, Hitman: Absolution
is shaping up to be a great addition to the series. I've been thoroughly enjoying my play-through. If IO Interactive can just sort out the "avoid the police" sequences I think they'll keep more old time fans on board without putting off less experienced players.
is developed by IO Interactive, published by Square Enix and will be released on the 20th November 2012.