Why Hitman Absolution may not be the Hitman game you want. Or a Hitman game at all

Sincerely flattering

Stealth games have obviously changed a lot since Hitman: Blood Money hit in 2006. They have become faster, more aggressive and more forgiving. in part thanks to Splinter Cell’s Conviction reboot and Rocksteady’s Arkham games. But games like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, BioShock and the Elder Scrolls series have shown that games which nurture thoughtful player creativity can still be critical and commercial successes. That latter group have cultivated an environment in which a current-gen evolution of Hitman’s core strengths could flourish. But in terms of modern influences, Absolution seems at the moment to be squarely aiming at Bruce and Sam.

How tight is its aim? Absolution’s two biggest new gameplay features are Instinct and Point Shoot, Hitman’s versions of Batman’s Detective Vision and Splinter Cell’s Mark-and-Execute, respectively. Both are earned in the same way as SC: C’s multi-targeting auto-kill function, charged up by performing actions such as stealth-kills or headshots. Instinct allows 47 to see enemies through walls and view their projected patrol paths sketched out on the ground ahead of them in order to allow him to take evasive action while staying ahead of the curve.

Point Shoot stops time – for a good while it seems, given how long our demoer took over picking his targets – allowing 47 to flag up multiple prey or explosive bits of scenery for automatically executed gunfire. Trigger the process and you’re treated to multiple slow-motion camera angles of some seriously cinematic murderising. It’s far more visually affecting than Splinter Cell’s version of the idea, but the end result is the same. A room full of dead folk to step over as you walk away untroubled.

Realistically, Instinct mode need not be seen as a great deviation from Hitman’s traditional gameplay. In practice it essentially performs the same function as the radar, just painting the information over the surrounding environment rather than limiting it to a small box in the corner of the screen. Combined with Point Shoot though, it does seen rather indicative of the tone IO is taking with this new Hitman. Both are visually striking, stylised cinematic additions which both aid aggression and actively enourage it through the way they are unlocked for use. And cinematic aggression at the moment seems to be very much what Hitman: Absolution is all about.

Hope for something more (literally and figuratively)

But I’m not locking down my opinion on Hitman: Absolution yet. You see there’s still a chance that it isn’t simply a glossy, linear, stealth-tinged kill-em-up. Obviously I can only go off what IO and Square-Enix have chosen to show, and since the game’s E3 reveal we’ve seen nothing but examples of the above. And the repeated verbal references to 47’s awesome killing power – as opposed to the creativity or cunning for which he used to be best known – during yesterday’s demo did nothing to push my assumptions in any other direction. But I still hold out hope that there’s more to this game.

You see I talked to Christian Elverdam, Hitman: Absolution’s Gameplay Director yesterday. And obviously I pressed him on the game’s linearity. And he said a few things which make me think that there’s a small chance IO are still holding out on us. He mentioned that the AI is much more complex this time around, surely unnecessary in a straight linear sneaking game. He said that it’s still early days, and that IO is only showing a bit of the game at a time. He said that they want to demo areas that can easily be shown off via radically different gameplay approaches. He made conspicuous reference to an area of the game we haven’t seen yet, a mysterious new town called Hope, which is very much the focus of the lasts shots of a new trailer we saw yesterday.

Of course, there’s a good chance that all of the above is simply PR bluster, a way to deflect the obviously one-track questionings of a journo who has noticed that a much-loved series seems to have lost its identity amongst a sea of current-gen safe-bet design. And after all, how often does a game radically change its gameplay identity seven months after reveal? But maybe, just maybe, the Hitman demos so far have just been a way to get the less thinking-friendly players onboard with the franchise. Maybe a big bait-and-switch is coming, which will reveal that the linear bits we’ve seen so far are just an extended training period for more complex, non-linear gameplay to come. Maybe the game – the real game – will start when 47 arrives in Hope.

I really hope so anyway. Because from what I’ve seen so far, while Hitman is now undoubtedly a slick and artistically affecting take on Splinter Cell’s hide-and-kill schtick - and will no doubt provide a good old, satisfyingly murdery time when played on its own terms - it’s just not half as interesting as it used to be.

Fingers, toes and eyes crossed.


Hitman preview


  • codenamed - January 29, 2014 3:57 a.m.

    Hitman ended with Blood Money. Any game made under Square Enix flag isn't Hitman. Period.
  • HeavyTank - January 19, 2012 6:55 a.m.

    Oh come ooooonn!Meters?Pausing time?Are we still talking about a STEALTH game? Hitman games have always been about stealth...the originality came from the fact that you couldn't go run n' gun, but had to use your brain and not your reflexes to finish every level. Why would they have "room cleared" messages?That's just stupid..guards have intercoms, you can't just make the other guards forget about you.Having different levels of alertness is fine, but when everyone goes back to "basic guard mode" after you shoot everyone inside a room is just silly. I get it, everyone swarming on me after I was exposed annoyed me a lot too, I admit it.But this is not the way to deal with it. Dammit.And I was looking forward to this
  • Mar27w - January 19, 2012 3:45 a.m.

    great article,good to see a journo who has the balls to say what every loyal longterm Hitman fan has been thinking,the more cinematic story focused comments certainly has me worried,the game has always been about large expansive sandbox areas where story was left on the backburner and the player was just dropped into one of these realistic enviroments and left to his own devices deciding on his own navigation and when and where to take out the target,from what ive seen this has all been dumped in favour of an A to B system,the game has never been designed for hand holding casual gamers and thats the main reason it has gained such a loyal fanbase,if this turns out to be the case its most likely going to alienate the fans and end up one dead duck
  • Reaperman64 - January 16, 2012 12:03 p.m.

    I really cant stand the hitman games, but theyve always been pretty damn unique... I hope they dont become another SHMUP...
  • Larry Legdrop - January 13, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    Although absolution stands for forgiveness,I will not absolve them if they change the whole game completely from what it used to be.In my opinion,that would be dumber THAN MEEEEE!! (runs away wiping tears from my cheeks,hugging myself.)
  • sleepyMexican45 - January 12, 2012 10:51 a.m.

    Thanks Dave. Thanks a lot. Thanks or forcing me to choose a different game that I'm 'most looking forward to into 2012'. Great article. I too loved the intelligent, giant, and detailed sandbox levels of the old game that had multiple solutions and were incredibly difficult. They relied soley on either massive trial and error. Or a guide. If you wanted to play it right, you had to be good. And perfection was everything. When you finished a level earning the "silent assassin" ranking, it was totally worth the soul-destroying hours of gameplay you'd put into. Hitman 2 was fucking hard! If this game is a reskinned SC:C, it won't be bad, and I will get it, it'll just mean I'll have to by Blood Money again too! :p
  • el.waxa - January 12, 2012 3:44 a.m.

    Here's some food for thought, The way I see it the two scenarios that have been shown both have a "Get to X before Y happens" theme which implies a sense of ugency to acheive the goal. Streamlining and having a level that is more linear is probably better for Gameplay as well as Narrative, look at 'Contracts finale as a great example of what I mean. Rummaging around, exploring and following endless patterns of AI patrols would brake the Urgency feeling. Furthermore I read that they have gotten rid of the game map so I'd say in given scenario it needs to be clear to the player where to reach the objective. I honestly dont think that all of the levels are going to be this way because the idea of needing to do each level under an implied time limit would burn out.
  • mothbanquet - January 12, 2012 7:31 a.m.

    I just know that 'more flash, less substance' is ok for the short term but in the long run it won't keep people coming back or have them singing the game's praises for years to come (Mass Effect and Dragon Age spring to mind...).
  • GR_DavidHoughton - January 13, 2012 1:39 a.m.

    There was no time limit in the level. And I'm pretty sure I saw a map in the corner as well.
  • el.waxa - January 13, 2012 6 a.m.

    My bad on the map part I'm just trying to speculate the creative thought process based on the little information I know.
  • TheZigMan - January 11, 2012 3:21 p.m.

    If they ruin Hitman...Im gonna punch a baby
  • profile0000 - January 11, 2012 2:14 p.m.

    Uh oh. Now I'm a bit worried... Still excited, but concerned.
  • martez87 - January 11, 2012 1:34 p.m.

    I don't usually get like this about games; I usually give the developers the benefit of the doubt and see change as a good thing. But, please god no! Why fuck with a good thing? The thing that we all love about Hitman is its openness and the freedom it gives us to tackle a mission. Why remove the things that make the series unique and loved? It’s madness! Without these features the game loses its unique appeal and becomes just another generic action game. Who exactly are they making this game for? Certainly not fans of Hitman. Surely Hitman fans desire open levels, with multiple, varied ways to complete the objective. All of these things we would like to see because that is what drew us to the Hitman series in the first place. Of course, I am only basing my opinions on the couple of previews that I have read, so I will reserve judgement for when I see the game for myself. My only hope is that these linear missions are only a small part of the game, but as of right now I am extremely worried for the future of the Hitman series. :(
  • DICEs - January 11, 2012 1:06 p.m.

    The first mission in Blood Money was a linear level, so there may just be a few near the start to introduce new players into the game so they can get to grips with the controls and what it is possible to do before letting them loose on a more open level. Or they could just be adding some linear levels in to change the pace a little. I'm going to hold off on being upset until we have seen all the game has to offer
  • el.waxa - January 11, 2012 1:21 p.m.

    Good shout! P.s Has anyone else noticed the bandaid covering 47's barcode, This changes everything!
  • EngieIndeed - January 11, 2012 3:09 p.m.

    My thoughts exactly. That level in blood money showed off a bit of everything you could do: sniping/sneaking/gunning down everyone (with a shotgun, like this level). You pretty much killed everyone in almost every way possible in that level, which this level seems to be doing as well.
  • Meleedragon27 - January 11, 2012 3:17 p.m.

    I was actually going to say this same thing. Good to know I wasn't the only one who thought that. With that said, I don't think the demo should cause alarm just yet. Maybe what you played was only a tutorial level of sorts, Mr. Houghton?
  • GR_DavidHoughton - January 12, 2012 1:28 a.m.

    I totally get the similarities between this and Blood Money's opening level. But the thing that worries me is that IO have now done two separate demos using two separate levels, 6 months apart, and both have had this kind of linearity.
  • TheMasterJeef - January 11, 2012 12:43 p.m.

    R.I.P. stealth games as we know them. I really hope this isnt the way all stealth games will think of going in the future. I honestly cannot believe companies are altering stealth games for the impatient, instant action generation (impatience and stealth game now thats an oxymoron). I remember the days of the original Tenchu, and spending an hour on just one mission. Watching patrol routes, and staying silent and hidden, just so i could get the best possible rank. Or playing MGS on the PS1, lurking in lockers and boxes as guards marched past. If you want an action game play gears of war, or CoD. PLEASE dont butcher the stealth franchises out there.

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