E3 2011: Hitman: Absolution – bald, beautiful, and tearing Chicago a new one

Following a half-decade in hiding, our favorite hired gun has finally emerged from the shadows again. But like his survival-savvy Square Enix stablemate Lara Croft, Agent 47 now seems to be on the defensive. During our E3 demo, which primarily took place in a Chicago library after business hours, the bar-coded badass - sporting his signature shorn scalp and sharp suit - wasn’t plotting a high-value kill or peering from behind a sniper scope. Nope, Hitman: Absolution’s antihero was on the run and against all odds.

The target of a citywide manhunt, Agent 47 has been pursued into the library by what appears to be Chicago’s entire police force. Skulking in the shadows, skirting persistent flashlight beams, and surveying his relentless predators from afar, he was in no position to call the shots. While this table-turning scenario isn’t one we’re used to seeing 47 restricted by, developer Io Interactive’s not about to have their star assassin trade in his life-siphoning skills for a pair of running shoes. Despite the hunter being the hunted, the calculating killer was still able to do what he does best – systematically snap necks like peanut brittle.

Gracefully shifting between cover points, 47 utilized a variety of makeshift means to pick off the boys in blue one by one. After sabotaging an electrical box to attract attention, he strangled the life from one cop with an electrical cord, crushed another’s skull with a sculpted bust, and simply used his bare hands to steal the final breaths from several other clueless cops. With his corpse-count climbing to a level that wouldn’t remain a secret for very long and the heat closing in, he decided to take a hostage and make his escape. Facing down several officers at gunpoint with hostage in a headlock, he backed out of the building.

But that wasn’t the end. This led to an action movie-like rooftop chase, complete with a driving rainstorm and pursuing helicopter. Before long, 47 evaded the chopper, made his way into an adjacent apartment building, killed another patrolman, donned the cop’s uniform, and stumbled upon an apartment full of stoners. The junkies, who feared 47 was there to bust them - based on his disguise - were relieved when he only borrowed one of their bongs. While this seemed like the perfect segue into a new Hitman-gets-high mini-game, it actually saw the always perceptive professional using the drug paraphernalia to bash in another cop’s head. Our demo concluded with the creative killer once again surrounded by the law. This time, however, he was dressed as one of their own, and walked right through the crowd of boys in blue to escape into the night.

Hitman: Absolution’s demo was damn impressive, but that’s sort of the whole point of an E3 demonstration; developers don’t work tirelessly on a single level for months only to bring something less than underwhelming to the big show. Io Interactive’s reps, however, did much more than just show Agent 47 cinematically dropping goons through a tightly choreographed demo. They also showed off the fresh mechanics that promise to enable fans to slay with similar style.

Matt Cabral
A full-time freelance writer based in Lizzie Borden's hometown, Matt Cabral has covered film, television, and video games for over a decade. You can follow him on Twitter @gamegoat, friend him on Facebook, or find him in the basement of an abandoned building hoarding all the canned goods, med-kits, and shotgun shells.