A few days ago, Square revealed an interesting pre-order bonus for Hitman: Absolution. Anyone who pre-orders the game at GameStop walks out with Hitman: Sniper Challenge. We've had a chance to actually play said challenge, and though our expectations were low (since the last game to do anything like this was the laughably-bad Fable Pub Games), we ended up seeing the bar raised in terms of pre-order bonuses in general.
Instead of getting early access to a demo (of a game you've already decided to buy) or some in-game items (for a game you don't own yet), Hitman: Absolution's Sniper Challenge gives you something in between. It's a single, fifteen-minute-long Hitman experience that's not actually going to be a part of the final game. In this stand-alone level, Agent 47 starts perched on a rooftop across from a building where there's party is going on. A few seconds in, a helicopter lands on an adjacent helipad and his target steps out, leaving to join the crowd.
47 needs to take down the target and his 20 bodyguards in order to send a message. Each hit grants points depending on a bunch of different factors (running, hiding, unaware, etc), and modifiers are tacked on for completing different objectives, like taking out everyone with headshots or killing some random pigeons flying around. It's simple, but because of the number of different challenges and the near-infinite number of possible ways to handle the mission it has endless replay value.
Our first attempt had us taking out the target and scrambling to snipe a few bodyguards before they had all escaped, but after a few attempts we were memorizing guard patterns and dropping half a dozen guards before we even thought about looking at the target.
But that's just a small part - the real bonus comes in what those points actually do. Beyond bragging rights through leaderboards, the points unlock different traits and items that will carry over to Hitman: Absolution when it comes out later this year. In just a few runs, we earned an extended clip, a new sniper rifle, and increased breath-holding ability - all for playing a small, free game. When we looked at the complete list - consisting of over a dozen unlockables - we immediately decided to go in for more.
As a stand-alone product, Hitman: Sniper Challenge really wouldn't be worth all that much - but as a pre-order bonus with the ability to unlock items in the finished game, it's a definite success, and one that's set a new standard for the rewards of buying new. We were absolutely impressed with Sniper Challenge, and desperately hope others blatantly rip this concept off in the future.
Seriously, people, get plagiarizing - we promise we won't complain about more things like this.