E3 2011 First Look: Hitman Absolution

By John Walker on June 9th, 2011 at 10:30 am.

He will kill again.

Old baldygrumps is back, and we’ve finally seen him slinking about the place. The level we saw of Hitman Absolution may have been a bit gloomy, but where it captured attention was with the atmosphere it generated.

And that’s not to say it didn’t look good. An impressive engine houses the latest outing for Mr Forty-seven. It’s just that we mostly saw it in blue/grey at night time. A library, packed with guards, warned that someone is going to attempt to break in. That’d be you.

The task here is to take out the guards. And of course, being a Hitman game, you can pick your route. Stealthily sneaking around the shelves and benches, 47 approached each guard, performing silent takedowns while the rest chatted amongst themselves. And what chatting. The guard conversations were frequently very funny, whether reacting to their suspicions that you might be around, or just nattering to each other. A particularly lovely discussion took place over their shared disgust for books. 47 remains silent, but you can still somehow feel his disapproval.

But where it gripped me was as the number of guards was being whittled down, and the others were beginning to notice. I realised these confused simpletons, swinging their torches around and wondering what was going on, were in their own horror movie. And you play the baddy. Although frankly it serves them all right for never spotting the big shiny head sticking out above all the cover.

As with every single game at E3 this year, 47 has an “instinct” skill that lets him see guard positions, through what looks like some form of sophisticated sonar. But it’s cleverer than just that. He can even see where they’re going next, a fizzling line showing their future path and where they’ll stop. Quite how he can do this is not clear – perhaps sharing a publisher with Deus Ex has caused some cross-pollinating – but it means tactical positioning is a fun option.

At a certain point our demonstrator was clearly tiring of hiding, and a large group of guards were dealt with by taking one of them hostage, and backing his way to the exit. Then sprinting. This of course meant there was a lot of heat brought down (and presumably it would be appearing either way, so significant was the following scene), and things ramp up enormously until you’re rolypolying your way in an attempt to escape the bulletty attention of a helicopter. A massively loud action sequence still stayed true to the cover system, apart from leaping from one building to another, and in fact its completion was fitting. A downed cop’s uniform is borrowed, and then 47 just walks back out in front of the helicopter that was just attacking him.

The rest of the escape required maintaining his cool as he moved amongst the rest of the police, not drawing attention to himself while getting to the ground floor. And along the way making his way through the apartment of a group of stoners, with a rather splendid moment taking out a policeman by smashing him in the face with a bong. Again, throughout this the NPC stoners are providing excellent colour, stuffing weed down the toilet, panicking about the cops outside being about them, and a remark after the bong hit (fnarr): “Police brutality, man! Totally awesome!” And then, rather wonderfully, you just walk out of the front door in front of everyone, as the manhunt for you continues around you, and blend into the crowd.

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60 Comments »

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  1. Nighthood says:

    But will it offer the same amount of variation and opportunity as Blood Money? The main appeal of the other games was that as much as you could stealth/action, you could also use the environment to your advantage.

  2. Nallen says:

    Was it set in a photocopier? HAHA!

    You know, the atmosphere it produced…

    ’cause they produce ozone…

    Oh forget it.

    I thought this sounded very much like DX3 as I was reading so it’s interesting they share a publisher. Have you seen both in action John? Perhaps you could expand on the similarities/differences?

  3. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    This write up sounds more optimistic than what people said Eurogamer was saying about it.

    Can’t we see a gameplay video though? Would like to know how this all plays out.

  4. Alexander Norris says:

    Quite how he can do this is not clear

    I’d’ve thought the name “Instinct” was a bit of a giveaway, really. You know, been doing this for three and a half games and all? :P

    Demoing what is essentially a puzzle game involving completing each mission without ever being noticed by murdering all the guards is a bit stupid, though.

  5. DevilSShadoW says:

    as long as they let me take my time and play with my prey I have nothing to object about the extra features.

  6. GreatUncleBaal says:

    I’m going to keep my fingers crossed for this. My initial reaction was a slightly grumpy one about the whole “instinct” gubbins, but you can switch it off at the higher levels (and it’s not really any worse than what you could ascertain from the map in the previous games anyway). Hitman 2 is still my favourite despite its clunkiness now, but I’ve enjoyed every game apart from the first one, so more will be welcome.
    They seem to be heading slightly away from focusing on just completing the mission with one kill only, which I preferred, especially as I always felt the actual combat in Hitman games wasn’t actually that good.

    • godgoo says:

      the combat in previous hitman games always felt like a punishment for failing to me like a sudden realisation that 47 is actually a terrible aim who tends to panic under pressure and end up wildly spinning around looking at the ceiling and floor… still, 2 and blood money are two of my favourite games ever. i am reserving judgement on this one as I get the sneaky suspicion some deviation has occurred.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      @godgoo agreed, that’s why I thought it was a nice addition in BM that you could take someone’s gun away if they found you and not totally mess up your playthrough. I think the ultimate Hitman game should be one that if something goes wrong you still have the tools (hand to hand combat or whatnot) to make sure it isn’t a total disaster.

    • shizamon says:

      I don’t know, I thought with the 2nd the aiming wasn’t that bad. One play through I took out the Arab type head honcho and was walking downstairs in his clothing, only to find his entire entourage staring at me, becoming increasingly suspicious. I whipped out my silenced 9mm and shot them all in the head before anyone could fire a round. Of course there were a hundred times where that type of thing backfired very badly.

  7. taldira says:

    Why does his face reminds me of Batman.

  8. poop says:

    nothing gets me excited about a franchise focused on player choice and keeping a low profile than a highly scripted linear demo where you fight a helicopter

    • Arca says:

      Reminds me of agent smith.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      May I remind you that Hitman codename 47 had a very scripted helicopter scene once you eliminated the blue lotus member (or was it the red dragon that time?) anyway, this has been done before in a Hitman game.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Yeah, as much as scripted failure at stealth is absolutely infuriating it was present in yet failed to ruin some of the previous games (and also No One Lives Forever, for that matter). It’d be nice to avoid but so far it looks at expectations belong at “more of the same, and that’s quite nice” rather than “big steps forward for sneaky murder”.

      Although guards noticing the absence of their peers? Ok, there’s a stride for the sneaky genre. And hopefully means that murdering them all will be generally a bad thing for stealth in most missions since you’ll make the remainder jumpier.

    • poop says:

      its been done before but it has always been the worst part of every hitman game, hopefully only the tutorial is this heavily scripted but that is still bad when you consider how boring and stupid the tutorial was in blood money

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      @LionsPhil agreed, you’d think the AI would notice that someone guarding a door wasn’t there anymore. But that would make it very hardcore, talking about hardcore iirc splinter cell chaos theory had pretty good AI, noticing when doors where left open and tracking down each open doorway.

      I guess it would be pretty simple to just enable/disable this level of awareness based on which level of difficulty you are playing.

      For example I found myself playing on normal difficulty through my first playthrough of BM, but when I play it again these days I’m only in professional cause the AI is a lot more responsive and a lot more believable.

    • The_Great_Skratsby says:

      @heretic Yet it was only until Blood Money that the series unique potential actually began to shine, than you know, forced action sequences.

    • Solcry says:

      I’m a relative-latecomer to PC gaming, so I never actually played the older Hitman’s but… is AI reacting the the lack of guards a novel thing? I was pretty sure that the guard’s reacted in Batman Arkham Asylum and Conviction?

  9. Heliosicle says:

    Can you tell us whether there will still be the possibility to get the Silent Assassin rank? Also, will it still even be about hits, or is it just 47 on the run? This just seems like K&L2 but with Agent 47 right now, which worries me.

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      From Walker’s podcast it seems there is still very much the sneaking around element – just made a whole lot easier by having the “instinct” shit drawn all over, which even tells you when guards STOP at a certain point.

    • Heliosicle says:

      I did read in another thing that all the help is turned off at higher levels of difficulty, so I guess I’ll be playing on those!

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      Yeah that’s good to know, but it really shows that most of the player base they are trying to appeal to is crap at games or totally impatient (surely this will be an 18 rated… are 18+ really that retarded? I’m 22 btw…).

      I mean the great thing for me about Hitman games is that you need to observe your surroundings not just barge through, I guess with this instinct thing you don’t even need to observe guard patrols – but well, I haven’t seen it in action so maybe I’m just being a grumpy gramps.

    • Heliosicle says:

      Well I’m 18 now, but I played Contracts when it came out and even when I was 12 I really enjoyed learning the levels and stuff, I guess I had more patience then because I had to stick to a game for a couple of months.

      One thing they maybe need to fix is if you do feel like going on a killing spree in this game is actually make it a challenge, even on the hardest level on Blood Money it was quite easy to complete Amendment XXIV just by shooting everyone. But thats not really what the games are about. I do like that theres 4 ways to complete Till Death Do Us Part on Silent Assassin!

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      I played them from codename 47 up to BM in order ahah, I must have been somewhere around 11 when codename 47 came out first? I didn’t see the need for this instinct stuff back then though as guard routes are pretty repetitive, in Death to Spies however some of the guard routes can take forever then I’d see the point of having it. But DtS is really frkking hard!

      Agreed with the killing sprees, the problem is that you can find a corridor and just wait for all the guards to turn up and keep shooting. They hardly take cover (DtS has the same problem). In Kane & Lynch 2 I seem to remember enemies going behind cover most of the time and the way to pick them off was to flank. If they use similar AI for when things hit the fan I think it would be a lot more interesting than the current BM AI.

    • Heliosicle says:

      I played them Contracts, SA, BM, never played Codename 47.

      Well when you have the Assault Rifle with 200 round magazine it gets quite easy! I enjoyed K&L2’s shooting, but the whole videotaping part of it kind of got in the way of a lot of the experience.

      Overall I’m still looking forward to this though.

  10. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    Ooooh I’m keening out here

  11. Avenger says:

    *scroll down*
    Hm no video
    *scroll down more*
    What? Just some screens?
    *scroll down even more*
    Ah shit…

  12. Premium User Badge

    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    > But it’s cleverer than just that. He can even see where they’re going next, a fizzling line showing their future path and where they’ll stop. Quite how he can do this is not clear.

    47 is Donnie Darko.

    • Premium User Badge

      tomeoftom says:

      - Control Agent 47 as he struggles against the sinister phantom mastermind known only as “Frank”!
      – Use time travel to make your assassinations look like freak plane crashes!
      – Depending on your actions, 47 can walk the path of Fear, Love, or anything in between with the new morality system!
      – Long but only superficially uncomfortable silences!

  13. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    It’s good to see fun ways of dispatching enemies, the statue applied on head sounds great. I hope there are more of these, but hopefully nearby guards should be alerted as breaking a statue makes NOISE.

    Oh and if you can kill a guard with a spoon I will make love to this Hitman game.

    • Guiscard says:

      Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?

    • Premium User Badge

      heretic says:

      Is that a reference?

      I can’t remember who was reviewing/previewing it but it might have been Jim, in PC Gamer, who said it would be the pinnacle of the series when they allow you to kill an enemy with a spoon, or something along those lines :D

      But come on, using a spoon to kill somebody would be totally hilarious and badass, if they have the spoon they should also have the biro which I guarantee is possible to kill someone with.

    • jonfitt says:

      Because it’s dull, you twit! It’ll hurt more…

      – Alan Rickman

  14. Player1 says:

    This ain’t true, is it? First the new Driver with the stupid car swapping mechanic and now a hitman which can see future moves of his enemies? What the hell’s up with those game designers? This just takes away all the thrills digital games are all about. Why don’t implement an autokill button so you don’t have to do it yourself? That’s just plain silly… : (

    • LionsPhil says:

      You seem to have forgotten just how hax the automap was in Hitman 2.

      Moving that off the map screen and into the game world reduces the need for mapreading skill but otherwise is pretty much the same deal. I just hope they don’t tie the difficulty levels together so that you’re stuck having to choose between not having guard-prediction cheat-mode on and not being able to save and quit arbitrarily when Real Life intervenes and dares to believe that you can’t play a mission of your computer game uninterrupted for several hours.

    • Nallen says:

      Why don’t implement an autokill button so you don’t have to do it yourself?

      It’s a planned feature for a future Hitman, which will be a PC 2 exclusive.

    • Wilson says:

      @Player1 – I disagree. Certainly they should have an option to turn it off, but personally the idea of sitting around for hours watching where the guards patrol never appealed to me. That’s part of the infiltrator/assassin experience that I’m happy for games to remove, because it’s dull. Also, I’ll take car-swapping over tedious reloads gladly. There’s a place for more hardcore gameplay, but these are mainstream games.

    • Eolirin says:

      @LionsPhil, Instinct is an activated ability, with a finite resource (you can’t just use it constantly, and once it runs out you need to do stealthy things to make it recharge), so even if you’re on a lower difficulty mode, you can just not activate it if you don’t want to use it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @Eolirin: That is good news indeed.

  15. Mordsung says:

    I have no issue with Agent 47 getting some new skills that make him more deadly and situationally aware. I see it like the new Splinter Cell. A lot of people ragged on the new SC because Sam became so much quicker and more deadly, but come on… these guys have been doing their trade for over a decade and were already apparently “the best of the best” when their first games came out. They’re going to get better at what they do. They’re going to gain a sixth-sense about enemy movement, they’re going to get faster and better at hand to hand combat. Sam evolved from a house cat to a panther, 47 is doing the same thing.

  16. werix says:

    The whole assassin sight dosen’t bother me, as some have said, you could glean the same thing from looking at the maps in the previous games. It also makes sense that it is turned off at higher levels; in Blood Money on the higher levels less and less would show on the map.

    What concerns me is that this sounds like an action game, and I don’t think action when I think the Hitman games. For me they’ve always been the best stealth games out there, where you are rewarded for killing the least people and in the least obvious ways. The Hitman games have never been Splinter Cell, where it was more about Killing everyone without being noticed. This sounds a lot like SC:C, taking cover and clearing everyone out.

    I want my post mission Newspaper clippings rewarding me for not killing anyone, or if I did, they were hid in a dumpster and not found. Not that I made it through the level with the least number of alerts, even if I left 55 dead guards behind.

  17. sinister agent says:

    It doesn’t sound very much like being a hitman, taking out all the guards and fighting helicopters. But then, the first level in Blood Money had you murder everyone, even non-targets and at least one bystander, so I suppose it may not be such a departure if it’s an intro level.

    Still sounds interesting. I’m a little cautious, but optimistic.

    • Wilson says:

      To be fair to the game, some guy above assumed you fight the helicopter, the post only says you have to dodge the bullets it fires at you. I don’t think you’ll be strafing from cover to cover shooting out engines with a machine gun.

    • LionsPhil says:

      And who can forget the awful, awful ending to the first Hitman, where it turned into a corridor shooter?

      Some misteps like that are survivable (the first Hitman was still a good game, after all). What we need is an RPS bod to get their hands on it long enough to see if it’s still sneaky-times for the majority of the game.

    • Kaira- says:

      And, from what I gathered from the article, it wasn’t actually necessary to alert the guards like that by kidnapping one of them, and the helicopter was a result of that.

      Or it might just be my vivid imagination at work again. Damn.

  18. I LIKE FOOD says:

    Lawlllll its gonna be a consolifidumbification n all teh cawzuals will plehay wit controlas and be loll i so good i play dumb down game even though its on a rail and made for stupid GITS

  19. BreadBitten says:

    Both PCGamer and you guys seem to be pretty optimistic with the way this game is progressing. Optimistic, I Am…

  20. A-Scale says:

    Baldygrumps made me laugh so hard milk came out of my mouth.

  21. Tatourmi says:

    Frankly I don’t think this is really going to be bad. Why would they change a thing that made the success of Blood Money? That would be absurd.

  22. Olivaw says:

    Well what would YOU show at E3? Something slow and plodding and patient? Or the tutorial mission where there’s some helicopter shooting at you and introducing all the game mechanics in easy mode?