New Hitman Details Step Out of the Shadows

Hitman: Absolution is getting ready to break the five-year absence the franchise has gone through, and a slew of new details indicate that the wait will be worthwhile.

If Agent 47’s absence from the video game scene has done anything for him, it’s honed is skills and made him more lethal than ever. Our E3 preview of Hitman: Absolution showed us the new intuition abilities, as well as new environmental actions that yielded unique weapons such as a power cord for strangling, or a nightstick for snapping necks with a grisly crunch. However, all information was gathered from what could be seen in the video, and very little information otherwise was provided.

Luckily, Edge Magazine recently published a preview on the game, revealing a few more clues about the gameplay and setting. First off, Hitman: Absolution will take place in Chicago. Unfortunately, that’s all the new info on setting or plot line, with the rest continuing regarding the important bits: gameplay. IO interactive has apparently spent a lot of time refining the controls to make them very responsive, and expand Agent 47’s repertoire of moves. In our E3 preview we saw that he’s now able to climb much more freely than previously, with Uncharted like platforming capabilities, as well as a cover system. Agent 47’s cover system also allows him to move freely in and out of cover without standing up awkwardly and revealing himself. If he does, a threat meter, which replaces the tension meter, builds up as a small gray circle in the middle of the screen, indicating that he’s being watched and becoming suspicious.  The meter also flickers in the direction of those who are watching, providing a quick reference for deciding when and where to take cover.

Level design is also taking a new direction. While large, open-ended levels will still exist, some “will be tighter, more focused sandboxes.” I’m not sure what the difference between open-ended and sandboxes is, but what’s definitely new is a checkpoint system that will be active mid-mission. This probably indicates that much larger and longer missions will be seen, where check points would be necessary to prevent unnecessary frustration. Despite this, the map screen from previous games is being removed, and replaced by the instinct ability, which sounds like it will help direct players on where to go. A mini map will still be available however, indicating points of interest in the nearby vicinity. Some of these levels will be largely exploratory, while others will be story driven. Through out many of them IO Interactive intends to provide more gameplay challenges by building around the core elements that make Hitman… well, Hitman. This means that rather than making radical, sweeping changes, they’re delving deeper into what’s always made the series great.

Agent 47’s instinct mode will play a big role, with it not only pointing out enemy locations behind cover, and patrol routes, but also allowing Agent 47 to briefly hear other people’s thoughts. This was actually shown in the E3 preview, but at the time it was hard to tell why we were hearing these thoughts. These new ESP-like abilities (where did he get those?!) point out when enemies are suspicious of you, which is especially useful while in disguise. Instead of standing around looking like a moron in a throng of suspicious police, Agent 47 can now blend in using ‘safety zones’, like a box of doughnuts, since chowing down on the job is totally normal for the Chicago police, apparently. These safety zones can be used for as long as needed, and will be necessary, since being disguised is no longer enough to fool everyone, and playing the part will help maintain the facade. Instinct mode also continues to play a role in these situations, allowing Agent 47 to take natural actions like talking into a police radio while turning his face away from other cops.

To handle the new features in Hitman: Absolution IO Interactive built the new Glacier 2 engine, which supposedly will allow for greatly enhanced facial features and animations. While it was hard to tell how good faces looked in the E3 preview since there were no dialogue cut scenes, the graphics do look fantastic in general, so far. Whether or not motion capture technology will be used to assist in this is unclear, but the voice actors for some main characters are different. Agent 47 himself, who has been voiced by David Bateson in the entire series, will be played by a new, undisclosed voice actor. Agent 47’s handler Diana will also have a new actress, Marsha Thomason. The new Glacier 2 engine is also able to modify enemy AI in realtime, allowing NPC’s to react dynamically and hopefully realistically to the player’s actions. We already saw that the AI is a bit smarter in our preview, when Agent 47 took an officer for use as a meat shield, and his buddies held their fire, while trying to talk out of the situation, instead of just firing like a bunch of idiots.

It’s still not a whole lot to go on, but Hitman: Absolution certainly sounds like it’s on the right course for success. Everything that’s made the franchise great in the past appears to be getting the polish and shine it needs, while providing new opportunities and methods for executing our targets. We still have to wait until 2012 before the game hits the shelves, but there’s no doubt we’ll be bringing you more information in the mean time, so keep checking back with us!