Hitman Absolution won my favour before I’d even began playing it, chiefly because they gave me a small Agent 47 figurine once I’d reached an appropriate place in the queue. As a note to every publisher out there, if you give me a quaint plastic toy, you can make Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing and I’ll still love it. Probably. Actually that’s a lie. I’ll enjoy the shit out of the figurine though. You’re winner.
So onto Hitman; old slap-head barcode-face is finally back, and he’s still a creepy old clothes-stealing waiter-strangler, and for a long time, I considered leaving this hands-on preview at that sentence. Don’t worry though, you’ll get slightly more bang for your buck, we spare literally no expense here at Respawn. Or we would if expense were an option…
Agent 47’s glorious return certainly appears to be a welcomed one, as Hitman’s sprawling booth at the Expo was undoubtedly one of the more popular attractions, and, by all accounts, I too was excited to get back in the saddle and begin, once again, playing dress up, utilizing 47’s hapless victims’ no-longer-required clothing.
Absolution feels very much like Hitman’s previous iterations, which is no bad thing, as it’s that classic formula that has, in the past, rocketed the contract killer in the general direction of gaming stardom; the majority of players will instantly recognize the hairless, suited, wandering barcode. Some say if you bleep him through the register at Tesco, he comes up as out-of-date tinned peaches. Just saying.
Indeed then, this is classic Hitman, as we start out in a lonely Chinatown alleyway, proceeding toward a heaving, bustling town square, jam packed full of fantastic-looking NPCs. To the displeasure of the on-looking queue behind me, I spent a long time staring absently at a crowd of hungry characters, clambering over one another to get some food from a hot dog stand. This is the reason people don’t invite me to parties.
Not only does the truly expansive crowd look and move brilliantly, with some extraordinary animations, its inhabitants are also fun to move amongst, as Agent 47 can nip into a large group of people, disappearing in a rewardingly convincing manner. Everybody moves out of your way, so as not to obstruct the player, without scattering and blowing your cover or looking a bit rubbish, a la Assassin’s Creed. Again, a large portion of my time was spent ignoring the target and slipping in and out of sizeable gatherings of NPCs.
The stealth mechanics feel lithe and full of opportunity, and my short burst of time with the game was clearly insufficient; especially because instead of strangling the target, I tapped him on the shoulder and politely enquired as to how he’d like to die. He called his goons. There was a big fight.
There’s a clear emphasis on pacing, and also on trial and error, again, relying on that tried and tested Hitman routine. With multiple ways to navigate and complete your contracts, you’ll likely want to wrestle each mission Absolution offers up to the ground, so as to be able to move swiftly through the game like the skilled, professional, silent assassin you’re known to be – even when wearing that maid’s uniform. That hard as nails haircut is convincing no one Mr. FortySeven.
It felt good to slip the Hitman gloves back on; the engine greets the player in a manner that’s both lithe and comfortable, and the potential for some truly ingenious meanders through the array of missions is utterly abundant. Without a doubt, this is shaping up to be a return to form for Agent 47.
Something to leap through the ceiling in excitement over? Probably not. A cracking stealth-encumbered outing worthy of your attention this Christmas? We reckon it’s likely.