Hitman is more of an evolution than a revolution of the franchise (Photo : Square-Enix)
Amidst the enthusiastic crowd of costumed fans at New York Comic-Con, a demo kiosk for Hitman: Absolution appears out of place, silent among a roaring uprising of Batmen and Jokers.
As a stealth game that requires thoughtfulness and concentration, a convention center was certainly not the ideal environment to demo Hitman. Yet, even out of its element, IO Interactive's tutorial stage for Agent 47's next hit drowned out the kinetic show floor that surrounded me.
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The level initially places 47 on the outskirts of a scenic mansion buffered by a tennis court and indoor garden. The tutorial wastes no time teaching players how to pick up and throw items to create distractions, as well as the basics of weapon use. 47's trusty old fiber wire returns in Absolution, with a small but useful tweak to its functionality. After strangling an enemy with the wire, 47 defaults to dragging the corpse with the fiber still around its neck, streamlining body disposal.
Changes have been made to how 47 hides bodies as well. In Hitman: Blood Money, the assassin could only fit one subdued enemy per bin. Absolution's bins now store either 2 enemy bodies. Alternatively, if only one body is stored in a container, 47 can still hide inside it for concealment. While these are small changes, dedicated fans will notice an attention to detail that irons out some of the minor complaints of previous Hitman installments.
After making my way into the mansion, a secondary target became visible. As I passed through the kitchen, I picked up sleeping pills to store for later use. My primary target, Diana, who fans will recognize as 47's handler throughout the franchise, was located beyond a keycard-protected door. In order to obtain the card, I directed 47 upstairs to close the shutters to the enormous living room space. The secondary target broke from the pack of armed security men that surrounded him, determined to re-open the shutters. As he passed through a secluded hallway, I used 47's "Silver Baller" silenced handgun to subdue the target and obtained the keycard he was holding. I regretted not being able to use the pills that I had stolen, but I suppose that's what second playthroughs are for.
After passing through the locked threshold, 47 came upon a group of 4 enemies. Faced with overwhelming odds, the tutorial suggested using a feature akin to Splinter Cell: Conviction's "mark and execute" idea. After triggering the mode, time slows and allows the player to pinpoint where their next few shots will land, allowing the assassin to take down a handful of enemies in one fell swoop. Beyond these enemies resided Diana. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I will leave the events that follow to the imagination of readers. Fans of the series will be relieved that creatively killing their targets is still the heart and soul of Hitman.
Hitman: Absolution releases on November 20, 2012.