Prior to E3 I knew that there were a few titles I absolutely had to see. At the top of the list was Hitman: Absolution. Now, I could've played the demo at the kiosk right away, but I knew there was something else behind the closed doors of a special presentation room. Rather than dive into the demo, I decided to hold off until I after I saw the closed-doors demo. Behind the wall is a dark room with a large screen showing the Hitman logo and a set of headphones just for me. I sit down anxiously and gave my wide-eyed attention to the screen.
The demo started off showing the Glacier 2 Engine logo followed by the artistic proof of dynamic gameplay. The level shown is called “Streets of Hope” and we’re told it’s about halfway into the game. Agent 47 looks familiar with the iconic barcode inked into the back of his head, but he’s… prettier. The graphics make it so. The detail and fluidity looks and feels great, but not just because it’s been nearly six years since Hitman: Blood Money. The game is refined and there are more options, more interactions, and more opportunities.
As we follow Agent 47 on his first “hit” against of group of baddies wearing 1950’s style letterman jackets, I notice items flashing with a notification to interact with them, everything from a leaky gas tank, to sleeping pills, to a shiny axe. It’s obvious the ways to complete missions will be as vast and as creative as you want them to be. The top of the screen shows “Get Lenny” as the video introduces something called Instinct Mode. This mode shows all nearby enemies, but they’re muted compared to the glowing red target allowing you an opportunity to think about your attack.
You can go in guns blazing or take a more traditional hitman-like approach and sneak past guards. The most important thing to know is- all decisions count. The game is built to track and score all your actions based on how clever you are. Going in guns blazing might get you through the level quickly, but your score will suffer. For example, after subduing a target, we’re shown what happens when Agent 47 gets creative and sends the target over a balcony near a leaking gas tank. The target is eliminated after detonating the tank by a well-placed C4 toss. The points immediately show the fruits of your labor until a couple cops run over to investigate and get to close. A car near the tank catches fire, then explodes killing the cops…oops, negative points. Then more cops run over to check on the commotion…another car explodes, then another.
This continues until three or four cars have exploded creating a major commotion and costing whole lot of negative points for killing innocents. All the while Agent 47 seems calm, cool, collected, and fit for a movie ending as he walks away slowly from the burning carnage.
“Cool guys don’t look at explosions, they blow things up and then walk away”. - Andy Samberg.
The scene was epic. It wasn’t point positive, but it was creative. The point is you get to choose…you get to be the author, the creator, the director of your own experience. Over and over you’ll find yourself in situations that make you aware of your surroundings. You’ll want to try different things and see how it affects the scoring, interactions, and story. You’ll want to try different things because it’s fun.
So after spending time behind the wall, I wanted more. Naturally, I immediately hit up the playable demo. Another level with different baddies, interactions, and opportunities would eat away my time. I’m not sure exactly how much time I spent at the hands-on demo, but I’m certain I got lost playing as Agent 47. It’s been too long, but I say it’s worth the wait.