“Cinematic” is a buzzword that arrives with a lot of baggage. To some it implies an unobtainable carrot developers have been trying to catch ever since Metal Gear Solid seamlessly blended the film-like experience into its mechanics. Games certainly mean well when attempting to emulate a more successful medium, but more often than not developers don’t possess the direction necessary to integrate narrative into gameplay. What we’re left with are bits of interaction interrupted with half baked cut scenes that typically and totally kill the flow of a videogame. Good examples exist, Uncharted and Heavy Rain are particularly great, but they’re usually the exception and not the rule.
Hitman: Absolution is a cinematic game. Much to my regret I had never played a Hitman title before my demo with IO Interactive. I had no concept of what it was about or what its fans demand, leaving my slate blank as far as what to expect or how 2012 was going to treat Agent 47.
IO Interactive stated that Absolution was still going to be an open ended, play-it-how-you-like game though it was incredibly difficult to demonstrate that in the paltry 25 minutes we had to see it. We were then treated to a sequence with 47 moving in and out of cover in an office building. In pursuit of a target, he sported a new ability on par with dozens of other games at E3; the power to see highlighted outlines of dangerous foes through walls. Called “Instinct,” it’s intended to bring the series up to speed in the modern videogame landscape.
What proceeded next was also rather routine. Watching some guards carefully, 47 stealthily moved across the office and eventually took out his target. Things got interesting when he got busted and had to take an office hostage. Bright lights and dozens of guns pointed in his face were cause for concern, but 47 played it cool and made a mad dash for escape –eventually executing the hostage once the coast was clear.
After this the demo sort of blew its wad on a sequence that easily stood among the best on the show floor. With a helicopter in pursuit, 47 runs through a hallway, guitars start crunching in the background, and the ‘copter starts to shoot the holy hell out of everything on screen. It was derivative of cinema, but completely beautiful and one hundred percent interactive. I
In a rather humorous sequence that followed, he donned a police uniform and busted through a wall into an apartment building. He entered a room with a bunch of stoners high out of their mind, and their reaction to seeing him calmly walk through their bungalow was priceless. It was too weird to be serene, but 47’s calmness and paused demeanor was in stark contrast to the severity of the situation he was in. Eventually and errant cop burst the door down and 47 smashed a bong over his face.
A final sequence showed 47 leaving the scene of the crime. Still dressed like a cop, his gaze toward a set of assault rifles as he exited the building presented the option to unleash hell at a moment’s notice. Our demo played it cool, however, as 47 attempted to roll the dice and walk out naturally. It worked, and he blended into a crowd of people that had surrounded the city streets.
Hitman: Absolution’s future isn’t clear, but it certainly shows bits of promise sprinkled in between fairly solid (if not familiar) bits of gameplay. Look for it in 2012.