You have to appreciate IO Interactive’s commitment to creating an experience. The Hitman series has always been known for its myriad of ways in which to carry out Agent 47's contracts, but the degree to which IO Interactive sells his world through apparent happenstance and raw ingenuity is thoroughly underappreciated. This is never more apparent than it has been through my time with Hitman: Absolution.
I was all the more surprised because recent word of mouth hadn't been very positive. E3 2011's visually striking demo was shredded (perhaps unfairly) for appearing too linear. Agent 47's new "instinct" ability, which grants him the supernatural option of instantly identify marks and potential options in the field, was criticized for potentially diluting or dumbing down a valuable experience. And then there was that weird ass leather clad combat nun multiplayer trailer, which certainly didn't do Absolution any favors with its passionate fans.
Two minutes into our closed-door demo, however, and it was clear how much perception differed from reality. IO Interactive’s community manager Nick Price introduced the demo by saying 47 was tasked to complete five hits and one kidnapping in this particular level. Briefly, he then spoke to the importance of efficiency. Absolution's end game isn't merely the completion of the hits intended, but rather the execution of a detailed plan. 47's ultimate task is to make everything look like an accident. Other options, from blunt and risky to skilled and effective, are available, but your end score is heavily dependent on absolutely no one ever knowing that 47 was there.
Thankfully, every level is going packed tight with accidents waiting to happen. A great sequence from our demo involved 47 donning some mechanics clothes and slipping into an automotive repair garage. He picked up a big wrench and had reasonable clearance to bash the brains out of his mark. Instead, he tossed the wrench under a lift, causing his mark to go and investigate what happened. 47 then flipped the hydraulic lift and dropped a car on the poor soul. He walked away, virtually unnoticed, while other people rushed in to see what the hell happened.
Another example detailed a sequence on the roof above the same car shop. It wasn't enough for 47 to subdue and toss a gentleman off the roof, but he also made sure to grab the detonator for the C4 his mark happened to be holding. After he pushed the guy off the roof, he walked back down, started walking away, and punched the detonator. We were treated to an awesome "cool guys don't look at explosions" camera angle while throngs of people shuffled about in horror. So chaotic was the scene that it allowed 47 to slip into the kidnapping finale and close the demo.
A completely separate playable demo was available on the show floor. Tasked with eliminating a mark in Chinatown, my personal goal was to see what options were available without resorting to using 47's "instincts." What I wound up doing looked more like a clumsy thief trying to elude the Keystone Cops rather than an elite mercenary, but I still had a bunch of fun. Once I hit a car alarm to cause a distraction, which I thought would call attention away from the center of Chinatown where my mark was highly public and heavily guarded. Nope. Next I found a remote explosive, but I was never able to get close enough to make it effective. I also found a sniper rifle which I managed to use effectively, but that still didn't solve my goal of making it look like an accident. In the end I never found the 'proper' way to handle the scenario (at some point there's a certain courtesy in not making the guy in line behind me wait around why I purposely fail over and over), which makes me all the more eager for Absolution’s release this November. If two single levels held that much potential and possibility, I can't wait to see how the full game will unfold.