Features & News
Developer Session: Hitman Absolution
September 28, 2011, Author: Phil Ubee
For the past ten years the Hitman series has offered gamers the chance to don the persona of Agent 47, a genetically engineered assassin. The franchise introduced us to the idea of hiding in plain sight and climbing drainpipes to perform silent take downs, long before Sam Fisher or Altair arrived on the scene.
Next year will see the release of the fifth title in the series, Absolution, which was presented to the gaming press and public at the recent EuroGamer Expo at London’s Earls Court. I was quick to nominate myself to sit in, as a bit of a fan of the series, and boy was I fortunate to see Hakan Abrak, Lead Producer at IO Interactive’s presentation.
The version shown was on PS3 and the level was set in a Chicago Library, as Agent 47 is looking to evade the Chicago Police Department. Right from the opening screens it is clear that IO Interactive have gone to great lengths to make Hitman: Absolution look as good as they possibly can. As we look out into the rainy Chicago night, the individual rain drops are absolutely breathtaking. In addition to that, the facial detail on every character is second to none.
Hakan takes control of Agent 47 and, as he goes into the Library, the police are following with flashlights out as they try to find him in the dark. As always with the Hitman series, we are promised that how you play the game will be entirely up to you. You could make yourself known and try to take down the entire Chicago PD, but your chances would be slim so it suits to stay hidden as much as possible and try to evade rather than attack.
Hakan did not talk over the walkthrough and did not talk to us about the buttons, instead letting what played out on-screen talk for itself. At times, basic control actions pop up and immediately we see what has become a pretty familiar cover system in recent years. Jumping from cover to cover looks to be a simple and straight forward affair, as a tap of the X button will move you between positions.
The initial task of Agent 47 is to sabotage the fuse switch to avoid the lights coming on, and our guide subtly moves around the library squatting behind bookshelves and desks while keeping an eye on the police around him so as not to be seen. At times the path of the police is highlighted with a trail lit up on the floor. As mentioned we were not made aware of controls, but it seems this will be triggered with a single button press.
Having located the fuse box, Agent 47 has to stay hidden as one policeman switches on the mains, and goes back to his colleagues. Hakan brings our protagonist out from behind the desks and gets to the switch to upset the power, before ducking off again. All the way through, movement is smooth and subtle, and you can see the police flashlights flickering around and hear the police talking to each other as they search the building.
We then see the Hitman perform a trademark silent kill, as we creep up behind an officer and strangle him. The option is there to move the body but clearly we can’t hang around so it’s time to move onwards. Another take down, this time choked on the police baton.
As he makes his way through the Library, Agent 47 finds a power chord, which he picks up to use as a strangle chord. We then see some of the fluid animation the game will offer. You can grip ledges and move along as you hang, before pulling yourself up, so that those below cannot see you. Hakan takes Agent 47 onto a ledge above a doorway to avoid one officer, who walks unsuspectingly underneath. In a similar vein, if you are hanging from a ledge where someone is on the platform above, you can still grab them and pull them over.
All the way through the tension is building, and the background music not only displays but enhances this, as it starts to peak in true thriller movie fashion. This really kicks off when Agent 47 walks quietly into an area of police and takes a cop as a human shield to make his final escape. As he moves backwards with his cover tightly gripped, the cops start shouting, everything gets tense and then… the bullets start to fly.
From here the style of the game flips almost entirely, as Agent 47 runs up the stairs of the library, shooting and avoiding bullets as he looks to get to the roof. Once there, though, he is faced with helicopters containing automatic weapons. Agent 47 ducks inside another room, hiding behind crates as the bullets rain down, debris flies through the air as he tries and make his way to an area of protection.
As we see him get to the other end, he takes cover, only to overhear the cop on the roof outside taking his orders to investigate via his radio. Quickly, we see 47 hide and the cop comes in to search the room. We wait patiently with him, biding his time for the right moment to attack, take down and then take the uniform of this officer, to give us a glimpse of the use of disguise.
The next part is about bottle and nerve. Agent 47 strides across the rooftop head down in the lights of the chopper so as not to be clearly seen. He walks into another building; a hippy flat with a “F*** The Police” poster on the wall. Everyone in the room chuckles at the irony, as Agent 47 walks into a room full of Marijuana plants. We hear a couple of the occupants discussing the commotion outside. Naturally, they imagine the police are after them and one runs off to flush the evidence.
Hakan takes Agent 47 through the flat and out into the hallway, past Police officers and into the elevator, where a cockney man takes us down to the lobby while praising the work that the police do. As we get to the lobby, Agent 47 walks past various officers, turning his head away slightly to hide his face, while also looking around and noting the collection of automatic weapons dotted around.
Hakkan then directs Agent 47 towards a stack of shotguns by the counter, and you think our guide is going to kick off again. Instead, he smoothly picks up a doughnut before walking through the rest of the lobby, out the door and into the street. As we turn the corner, we arrive at a crowded train station and blend into the masses. The lights come on and massive applause erupts.
From start to finish, the walkthrough was simply amazing and shows off everything we have come to love of the series. Keeping hidden and biding your time before attacking is key to success in a Hitman game, and the mechanics look as though they will be smoother than ever to help you do this. Animations are beautifully smooth and as mentioned earlier the graphics are truly breathtaking. The voice acting is crisp and clear, and the background music adds an extra layer of depth to the game throughout the presentation.
There was a genuine buzz as those present walked away from the room. I only hope that my written words have done it justice, as Hitman Absolution is definitely one to look out for in 2012!