E3 2011: Hitman Absolution First Look Preview

Agent 47 is a man on the run in the stylish new Hitman game.

It's been five years since the last Hitman game, but it almost feels longer when you consider how much the killer-for-hire genre has grown in the interim, thanks to Ubisoft's wildly popular Assassin's Creed franchise. Clearly developer Io Interactive realizes it can't go back to the same old well for the upcoming Hitman Absolution because what we've seen of this game suggests a noticeably different look for the franchise. It's more cinematic, more stylish, and runs on technology that plays with light and shadows in a way that Hitman games never quite could previously. While we didn't get a chance to pick up a controller to see how it plays, we will say this: Absolution is certainly looking awfully nice.

Agent 47 is a man on the run in Hitman Absolution. The level we were shown took place in a dilapidated Chicago library, with 47 caught in the middle of what game director Tore Blystad calls a "citywide manhunt." Our bald antihero began looking down from a high balcony as a swarm of police officers chatted with one another about where the suspect (read: you) might be hiding and how to best sniff him out. The library felt like a condemned building, with a mess of books scattered about and substantial damage to the building interior. It was an eerie atmosphere that was made creepier by the fact that the entire library was enveloped in darkness, save for the occasional flickering of lightning and the flashlights of patrolling police officers.

In keeping with Hitman's penchant for stealth, 47 used that darkness to his advantage to sneak around the bottom floor of the library and methodically pick off one enemy at a time on his route toward some kind of improvised escape. The death toll was as grim as it was varied: One cop was strangled by a stray power cord, one was bludgeoned with a bust, one was sent tumbling down a series of collapsed floors, and another was choked with a nightstick until death arrived with a grisly "pop" sound. Throughout this killing streak, 47 was climbing around like a monkey, scaling ledges, dropping from balconies, and just generally dancing around the patrolling cops like a ballerina. Of course, he did have one very substantial advantage: a new tool called instinct, which functions a lot like detective vision in Batman: Arkham Asylum. It's an alternate vision mode that outlines enemies--very useful in this dark and ominous library level--and gives you a small visible pathway that your enemy is walking along.

It wasn't all pulling off clean kills and lurking in the darkness for 47, though. The jig was up once he grabbed a police officer and turned him into a hostage/human shield for the purpose of making a slow, backward ascent up a flight of stairs. As the cops swarmed around him with guns aimed squarely at his head, the music began to swell. Then, 47 reached the top of the stairs, and without warning, he broke the cop's neck to make a mad dash for the top floor of the library. He quickly stepped out onto a fire escape followed by a dramatic cutscene that revealed the bad news: All that was waiting for him outside was a torrential downpour and one angry police helicopter shining its searchlight directly on him. All of this was accompanied by music that, by this point, had grown into full-on industrial metal--a thunderous soundtrack to match the heightened action.

Then, 47 fled from the helicopter and its blinding light in a slick chase scene capped off by a slow-motion leap from one building to another. Things calmed down as he found an unfortunate Chicago cop wandering the rooftops by himself, who quickly became fodder for the chance to steal a policeman's outfit. Indeed, once again, you'll be able to borrow outfits from fallen foes to disguise yourself among your pursuers. What followed was a moment of relative comic relief, as 47 strolled from the roof into an apartment filled with potheads either scrambling to hide their drugs or too stoned to notice the man dressed as a cop who just walked into their hideout. But 47 had no issues with them, as he snuck out into the hallway where another bunch of cops were knocking on doors of other apartments in search of our bald hero.

Every time 47 passed by a group of cops, the scene seemed to slow down to half speed as he pulled his cap down low to avoid being caught. This all happened in a slick, stylish way that managed to feel less like a break in the pace and more like the subtle ebb and flow of dramatic tension. Soon enough, after another series of dramatic near encounters with police officers, 47 managed to sneak out of the building and out onto a crowded train platform. At this point, the camera pulled out, and 47 was little more than a speck in the darkened, rain-soaked crowd. Escape successful.

And that was our introductory look at Hitman Absolution. It's a game that seems to be aiming for more of a scripted, cinematic style than previous games in the series. We like how well executed the drama was and the way the game stylishly painted 47 as a lethal wrecking ball on the run. But at the same time, one of the greatest parts of previous games was the sandbox nature of level design--the way you were free to approach a given assignment with a relatively wide assortment of options and pathways. It will be interesting to see just how focused Absolution is on telling its story the way it wants to and how much choice the player has as a result. This level seemed to offer a little bit of both, as the first half in the library was a pretty wide-open sandbox for 47 to knock off enemies causing him trouble. But once he made it onto the roof, it seemed as though he was funneled into one specific path to focus on the scripted visual flourishes.

Other questions abound, as well. During this demo, it always seemed like there was an extremely useful weapon placed right before an enemy encounter, whether it was the aforementioned power cord or bust or the bong sitting right before the doorway of the pothead hideout that you could use to bludgeon a pair of police officers who stormed in looking for you. Blystad mentioned he wants Absolution to be less punishing than previous games, but we're hoping that doesn't simply mean every solution and every kill is spelled out for you in great big letters. After all, the payoff of experimentation has always been one of the hallmarks of the franchise. And beyond difficulty, there's also the question of how the game design will change with 47 being on the defensive rather than the offensive. Traditionally you've always been the man in control, sneaking into a target's stronghold and taking your sweet time studying the best way to assassinate him. Now, you're seemingly on the run from everyone--a la Jason Bourne--and that change is bound to have some consequences.

If nothing else, this demo certainly managed to pique our interest in the new stylish direction that Io Interactive is taking the Hitman series. While we didn't get a chance to pick up a controller, it's clear from looking at Absolution that it is being developed with an attention to detail and visual artistry that you don't see very often. Now we're eager to grab that controller to find out how much of what we've seen is just a fancy new visual wrapping and how much is a core shift in the traditional Hitman gameplay formula. Stay tuned.

Editor's Note: The original version of this story was mistakenly published with placeholder text where the editor intended to include the name of game director Tore Blystad. GameSpot regrets the error.

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Discussion

191 comments
BiiteMe
BiiteMe

Really really looking forward to this release. The only advice I can offer people is don't judge the game before you play it based on who made it or who is doing the voices or if the image of hitman is slightly different to what you remember. Once you play the game you have the right to express an opinion about how it is, until then you are speculating and proving your ignorance. This game carry's a lot of potential and I await it's release with great anticipation.

TruSake
TruSake

it seems it might just be a huge problem now that Eidos is not behind the game anymore. whenever another company takes over it seems everything goes to s***

Vittorio877
Vittorio877

what a ****... this gameplay all game long would be so boring... missions were much more fun, all kind of different enviroments, a target you had to focus attention on, different ways to do the job. Here I've seen linear gameplay, no choice branches, cant understand why some people thinks this games better

sk_razor
sk_razor

They've taken out more than 1/3 of made Hitman great. The entire sound of it is gone. Adequately replacing Jesper Kyd is going to be a tough cookie. They also changed the man voicing him, whom quite well fit the role. Also the old hitman's face used to give out a sort of cold tranquility - despite how old tech and old graphics it was. This one looks like an angry cave man. If they slop the character and the feel of the game and they might as well have been - there isn't going to be much left. After all Hitman was better at being inspiring enough to feel organically alive and impressionable than it ever was strictly as a game design, game-play mechanics and such.

Jzagmen
Jzagmen

its been a long time >>>> welcome back hitman

vadagar1
vadagar1

Santa loves me :D all the games I loved and wished they would (re)make/continue they did YAY \o/

GimmeMore95
GimmeMore95

Cant wait for this game to be released. Its gonna be awesome.

edurod1987
edurod1987

Man this game is so great that even the movie was good.

dxshah786
dxshah786

hope this is not jumping onto missions and get the job done. exploration, multiple ways to complete missions could bring more fun.

CPLDAN_aus
CPLDAN_aus

It seems alot like splinter cell conviction. Think about it, traditional stealth/action series with emphasis on depth of playstyles, new game designed to be more accessible(simplified) and about the protagonists from previous games being pursued for some reason. hmmmm

benny1366
benny1366

@ supersackboy23 everyone love this game !!!

Madd_Dogg53
Madd_Dogg53

I hope that the first level is just a tutorial, like in Blood Money where you learn how to shoot, how to disguise, how to hide bodies,etc...

mtbarone
mtbarone

They will f' this game up if they make it linear. Like the review mentions, this game was about the sandbox. Games these days like Assassins Creed are too easy and repetetive. I get the feeling I'm going to be disappointed.

sam85_
sam85_

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

hari92929
hari92929

Hope its not so linear. Hitman was always about stealth and the n number of ways u could kill someone. I had replayed most levels in previous games just so that i could experiment.

edubuccaneer
edubuccaneer moderator

Agent 47 for president! This is looking awesome.

neo2bad
neo2bad

I can't wait to see actual gameplay footage. this game gotta fill some big shoes

ptflea1
ptflea1

blood money is one of the best ps2 games lets hope hitman 5 delivers and then some

Lastbullet777
Lastbullet777

in hitman the movie, agent 47 was on the run and was great at it

sgtruin
sgtruin

i can't help but hum the Silent Assassin soundtrack and imagine i assassinate people whenever i think about these games :)

venkat_atr
venkat_atr

47 has returned after long time...

chkmode
chkmode

epic..i was worried about hitman absolution that will it be able to stand in front of the game like AC...but glad they made some remarkable changes

l777l
l777l

I'd like a focus on stealth, style, character development and story-telling.

LeaderOfLies
LeaderOfLies

its an assassination game why are you running away

LeaderOfLies
LeaderOfLies

please dont please dont please dont make it on the run for the whole game i want to walk in to a building, not be recognized or on the run unless someone sees me doing something wrong. please be generally more offensive than this level!

dannybanny
dannybanny

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

dannybanny
dannybanny

Open world huh.That would be great for all the fans!!

MJ_kratos
MJ_kratos

This game will be better than befor . trailer is very very interesting .

isshiah
isshiah

i remember playing 'contracts' on a cousins PS2 about 7 years ago. damn...where have you been 47? as a side point, the fact that he never even attempted to change his rather outlandish physical appearance made my suspension of disbelief harder to maintain. a guy in a suit with a barcode on the back of his bald head may stand out in a wanted poster.

ymarkman
ymarkman

Finally! Agent 47 has returned, better than ever before. This game is definitely on my To Get list.

ginop73
ginop73

an open world hitman game would be awesome, red dead knid of game but hit contracts

Xxhed_shotxX
Xxhed_shotxX

I hope they could make the game look even better but im just glad they are coming out with another one

Clive-Owen
Clive-Owen

everythings is going Call of Duty-esquely cinematic and linear, and i dont like it.

Extreme124
Extreme124

They took there time with this game I can tell. I hope it is really good and has some funny moments like being naked and stuff!

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! Ok, I must confess, I'm just a little excited about this. :) The Hitman games are among my favourite ever made.

rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

Man The graphics took a serious overhaul!! Seems like a pretty solid continuation to me ! 47 For Life!

wontonsoup00
wontonsoup00

oh man it sounds like the jason bourne game... boooooo

Kriminalac
Kriminalac

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

@Kriminalac: Industrial and all modern so called metals suck, they are not metal just using the metal name. True metal is the 80s's heavy metal, heavy metal for life \m/

cool322
cool322

Five years I've been waiting for it, and they're turning it into Kane and lynch 3? Bah, humbug.

Hulksmash77
Hulksmash77

Hopefully the core gameplay remains very similar to the previous gems!

oKiRe
oKiRe

Please they have not changed the gameplay.... you are an assassin, not James Bond.