Stepping out as Agent 47 for the first time in Hitman: Absolution, it quickly becomes apparent that--as in previous Hitman games--there are numerous different ways to complete your primary objective. Attempting to assassinate a high-profile target in the King of Chinatown level recently, it was hard not to be impressed by the sheer number of different opportunities to get the job done that presented themselves. Some of them are so obvious with the benefit of hindsight, though, that they pose little challenge on subsequent plays.
Your target's movements are hard to predict initially; spend some time surveilling, and you'll see him arrange a meeting with a drug dealer, visit a market stall for a bite to eat, and even wander off to a relatively secluded corner to answer a call of nature. The only chance that you have to predict these actions on your first attempt is to eavesdrop on conversations that, because they typically take place shortly before the actions being discussed, create a great sense of urgency as you attempt to act upon what you've learned. Because non-player characters follow the same script every time you play, though, it's possible when replaying a level (this level, at least) to act upon information before obtaining it. That's what we did.
Our first attempt to assassinate the self-proclaimed King of Chinatown took a long time, and ultimately failed spectacularly when we were gunned down by police before the job was done. We silently disposed of a drug dealer, changed into his clothes as a disguise, and intended to deliver poisoned cocaine to the target. Apparently that's not one of the ways that the level can be completed, though. The drug dealer disguise is good enough to fool the guard at the deceased dealer's apartment building but not the target. Upon realizing this, we attempted a simpler approach involving a sniper rifle and a window that afforded us a great view of the busy market. (There were easily more than 100 people milling about, and we're told that Hitman: Absolution will support crowds of up to 500.) The first missed shot saw our score take a hit when a civilian was killed, and the second caused such a panic that when we walked back down to the market, only the police and a few terrified shopkeepers remained.
The police still didn't know whom they were looking for (onscreen indicators let you know if your current outfit makes you a suspect), but when we were spotted trying to plant an explosive on the target's car, the costliness of our mistake was never in doubt. A couple of officers lost their lives in the fight that ensued, but moments later we were hitting the restart option.
This time we didn't bother to eavesdrop on the target at all. Nor did we kill the drug dealer. Rather, we acquired poison as quickly as possible and then, when we saw the dealer arranging his meeting with the target, we headed straight for his apartment where we knew the pair would be snorting cocaine a few minutes later, laced the white powder with poison, and waited. Everything went according to plan, and we were able to complete the level by exiting Chinatown before the body was even discovered.
It was a less satisfying kill than it might have been on our first attempt, but it's worth pointing out that we were only playing on the second of five difficulty settings and that other options might offer less predictable character behaviors. Also worth mentioning is that, had time permitted, we would happily have spent more time replaying the same level both to improve upon our score (which will be shown to friends when they start the same level) and to experiment with different approaches. Hopefully it won't be too long before we have an opportunity to do just that, because second attempts aside, Hitman: Absolution is shaping up to be something pretty special.