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5 Reasons I am Excited About Hitman: Absolution
Have you missed skulking through sandbox levels, learning your prey’s movements while carefully avoiding the gaze of his bodyguards and henchmen? Have you missed isolating and knocking off said guards one by one, taking their cloths and slowly moving closer and closer to your target? Have you missed being a ridiculously tall, bald, white guy who can somehow pose as a member of the Chinese Triads without being able to speak Cantonese or Mandarin and only by taking a guard’s cloths? Well if you are like me, and have played the Hitman franchise from the beginning, then you have definitely felt the absence of our favorite Grim Reaper, Codename 47, over the last six and a half years since Blood Money came out. But what is different for our assassin anti-hero? The landscape of video games has changed immensely in six and a half years, and what new things will Absolution bring to the table to excite us, and what things will stay the same to please the fans of the series? Fall 2012 seems to be the Fall of the Assassin, with Assassin’s Creed III, Dishonored, AND Absolution coming out, and I think IO Interactive sure has their work cut out for them if they want this title to stand out. While a lot is still unknown about the game, let’s look at some reasons why I (and hopefully more people), are so excited about 47’s new adventure.
Oh my goodness, actual combat
Yeah, though Codename 47 was always very handy with his Silver Ballers, if he was ever beset upon multiple guards at once and one happened to run in close, he never seemed to be able to do much more than shoot over their shoulder (partially due to the poor aiming reticle). For such a badass guy, 47 was practically defenseless in his early games, only being able to dance around the assailant with his piano wire out, hoping to choke them out by quickly running behind them. It was only in Blood Money that 47 gained the ability to bop them in the nose with his pistol (about as useful as it sounds). More often than not, it led to a pretty dead Hitman. Absolution, though, plans to change 47’s fighting ability for the better, making him just as much of a killing machine up close. For one, he is able to engage people hand-to-hand, interacting in a sort of button sequence or quick time event in order to determine his success. If successful, he will either knock them out, bring them in close and hold them, or take them to the ground. He can then either render them unconscious or even snap their necks to kill them. As well, 47 is now able to use environmental objects, such as axes, phone cords, or even ceramic busts, to bludgeon his opponents or even create unique stealth kills. Either way, it sounds like 47 will be more able to rely more than just on his gunplay, and it will definitely add some more variety to how you go about your missions.
Hitman with a Modern Makeover
I recently went back and played a few of the older titles, Silent Assassin and Contracts, and while I had a ton of fun with the games due to the ability to experiment and just have fun horsing around, I remembered just how difficult the games truly were, and not because the game was crafted that way, but more because of some inherent problems with the design of the game itself. Yes, even playing Blood Money, probably the best designed out of the console games, takes some patience at times and a bit of forgiveness to some of the design errors. The guards will break out their guns and attack for just jogging by them (the AI in general was very by the book), the aiming is definitely wonky and difficult to use, and 47 himself really had no interaction with the world around him aside from attacking, running, and picking stuff up. Absolution, though, looks like it is taking that same attitude of experimentation and fun yet giving the series a much needed update for the times. The aiming system is now very similar to most modern third person shooters, with one button controlling whether or not the player aims or not (a la Gears of War or the modern Resident Evil games) and 47 can now take cover behind objects, rather than just standing there and soaking up bullets. The AI as well, is also much better and a lot less generic; as a recent trailer put it, the world of Absolution is a “living, breathing world” and seems to be pretty lovingly crafted. The guards are now much smarter, but at the same time aren’t omniscient and won’t draw their guns for just any reason. Also an alert won’t mean that all guards will know exactly who 47 is at that moment, and instead can be isolated to that one discovery, giving the player a chance to regain control of the situation. As well, the Save system has now been replaced with Checkpoints, which I know I appreciate as the earlier games only allowed a certain amount of saves per level. Finally, 47 can really use the environment around him, as he can now hang from ledges (and pull people off them), use hiding spots and duck into shadows to wait for people to pass by, crawl through vents, and even use costumes to actually blend in with the environment (in one trailer, 47 pretended to be a scarecrow hanging in a corn field…awesome). Now while a lot of this seems commonplace to many modern games, keep in mind that the last time we saw 47, he could only crouch down to drag a body, much less crawl across the ground.
Looks New, but that same Hitman Goofiness
A Pizza boy in short shorts? Santa Claus? A World War I German Officer? Who hasn’t 47 dressed up as to get close to his prey? The Hitman games love to take people to strange places and environments, and really love to put them in even zanier costumes when they go in for the kill. Blood Money alone took 47 to a Playboy-esque mansion party, a Heaven and Hell Party in Vegas, Mardi Gras, and even the White House. Absolution like it is going to continue this trend of goofiness with even more crazy locales, environmental weapons, and costumes. Some locales mentioned thus far have been a hotel run by a Hippie commune, the middle of a busy Chinatown Festival, and there is even the rumor of a Lucha Libre match being thrown in there too (oh god I hope so!). It also looks like the Hitman is getting some more fun environmental weapons (oh how I remember running people through with broken pool cues) like a tomahawk, a Bible, and even a bong! Finally, the costumes look to be just as out of this world…
Or this one…
And I don’t even want to know the context of this one…
Needless to say, this game just looks like fun wrapped in really creepy costumes and over the top levels.
It’s Borrowing From the Best
As I mentioned before, Absolution is definitely cribbing from some other games to help make the final product as polished and fun an experience as possible. Based on what has been released and seen thus far, one can definitely see elements of Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, Assassin’s Creed, and Red Dead Redemption. The game is adding an “Instinct” mode which is very similar to the Detective mode in Batman, allowing 47 to see normal guard routes, their suspicion level, and whether or not a guard is armed. As well, there is definitely a great influence from Batman’s sneak-and-takedown gameplay, as many of the maps feature enemies actively hunting 47, and him having to eliminate the pursuers one by one. The combat, with its button sequence style flow, is very Assassin’s Creed in it sounds like it is based around counterattacks and guarding; granted, though, it sounds like we will get a better picture of this come the release date. Finally, 47 has a super move, called “Point Shooting,” very similar to the Dead Eye mechanic in Red Dead in that he can slow down time, pick several targets, and then shoot them all very quickly, eliminating several threats in one fell swoop. It looks like IO Interactive has definitely studied the best over the last six and a half years, and is making the most out of it. Granted, all of these ideas might come off, in the final product, as a little gimmicky and maybe even make the game a little overly complicated, but again, we will have to wait and see.
Options and Experimentation
I remember there was literally a mission in Blood Money that I played at least forty or fifty times. It was “Curtains Down,” the mission where you had to eliminate two targets at an Opera rehearsal, one of whom who was almost always on stage performing and the other was heavily guarded in a private and inaccessible booth. The most fun part of this mission was that there were so many ways that you could go about it, and it really showed how many of the Hitman games’ assassinations were all about problem solving. You could either switch out the fake stage gun (the opera is Tosca and they are rehearsing the execution scene), for a real antique pistol, thus turning the fake stage death into a real one, throw a timed mine into the one guy’s booth and detonate it as you are leaving, blow up the lighting rigs and cause the whole stage to collapse, killing everyone in the theater but making it look like an accident, or just go on a bloody rampage and blow everyone away. The options were vast and many, and it was so much fun to figure out what worked and what didn’t.
Absolution from what has been released, looks like it is going to continue in this fine tradition of granted many different options and allowing the player to experiment. Aside from what looks like incredibly varied and fun levels within the main game, Absolution is also implementing a Contracts mode, which allows players to create their own custom challenges and assassinations within certain maps, and then share and post them online. The only caveat to posting online is that the player has to be able to complete the challenge himself before being able to save/share it. The player can bring in the weapons they like from other missions or use ones that already exist on the maps, and they can set up to three targets per challenge. For someone who loved doing wacky and random fun things throughout the other games within the confines of the given levels, having the ability to make up my own wacky and random fun things just adds a whole lot of game-play value, making Absolution a true sandbox for me to play in.
In the end, Absolution has a lot of expectations to live up to, and I really hope that it lives up to the hype. The game looks beautiful and seems so much more alive and well put together than the previous installments in the series. If the game can wow me with its presentation, but still remind me of the Hitman that I spent many an hour playing with during my teenage years, then Absolution may truly be a winning title. Hitman: Absolution comes out November 20th and is being released for the PC, PS3, and XBOX 360, so check it out then and see for yourself if it is truly a title to have been excited about.