Hitman: Absolution – ‘Run For Your Life’ 17 mins of gameplay
17 minutes of gameplay footage from Hitman: Absolution have been revealed to the public, and many are already complaining about a ‘dumbed down’ Hitman. While watching the video I saw only a Hitman that I really, really want to play.
Ok, I admit this is the third blog in a row in which I’ve espoused a game’s merits while others denigrate them, so it’s probably beginning to seem like I’m a person too easily pleased. To an extent that is true, I tend to see the better elements of a game before I start focusing on the negatives (a lot of work gets put into these games by a lot of people after all, and you always have to appreciate that) but I also know a good game when I see one, and the 16 minutes shown in the above video definitely showcase a vertical slice from a very good looking game.
However, many have already taken to calling Hitman: Absolution ‘Hitman: Conviction’, drawing comparisons between it and the Bauer-meets-Bourne gameplay of Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Conviction. That was also a very solid and enjoyable game but people are using it as a negative connotation rather than a positive one. It’s largely because while Conviction was certainly a stealth game, it was one streamlined for a generation becoming accustomed to easier, less demanding gameplay experiences. It’s this that the Hitman fanbase believes has occurred with Hitman: Absolution.
But has it? We can’t draw such conclusions from one gameplay video – a chunk of gameplay likely chosen because it was linear and more capable of demonstrating the new features of the game in a clear and understandable way. It does that job perfectly – it shows the more dramatic, engaging approach to stealth; the improvisational use of the environment and the tools within it; the dynamic and exciting score; the Instinct mechanic; the intertwining of familiar set-piece moments within the emergent gameplay; and the intricately detailed environments that share a lot of artistic sensibilities with IO Interactive’s work on the Kane & Lynch series.
I thought it looked wonderful. Many others do not. Instinct Mode is an instant point of contention for the critics; the mechanic at which Hitman fanboys point their fingers and wail, “It’s dumbed down! It’s not Hitman!” before even considering the deeper implications the inclusions of such a mode suggest.
The original Hitman games were riddled with outdated design problems, bad checkpointing, and levels that were fantastic but too demanding of perfection – one slip up and you were no longer Codename 47 stealthily stalking his prey, you were ripped out of the experience and were once again the gamer sat in his chair, frustrated and angry that some unknown variable caused them to lose the mission and force a restart. It shattered the immersion, tearing you out of the game experience.
Now remember that IO has been working on this game for some five years. They have had many long and lengthy discussions on how to fix such problems. They will have thought about them constantly during design. Issues will have been scrutininsed and worked over, and as such a mechanic like Instinct Mode would not have been included if it were not crucial to making for a better, more refined Hitman experience. They have settled on including Instinct Mode for a very good reason, and that is keeping you rooted in the fancy Italian footwear of 47, of making you feel like a predatory animal capable of truly deadly feats rather than a bumbling oaf struggling to work out the best plan.
With Instinct you can plan ahead, utilise the environment properly, and use the shadows like a real hitman would. It’s a great inclusion, one that keeps Codename 47 sleek and cool, and if you don’t like it there’s a hardcore mode planned for the pursits anway, so just play that.
The other issues raised by Hitman fans are the perceived linearity of the demo, and the fact that IO has apparently turned its back on the openness and experimentation that defined the previous games in the series. Well, once again, the above video is a demo and as such is choreographed to show off Absolution’s new features. It should not be taken to indicate some drastic shift in direction. There’s every chance any or all of the other levels of the game will be more puzzle-based, and will be about just killing your ‘mark’ rather than murdering every enemy who happens to get in your way. Having levels with more scripted scenes like Codename 47 attempting to escape the helicopter or walking through the police-infested lobby of the apartment builidng at the end of the video (did that remind anyone else of Leon just a little bit?) will just add a sense of pacing and variation to the overall game experience. Can’t see what’s wrong with that myself.
But hey-ho. Give gamers the slightest glimpse of something and they’ll immediately criticise it before they have the context to do so with any proper justification. We’ve all been guilty of it, myself included (I dismissed Binary Domain upon first seeing it before discovering that there actually is some potential there) but when the gameplay demos look as good as that above I just can’t understand it. Hitman: Absolution looks good. Even if it does abandon some of the main tenets of gameplay that defined the previous games it’s still surely going to be an enjoyable gameplay experience, right? At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters to me.