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PAXEast 2012: Hitman: Absolution Continues to Impress

Agent 47 once again dons the suit of another man, and continues to looks amazing

By Josh Garwood on 4/11/2012
For anyone who followed our coverage of E3 last year, or happened to participate in our Game of the Year Awards, you are likely all too aware of my infatuation with Hitman: Absolution. As a long time fan of the series and someone who believes that Io Interactive is at the top of their proverbial game, I am happy to say that Agent 47's next killing soiree remains at the top of my wishlist after seeing it firsthand at PAXEast this weekend.

At E3 last year we saw the debut of Io's latest platform technology in the Glacier Engine. We were made privy to the new lighting effects, character models, animations, dynamic and orchestral/grunge score, and a cornucopia of new gameplay elements; all combining to create one of the darkest, grittiest, and truly visceral gaming experiences of this generation. Now, nearly 9 months later, Io is giving gamers a deeper look into the various ways in which they can guide Agent 47 through a brutal world of conspiracy and deceit.

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In keeping with the true nature of the franchise, players will have the ability to forge their own path when pursuing a target or evading capture. Whether they're a tried and true silent assassin, or a dual wielding ballers to the wall gunner, they'll be able to cultivate their play-style of choice in Absolution. This was put on grand display during our demo with Io Creative Director and PR Manager at PAXEast this weekend. Together they guided us through two distinctly different playthroughs. One that saw Agent 47 sneaking in the shadows, hiding bodies, silently disabling foes, and weaving in and out of cover to reach his destination. And another that featured fire-axes to the head, groin shots, multiple explosions, and a number of gruesome melee executions. In both cases though, the mission was completed, albeit with with potentially different consequences later in the level.

We were also given greater insight into the story that will be driving the player through each mission. As we mentioned in our E3 coverage, Agent 47 is on his own this time around; no one to give him directives, no one to supply him with funds, and no one to give him intel prior to a mission. This creates a greater sense of intensity and desperation for the player, as they must be resourceful in finding weapons, tracing enemy paths, and creating diversions. Our demo showcased an orphanage that housed a sought after girl (for reasons currently unknown) who Agent 47 needed to recover before a nefarious underground group could kidnap her. The "safe house" offered a significant amount of detail and ambiance. From rich and high-quality textures to dark and brooding lighting, the entire environment maintained the classic Hitman feel while at the same time felt entirely "next-gen."

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As well, the sound once again proved to be both profound and engrossing at the just the right time. The score seemed to consist of stringed instruments juxtaposed against the subtle strumming of an electric guitar; oscillating between fast and slow rhythms as the action picked up, and slowed down from room to room. Enemy chatter could be heard throughout the halls and gave the world an even greater sense of depth and gravity. To boot, their conversations and actions changed dynamically based on what 47 was doing (whether being loud and aggressive, or silent and stealthy).

I will say though, that the actual script left much to be desired. There were a few obligatory sex jokes and the typical bad guy banter, but what really detracted from the characters was the gross overuse of profanity. Don't get me wrong, that sort of thing definitely has its place at times, but here there were entire sentences that contained nothing but four letter words and added no real value to the given scene. It was less of an offense to me personally, and more of an assault on my intelligence as a gamer being subjected to such uninspired dialog. The interactions between AI characters was much more meaningful and valuable to the story in the E3 demo from last year, so hopefully they'll channel more of that going forward.

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As our walkthrough came to a close I couldn't help but to feel extremely excited for what lies ahead for Absolution and our barcoded protagonist. The Io team assured us that this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when concerning the story and gameplay, and that we should expect grandiose things as the game nears its release later this year. From open sandbox elements to dynamic crowds and extreme difficulty modes, there is much left to be seen for Hitman, and I for one can't wait to see what's next.
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quantifier on April 12, 2012
Keep up the thorough coverage on this game. Like you, I am excited to see this drop. I hardly ever purchase a new game as soon as it hits the shelves, but this game is very tempting...like digging into that fourth plate of ribs at a buffet. It'll hurt tomorrow, but it's so good now.
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