The action shooting may be fun, but Dave Oshry takes the stealth approach to Hitman: Absolution and comes away far better pleased with himself than on his "screw up" guns-blazing playthrough.
IO hasn't turned Hitman into Gears of War. Agent 47 is still good old Agent 47, except when things heat up, then he's a bit of Max Payne. And quite frankly, I'm just fine with that. IO says they want the player to be "empowered" through 47 and empowering is definitely the right word for the feeling you get when playing this game.
Much has been said about all the "action" being shown off in Hitman: Absolution. "This isn't what we want. What have you done to Agent 47?" The masses cry.
They've made him better is what. The high octane action being shown off in the latest iteration of this iconic franchise is simply an "evolution of the gameplay" says game director Tore Blystad.
"We didn't want it to feel like a failure when your plan screwed up. It's something that we felt was missing from the old games. The possibility of playing it in a more action oriented way. The game hasn't shifted focus, it's just been given an added focus."
And he's right. In my first playthrough of the Chinatown level being demoed at E3 I did indeed "screw up." I was seen trying to strangle a innocent street vendor and suddenly everything turned to chaos. But it was controlled chaos. I didn't immediately reload my game or run around wildly hoping not to be gunned down as I would have in previous Hitman games. With the added action-oriented elements I could now devise an action-oriented plan. I quickly took to cover, got out my silverballer pistols and started peeking about for hostiles. Using the new instinct system I could tell who was coming at me and from where. I popped out of cover and put two in the chest of an oncoming policeman. Easy enough, but there were four more right behind him. Luckily I had enough instinct to utilize 47's "point shooting" system to take them all down at once.
If you've not yet seen the new and improved 47 use "point shooting", it's much like John Marston's Dead Eye or Sam Fisher's "Mark and Execute" and it's just as glorious to behold. Four targets marked, four targets down. The only person who remained was my main target. Using a knife from the table of the very same vendor who alerted the police to my presence, I simply ran up to the "King of Chinatown" and stabbed him in the neck. Lovely.
It worked very much as Blystad told me it would if I screwed up: "Ok so your plan failed? Well here's plan B."
And while plan B was definitely satisfying in its own way, it certainly wasn't the classic 47 way, and my score reflected that - so I decided to play the level again.
"We know most players want to be stealthy and play through the levels in a traditional Hitman way. That's how the game appeals to them."
It was during this playthrough that I realized that this was still the Hitman we all know and love. I fired only one bullet. It went through the eye of my target via sniper rifle and I was never seen again. I was a shadow.
The team at IO says that Hitman has always been about player choice and that Agent 47 simply has more choice now than ever before. The new gameplay elements allow for a much more seamless transition into the action that will inevitably occur and they make completing the level as a bloody madman both rewarding and satisfying.
Will you want to play through levels again as a true Hitman? Of course. That's why there's a scoring system based around your actions. If you go around killing innocent people your score will be significantly lower than if you kill only your assigned targets. There's even a purist mode which will make your entire UI disappear.
It still pays to be silent, but it's also awfully satisfying to be loud. The music compliments your actions wondrously as well. The orchestral score booms as things get heated and dies down as you sneak back into the shadows. The entire experience is dynamic and at times even breathtaking.
IO hasn't turned Hitman into Gears of War. Agent 47 is still good old Agent 47, except when things heat up, then he's a bit of Max Payne. And quite frankly, I'm just fine with that. IO says it wants the player to be "empowered" through 47 and empowering is definitely the right word for the feeling you get when playing this game.
The action in Hitman Absolution isn't a departure for the series, it's an evolution - and a bloody good time no matter how you play it. As IO puts it:
"We want the players to chose the type of experience, but sometimes the game will choose for them and we want both the players and Agent 47 to have the right tools for the job."
Hitman: Absolution releases on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in November.