- Platform: Playstation 3 (Reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
- Published by: Square Enix
- Developed by: IO Interactive
- Genre: Third-Person Action, Stealth
- ESRB Rating: M for Mature
- Number of Players: Single-Player
- Release Date: May 15th, 2012
Hitman: Absolution is just over a week away from release. To get players excited, IO Interactive released a playable game, Hitman Sniper Challenge, awhile back. This game is only available to those who preorder the full game. As the title implies, this game is all about sniping, and more specifically, the new sniping mechanics that will be featured in the full game. So, don’t think of this as a demo for the full game but as a playable preview of what’s to come.
The game starts out with Diana, Agent 47’s handler, briefing him on his most immediate contract. A local arms dealer is throwing a party for his company at his penthouse suite in Chicago. However, Agent 47 cannot infiltrate the party directly without being spotted. The only way to take out his targets, the local arms dealer and his slew of bodyguards, is to take up perch on a nearby roof and snipe them.
After the brief… briefing, the player takes control of 47 and his high-powered sniper rifle. There is no actual motion of 47 in this game, rather just the movement of the camera and his rifle scope. Across from the building in which 47 is positioned lies the penthouse suite. The main deck of the suite consists of mostly party guests and a multitude of bodyguards. The main target arrives by helicopter and the player is allotted 15 minutes to take him, and all of his bodyguards, out. This being a Hitman game, the goal is to do this without arousing any suspicion and leaving the scene with the Silent Assassin rank. Achieving this rank is absolutely ideal and to do so, patience is required. The player will spend the first few playthroughs simply watching the movements of the target and all of his bodyguards, picking them off one by one in the attempt to be stealthy. Sniping is very enjoyable in this game as the bullets take time to reach far distances, requiring players to lead moving targets. Unlike most sniping games where clicking the left analog stick will slow the players breath and steady the rifle, Hitman requires that the player slowly squeeze the right trigger to slow 47’s breath and take a more accurate shot. This is a new mechanic that I have not seen in any other game and it is very satisfying.
In this Hitman game there is a new achievement system. These achievements range from shooting each target with a headshot, causing an accidental death, or even finding hidden garden gnomes. Unlocking these achievements gives the player a higher score multiplier for each subsequent play and getting high scores is important because the higher the overall score is, the more in-game content that is unlocked when the full game drops. The score is also recorded on a leaderboard which can be filtered to the whole world, the nation the player resides in, or just the friends list. It’s great fun competing with friends for the highest scores and adds a lot of replay value. A sample of the new Instinct mechanic is present in this game as well, allowing players to distinguish between regular guards and the high-profile target, even if they are behind walls or obstacles. Instinct also allows players to see interactive objects such as wires that can be shot to drop deadly objects.The AI have new phases of alertness as well, ranging from a cautious state in which the guards will investigate an area, all the way to a fully aware state in which they will begin to flee the area, effectively losing the player kill points. Once the target and all of the bodyguards are dealt with, the player is awarded a final score and a list of all the achievements received that playthrough.
Hitman Sniper Challenge is a fantastic preview of what the full game could be. The new sniping mechanics that require patience and accuracy, the various ways targets can be killed, the dark humor, the pure replay value, and the overall look and feel have captured the essence of what a Hitman game is. If all of these features transfer to the final product, then this is shaping up to be one fantastic title. It is most certainly worth stopping by the local GameStop, slapping down five bucks for the preorder, and enjoying this slice of the Hitman universe before we all get our hands on the real thing.
FINAL SCORE: 9.5/10