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Hitman Absolution: Catering to an assassin's every need?

Developer talks about the different ways you can play Absolution

Hitman Absolution's E3 demo is an all-action thrill ride littered with broken glass, bullet casings and dead police bodies. But while this cinematic footage broadens Agent 47's appeal, the demo is terrifying the Hitman hardcore into defensive outrage.

It begins in a library with 47 under siege by Chicago police. Sneaking behind cover and hanging from ledges, he takes the cops down one by one before stealing a uniform, taking a hostage, and shooting his way out.

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47 flees across rooftops while under fire from a helicopter, kills two cops in a hippy drug den, and evades SWAT police by munching a doughnut before disappearing into the streets of Chicago.

But Hitman is a game of disguise and deception, not firefights and cover systems. It's a game where - if you get everything right - the only one who dies is your target and everyone else believes it to be an accident.

It's a game where the highest honour is Silent Assassin - no shots fired, no alarms raised, no unnecessary kills, no evidence left behind. Absolution, IO were quick to point out, can be played with that Hitman elegance, but nobody got them on record about how.

So, we asked them: how?

STALKER

"The way we play through the E3 code allowed us to naturally introduce a number of mechanics while keeping up a dramatic storyline," says Absolution's Game Director Tore Blystad.

"But the Hitman games have always been primarily about stealth and this is still where we put our focus and effort. If the player wants to play with disguise as a primary focus they would take down the first lone police officer and steal his outfit - but the library is packed with police, so it's not going to be easy."

It makes for a dull spectator sport at E3, but it's possible to blend in and walk straight for the library's front door so long as you don't get stopped on the way. In previous Hitman games the right disguise was the key to almost any door, but in Absolution things are different.

"The disguise allows the player to walk around in the open as long as he doesn't get too close to the NPCs in a similar outfit," explains Blystad. "They'll start to see through the disguise when you get too close. The player can use Instinct to blend in, but it has to be used sparingly."

Instinct can be used to enhance disguises or to see through walls, as 47's take on Batman's Detective Vision. In the classic Hitman games enemy movements could be watched from the map screen on the standard difficulty setting; Absolution replaces the powerful map with a limited range Instinct view, which drains 47's Instinct meter.

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Like the map, Instinct is a silly piece of gamification which makes no sense except in how it makes the game better.

Instinct is awarded in the E3 demo for bashing a cop's brains out, but in the final game it'll be awarded for more subtle actions. As Blystad explains, "We reward both the purist Silent Assassin stealth, which is remaining unseen, and the action stealth, which is silent takedowns and cleaning up the mess.

"If the player unsuccessfully tries to fool the AI the situation can be controlled by taking them down in a secluded area," non-lethally, of course. "If the whole scene falls apart SWAT police will arrive as reinforcements. A SWAT outfit will give better protection against bullets and is a better disguise as it has a face mask."

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