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Hitman Absolution: Hands-on with the nun-free E3 demo

Everything you love about 47

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Now, you don't have to restart. Levels can be completed the simple way - by shooting everyone point-blank in the face and walking calmly to the exit - and it's certainly viable, but that's not Hitman. If you stick an assault rifle in your starting gear, you're doing it wrong. So, the objective? Kill the King of Chinatown. According to Instinct Mode he's the guy glowing bright red in a pagoda, flanked by cops on the payroll. This calls for a more passive-aggressive approach.

We spy a chef and tail him, waiting for the right moment to strangle him with 47's trademark fiber wire, before taking his uniform. This frees up the kitchen, staff blind to the differences between tall bald white men and small Asian men as long as they're wearing the same clothes. Using Instinct Mode again highlights something otherwise easy to miss - a wine cellar. It's perfect. We wait for the King to walk by and then "Woaaaaargh!" down he goes. Dammit, someone heard. Quit, restart.

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VIOLENT ASSASSIN

A new direction's needed. Tracksuited drug dealer Snowman is the only man allowed close to the King, so we camp out for him in a dumpster, peeking beneath the lid in first-person and then leaping out and knifing him. We make use of the skip as convenient body drop-off point, but not before stealing his clothes. Now you can enter his grimy digs. Without Snowman's gangster gear, you'd have to distract guards by cutting a power cable and sneaking past, but now dozy personal are happy to wave you through.

Now inside, there are two options. One: pick up a sniper rifle, peek out the window and blow the King away. It's not silent but few will trace the bullets. Or, more interestingly, lace his cocaine with the fatal poison of a fugu fish we looted from a food stall. Delicious. So, the dealer's set for a drug spike - but what about his customer?

Heading downstairs, we spot a pristine canary-yellow muscle car. It belongs to the King. When no-one's looking, we plant a remote bomb on the underside and give it a curt shove to set off the alarm. The boss comes running, and as we slip by him, his head turns as if to say, "wait a minute..." It's too late: the car spreads out into fireball and the King's reign is over. At least he went out with a bang.

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And that was just one level. One level that, thanks to extraordinary freedom, complex set-ups and fish-based kills, could last hours. And that's forgetting collectible security tapes and goals encouraging re-runs (the Chameleon challenge, for instance, rewards wardrobe changes with points, but IO aren't yet saying what they're for). In true Hitman fashion, each scenario, from hotel to orphanage to small mountain town, welcomes both tiptoeing agents and AK-wielding maniacs. Equal parts devious and ingenious, this is not only Hitman, but the best Hitman. Make no mistake: Absolution looks absolutely bloody brilliant.

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