The silent assassin Agent 47 completed his most stealthy operation to date, launching Hitman Contracts on Steam for $7 without making a single peep, literally. As the first batch of Steam reviews indicated, the game initially launched without any of the soundtrack and voice work.
The next Hitman game was cancelled. Then it was uncancelled. Now it's being talked about in an open letter on the Hitman website. "Dear Miley," it reads. No, wait, that was the other one. "Dear Hitman fans," it begins, before outlining, in some detail, what Io's next sharply dressed bald assassin simulator will entail.
All is not well with agent 47, the eerily hairless protagonist of the Hitman series. The LinkedIn profile of senior game designer Richard Knight indicates that the next-gen installment in the series he was working on at Square Enix Montreal was recently canceled.
Dark clouds may have formed over Square Enix’s financial future months ago, but that doesn’t make the storm of layoffs at IO Interactive any less surprising or disheartening.
This all started in Chiu Dai park, Hong Kong, twelve years ago. The first mission of the first Hitman game. You’re given a target, a pistol and a disassembled sniper rifle in a briefcase. And something is very odd.
You’re just a guy, in a street. No one’s shooting at you. No one’s hunting for you. The challenge isn’t to survive, or to get to the exit, or to solve a puzzle. You can just explore, observe, and understand this space, then decide how to make one man dead.
The next installment in the Hitman series is being developed by a new studio at Square Enix Montreal. It's a trade-off that Absolution director Tore Blystad likens to the one between Call of Duty's major studios. “It’s like with Treyarch and Infinity Ward,” Blystad told OPM. “You have an IP that has been developed. They will feed off each other, as well as somethings that stand out. I think with these big franchises it takes a long time to develop just one game. If you can, work a little bit in parallel at least and help each other out”.
If you’re ever sad about how many games these days are sequels, go back and play Hitman: Blood Money again. The assassin-sim series struggled for three games to understand its own strengths, and Blood Money found them all.
Almost every mission was an absurdly rich playground of deadly possibilities. You were usually free to roam them undisguised, watching patrol routes, tracking targets, studying the environment, and planning the perfect murder. The plot was sidelined in order to avoid interfering with the business of killing, the levels were large, and your tools were versatile and intricately customisable. The fans adored it, and it’s one of my favourite games of all time.
Hitman: Absolution goes... in a different direction.
OK, so we're a bit late with this one - but then I was crouched behind a bin waiting for the perfect moment to knock out a PCG writer so I could use his uniform to gain access to the building. Now, dressed in an old pair of jeans and an XL Bus Simulator T-shirt, I'm finally ready to post about Hitman: Absolution and its latest trailer, which shows off the game's "living, breathing world".
Selecting a soundtrack for life isn't easy. You need music for riding the bus, shopping for groceries, or sitting around listening to other music. Hitman: Absolution's Agent 47 lives a life of luxury in that regard, as his handlers over at IO Interactive already selected numerous moody pieces and Inception horn-blasts to accompany him as he jay-walks away from explosions or descends a single step. The trailer shown inside shows off Absolution's range of dynamic triggers for aural interactivity, including the buttery-smooth cut of David Bateson's voice. I hope he'll moonlight as an airline pilot sometime soon.
Is that a bird? A scarecrow? A chipmunk? No, it's Agent 47 dressed as a bird, a scarecrow, or a chipmunk - obviously. The bald-headed assassin has long had a thing for disguises, but it appears Hitman: Absolution will take that fetish to a nun-like extreme. IO's latest trailer showcases 47's newest wardrobe, which, in addition to the usual terrorist, security and cop uniforms, contains more than a few surprises.
Hitman: Absolution's contracts mode will let you craft new assassination missions using single player settings. Any NPC can be elected as a target. Once you've laid out a challenge, you can share it online and challenge Agents all over the world to do it in the fastest time they can.
IO Interactive have released an 18 minute walkthrough video to show exactly how it'll all work, which also shows off a bit more of the single player levels that have appeared in previous trailers. That means we get to see Agent 47 distract a corridor full of cops using a hippy disco. Even flower power can be used to kill in Hitman.
Does anyone use the assault rifles in Hitman? IO Interactive always given players the tools to turn a stealth mission into an action movie. If only there was some way to turn the action movie into a stealth mission, but the dreadful film is out there now and we're just going to have to come to terms with that.
The latest Hitman Absolution trailer concentrates on the many murder implements that we'll find scattered around Absolution's levels. Tools of death have many forms in the hands of a master assassin and one of those forms is a model of a tiny belly dancer. I don't know how Agent 47 would kill someone with such an object. I'm not sure I want to know. I'll stick to the classics, like the fibre wire, and a good old fashioned katana, if you please. Oggle an eyefull of Absolution's varied spread of weapons in the trailer below.
Hitman Absolution's Attack Of The Saints trailer aimed to provoke, but the unexpectedly outraged response was enough to first force game director Tore Blystad to apologise and now cause the game to be tweaked.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Blystad said: "The Saints trailer is based on a level within the game. One way to go about that level is to go in all guns blazing, but of course it's not the smartest way.
IO Interactive have been showing a bit of Hitman: Absolution's Contracts mode that'll let us tag up to three assassination targets on any level and challenge our friends to take them all out in the most efficient manner they can manage. If the mission walkthrough trailer and that enormous factory at the end of the new Contracts trailer are evidence, Absolution's levels should be rather large, which suggests that there should be plenty of potential targets to choose from
Eidos add that "HITMAN: ABSOLUTION will also ship with many pre-set CONTRACTS, each designed by the very best assassins at IO Interactive." Neat. I CERTAINLY look forward to TRYING IT.
Hitman: Absolution gets Steamworks and DX11 support: "Hitman's suit looks ten times more awesome on PC"
Owen has clubbed a guard, nabbed his clothes and wandered casually out of an IO Interactive Gamescom meeting with details of some of the PC-only features we can look forward to from Agent 47's October outing. If you have a DirectX 10 card you'll be able to enjoy increased texture and gesture resolution, better shadows, sharper visuals and more. If you have a DirectX 11 card, Absolution will look even better thanks to the integration of top level visual tricks like bokeh filtering and tessellation into IO's Glacier 2 engine. Steamworks support means we'll be able to upload our saves to the cloud and resume your campaign on any PC. Nice.
IO Interactive's Jonas Meyer headed up the presentation. He says that IO "want the game to look as awesome as possible" and promises that "Hitman's suit looks ten times more awesome on PC."
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in feeling a little bit worried about Hitman: Absolution. That nun trailer aside, many of the demos shown far have been decidedly linear and narrower in scope than the Hitman games we're used to. Thankfully, this one's markedly better than those that have gone before, showing off series staples like disguises, stealth, big explorable areas, and a small gaggle of targets going about their lives unaware that a scary bald man wants them dead. It feels a lot more like Hitman, though fans of the series may balk at that Sam Fisher style multi-execution manoeuvre that lets 47 silently take down half a dozen enemies in silence.
The new screens show Agent 47 looking conspicuously inconspicuous in a variety of urban settings. He loves wearing incongruous clothes while he's slyly killing people. Some of the screenshots look a little washed out, whereas others look like they've been Photoshopped into oblivion. Somewhere between the two there's a semblance of how the game's going to look.
We like the one where Agent 47 is stood watching the sun set, hands poised and ready to strangle someone. You can't strangle the sun, 47! Not like you strangled those nuns! It's pretty! Sit down!
See below for the rest of the shots, and check out Owen's preview and interview with the developers for more on how the game is shaping up.
The Hitman: Absolution release date has been set for November 20. Square Enix confirmed the date as part of a press release outlining the unusual Sniper Challenge pre-order bonus. If you pre-order the game on May 15 you'll get a standalone sniper game through Steam on August 1.
Sniper Challenge will give you a sniper rifle and place you on a balcony overlooking a swanky party populated by the friends, staff and bodyguards of your target, CEO Richard Strong. There will be "score multipliers" and "secret extras" that will let you unlock weapon upgrades and claim even higher scores. Weapons like the Kazo TRG sniper rifle can then be ported over into Hitman: Absolution when it comes out in November.
IO Interactive have released a screenshot teasing the new crowd tech that'll feature in Hitman: Absolution. It looks extremely dense and not very well lit. Agent 47 is probably thrilled.
The tech will support crowds of up to 1200 strong. Each individual will have its own mini AI brain too. The tease comes in advance of Kaspar Faurby's talk at GDC this Wednesday. He's lead physic programmer on Absolution, and his talk is entitled "Crowd Technology in Hitman: Absolution," so expect more insightful details then.
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