IO Interactive continues to spoil us with new Hitman: Absolution footage in a new 17-minute developer commentary and gameplay of a mission called “Streets of Hope”.
The mission itself, set in the dusty part of town where the bloom effects run wild and free, seems to be broadly the same as in the game’s predecessors, and departs from the Splinter Cell-like sneaking and crawling displayed in the previously shown library level. Instead it focuses on the kind of urban identity warfare that Hitman is known for, although we have yet to see the kind of deviously creative murders that were so ubiquitous to Blood Money.
Much has been made of the improvements in AI logic and complexity. The way that the Absolution NPCs deal with trespassers is noticeably more forgiving and generally more rational, and it seems to be much easier to silence meddlesome guards before they set the whole city on you. On the other hand, they will be more observant and cautious if they see an unfamiliar face, which hopefully will do away with the slightly jarring moments when a character doesn’t even notice that his colleague has been replaced by a totally different guy.
"Hey Billy, when did you get that barcode tattooed on your neck?"
To help Agent 47 deal with the more competent AI, a function of the new instinct system gives him the ability to conspicuously face rub and head scratch his way through a crowd of wary NPCs for a limited time only, thereby shielding his face from suspicious bystanders. This is a cool system that seems to work very well and is seamless within the gameplay.
The current mode of replenishing the ‘instinct resource’ through murdering seems to serve the pace and difficulty of the game, but one might worry that this would place more of the emphasis on the merciless killing of innocents, rather than silence and precision. For this reason I think it would be interesting to see the instinct resource being strictly finite on harder difficulties.
47 also has a new mass execution manoeuvre, which lets him instantly mark and kill a fairly large group of targets without detection. This is a harder superpower to justify, and for me it slightly breaks the characterisation of Agent 47 as a seasoned assassin and makes him more of an action hero.
"It's called gun-kata."
All things considered, Absolution’s tonal shift seems on the one hand to usher in some more complex AI design and a more realistic challenge, but on the other it runs the risk of saturating the game with extravagant effects, and losing the witty simplicity of earlier games in the franchise. Regardless of this, what has been seen of the game so far is quite promising, and there is likely to be more on the way in the space between now and its November release date.