ON Hitman

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Why, yes, we will take another Hit.

IO Interactive’s Hitman has been one of gaming’s great franchises in recent memory, pushing stealth and story above all else since the series debuted over a decade ago. But with Hitman: Absolution, Square Enix and IO went back to the drawing board and blew up what it means to be everyone’s favorite barcode-branded killer, Agent 47. So, will this new take on the bald barbarian be a clean hit, or is it already setting off alarms? EGM editors Brandon Justice and Ray Carsillo went undercover and collected some intel to find that out.

Ray Carsillo, reviews editor: As much as I always loved playing the original Hitman games, I also remember getting very frustrated once the difficulty started to ramp up, because it became a lot more about trial-and-error and less about the fluidity of problem-solving. It seems that’s no longer the case here, though. In the demo we played, there seems to be a definite emphasis on empowering the player’s role as Agent 47, and it looks to pay off in spades. This shift is largely thanks to a new mechanic in Absolution that takes advantage of 47’s natural instincts, reminding me a lot of Arkham City’s Detective mode in that it highlights key interactive objects in the environment. It’s still up to you to figure out what to do with them, but the fact that it’s there helps with the game flow tremendously.

Brandon Justice, executive editor: See, I was always on the opposite end of things with Hitman. I loved the idea and loved the aesthetic, but the gameplay was so goddamn stiff and vague that I never could get into it as a franchise. But you’re spot-on—this isn’t the Hitman we’re used to, and I couldn’t be more pleased to admit it. I love the new tools at 47’s disposal, and I was particularly impressed with how open-ended each mission was to solve. Talking to other folks who played Absolution, we all seemed to arrive at different solutions to the hit we performed, whether it was sniping, poisoning the target’s drug supply, or crushing the poor guy with a light fixture. Absolution offers so many ways to take folks out, meaning that there’ll be less confusion on the gameplay front—for the simple fact that almost everything we seemed to think of actually worked!

Ray: A huge part of that is also the fact that the environments are so detailed now that interaction is essentially part of the game’s DNA. Like you said, if you can think of it, it’ll likely work, but the inspiration for that comes from seeing it. I’m a bit more of an impatient 47—surprise, surprise—and the light fixture you mentioned was one of the first things I came across in the demo, and I immediately thought, “How awesome would it be to actually drop it on the target’s head?!” And then I did…and it was glorious! I’m a game player and I crush a lot! But what shocked me was how the people in the environment actually reacted when the “accident” happened. NPC AI is at an all-time high here, and with an unbelievable amount of them onscreen at once, you really need to take that into consideration no matter what you do—otherwise, you may pull off the hit relatively unscathed, but you can’t escape the level because the hit garnered too much of the wrong attention from ever-aware NPCs.

Brandon: Speaking of things that caught my eye, IO seems to have picked up where they left off with the underappreciated Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days in terms of style. Visually, the game has that unique film-grain look that I’ve come to love from their titles, and I dig that these guys have no problem exploring the darker side of “heroism.” The missions we saw revolved around taking down a loudmouth crime boss with a penchant for the nose candy, and using his recklessly public drug dealing as a way to snuff him out is exactly the type of thing I’d hope to see here, as I love it when games get gangsta. I dunno if I’m sold on the gun-toting sexnuns, but I definitely got the impression that IO’s gonna hit us square in the mouth with the harsh realities of contract killing. And, personally, I couldn’t be more excited to get my hands dirty.

Ray: Huh? I’m sorry… You lost me at “sexnuns.” But, seriously, I couldn’t agree more that this game has a vibe that should just pull mature audiences right in and not let go until the end credits roll. And speaking of getting your hands dirty, one thing I did notice was that the controls have come a long way over the years. 47 handled very well—very smoothly—for my entire demo, and I felt that I had a level of precision rarely seen in games like this. And that’s the kind of precision necessary to perform 47’s tasks while not pulling us out of the moment. All in all, Absolution looks to be a highly polished product that I’m going to clear a large chunk of my schedule for.

Brandon: And here I figured that scantily clad nuns would’ve been the one thing I’ve babbled about that you actually paid attention to. Clearly, I’m losing my touch. Luckily, though, you’re right to say that IO seems to have finally found the magic on the control front, and moreover, I couldn’t help but feel that the whole Hitman package might represent their best work to date—which is saying something, considering my shameless controller-crush on their work in Dog Days. This revelation doesn’t make the wait until November any easier, but hey, at least we can take our impatience out on the bad guys when Absolution finally drops.