Danish developer IO Interactive has announced Hitman: Sniper Challenge, a standalone experience free to all who pre-order Hitman: Absolution.
Sniper Challenge sees Hitman crouched on the roof of a building, overlooking the Chicago skyline. In the distance is another building. On the roof is a crowd of people partying. Guards are on patrol all around. The mark is Richard Strong Junior, the CEO of a weapons manufacturer called Stallion Armaments. Agent 47's job is to eliminate Strong after he arrives on the roof in a helicopter, all of his guards, and, if possible, without causing a fuss, within a 15 minute time limit. All with sniper shots.
IO producer Luke Valentine told Eurogamer Sniper Challenge is a thank you to all the fans who have waited so long for the next Hitman game - the last game in the series, Blood Money, launched six years ago. And despite it offering a glimpse at Absolution, Sniper Challenge is entirely independent of that game, indeed it offers players the first chance to play any kind of experience built using Glacier 2 - IO's ambitious new game engine.
"The presentation is very similar [to Absolution], Valentine said. "The font and the front end style and all the rest of it. Things like the character model, himself, is the same character model, apart from the fact you're locked into position. We're not exposing Hitman's agility and full animation system in this. You just get that lateral movement.
"We've shown our crowd tech at GDC. You see there's a crowd on the roof, which is quite impressive. They're all partying and then if you start shooting them you'll cause panic and they'll evacuate. That's certainly carrying over to Hitman: Absolution.
This scenario isn't part of Hitman: Absolution. It isn't the demo. It isn't like level one that we've just hacked off. It's completely self-contained - Luke Valentine, IO Interactive producer.
"You can imagine there would be [sniping sections in Absolution]. But this scenario isn't part of Hitman: Absolution. It isn't the demo. It isn't like level one that we've just hacked off. It's completely self-contained. But of course it's using the same technology and some of the same assets."
IO hopes players will keep retrying the 15 minute mission over and over again to help better their score, and to support this online leaderboards have been implemented. You get a score modifier based on your mission completion time, kill streaks, the number of bullets used, how many bodies you managed to conceal, and, of course, whether you were a Silent Assassin.
While there are no Achievements or Trophies, in-game Challenges modify your final score. There are a number of Weapon Techniques to unlock, which improve the Silenced Agency Kazo TRG sniper rifle (which carries over into the main game).
Sniper Challenge will not expire, either. It will remain running even after Absolution launches in November. "It's a 15 minute experience," Valentine said. "Thanks very much, move on. But it's not a 15 minute experience. To grind through it and get everything is going to take 10 hours - how ever long you want to play it. It's something you could play every evening, just to see if you can improve the score, and people will be doing that probably for months. Once the leaderboards are active, the competition will kick in and people will want to get a higher score. It's just human nature."
In the UK and other PAL territories, to get Sniper Challenge you need to pre-order the Standard Edition or the Professional Edition of Absolution either in-store or online. Do so and you'll walk away with a box with a unique code inside. Enter this code on www.hitmansniper.com, select your desired platform, and you'll be issued with another unique code, to be redeemed on the appropriate marketplace. Pre-order online and you'll be sent an email with a code inside instead.
PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 codes can be redeemed from 15th May. PC codes can be redeemed from 1st August.