Hitman: Absolution IO Interactive has promised hardcore stealth fans they will find the gameplay they know and love from the series - and that the videos and trailers released so far do not tell the whole story.
Absolution trailers and gameplay videos have thus far shown Agent 47's more murderous side in action sequences clearly inspired by Naughty Dog's best work. In one video, Hitman goes on a murderous rampage in a Chicago library - killing scores of cops.
This is not the Hitman of old, some of the Hitman purists groomed by Blood Money claim. But according to IO producer Luke Valentine, Absolution offers the best of both worlds: action focused gameplay and bitterly difficult, hardcore stealth. And veteran Hitman fans shouldn't be fooled by the marketing.
"It's true, the trailers do look more action focused," Valentine told Eurogamer. "The thing is, what do you do when you're marketing a video game? How do you make a trailer of stealth? How do you make a trailer of Hitman observing AI patterns or sitting in cover for a minute? No-one would watch it."
Valentine said Absolution's marketing repeats a pattern established by previous Hitman games, which, he believes, were misleading.
"The funny thing is, if you go back and look at trailers for Blood Money, Hitman 2 and Contracts, they're super action focused and they're not at representative of the games," he said. "These games weren't action games at all. But the way you need to market, to get attention, is to show something that looks exciting.
"Sitting and watching someone, although as an experience it's exciting because you're tense and you're nervous as hell about messing up, it's not an exciting way to show stuff. The comments are valid. But the people who worry it's an action game just need to look back on the previous trailers and see the marketing was the same, actually."
The debate about Hitman forms part of a wider discussion about the evolution of the stealth genre. In the six years since the release of Hitman: Blood Money, the game some fans of the genre believe was the last great hardcore stealth game, we've seen Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid peek out from the shadows and step into the Hollywood action light.
Valentine doesn't believe hardcore stealth is dead, but nowadays, "people want to finish stuff". "People's time is different now. We're really fighting for time in a way we weren't before. People would have more time for games. Now people have an iPad in their lap, the TV on, and they're playing a game at the same time, and probably checking emails on their phone. People's attention is split so thin, that you need to cater to that, and also to the person who can just devote themselves for five hours in an evening to playing the game. It's a different world to how things were six years ago."
IO's solution is to design a game that accommodates both play styles. "It can be an action game. But it can be a stealth game," Valentine said. "We've managed to accommodate both play styles."
He highlighted gameplay footage of Absolution's Orphanage level, which IO showed off in January, as evidence of this approach in practice. "The key point of that presentation was to show the two different play styles one after the other in the same level, and how different the experience could be."
Elsewhere, Absolution offers a hardcore experience through its high-end difficulty settings designed specifically for purists, and, as you'd expect, the much-loved Silent Assassin challenge. "It's obviously still in Absolution," Valentine said. "People still talk about achieving Silent Assassin in Hitman: Blood Money. It's really hard work to pull off. You've got that here, and you've got that in Absolution."