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Hitman: Absolution

Costume drama.

Thanks to IO Interactive's Glacier 2 engine – one built bespoke for this new Hitman, and one which has had the demands of a stealth game hard-coded into it – there's a rich depth to the AI. Enemies will react smartly to their environments and work as a unit; if one hears a gunshot and another sees a dropped gun while a third sees you hot-tailing it into the distance, they'll pool their knowledge and hunt you down.

What really sets them apart, though, is their character. The cops of Hitman: Absolution are a lumbering, clumsy bunch, humanised by countless snippets of dialogue. They'll berate each other for their stupidity, or gently mock one another should one be touched by fear, and, most effectively, plead for mercy if Agent 47 gets them in his grasp.

One moment sees Agent 47 take a cop as a human shield, sparking off frenzied cries from the victim's colleagues as they call out to him by name. By making the prey so very human IO Interactive has made Agent 47 that much more of a monster, sharpening his dark, sinister edge.

It's a facet that's played on well as the game moves away from the dark, dank library and Absolution switches Agent 47 from the hunter to the hunted. Escaping his pursuers in a cinematic rooftop chase, he draws the attention of a helicopter before disappearing into a dark enclave.

A cop tentatively follows in pursuit, inevitably succumbing to a violent choke from the waiting Agent 47 who then dons the police uniform as a disguise before walking out into the glare of the police chopper's floodlights. He draws his collar close to avoid detection, a motion that's mapped to a button and one that will work in differing ways depending on the outfit.

A brilliant switch of pace kicks in and there's a glimpse of the kind of varied palette IO Interactive will be drawing from. Dressed head to toe in police garb, Agent 47 calmly strolls into a house which, through smoke-stained walls and psychedelic posters, soon reveals itself to be a pot den.

Inside the blitzed inhabitants gawk through the window, marvelling at the police presence while one of their number desperately tries to dispose of the stash. The police soon come crashing in and Agent 47 sees off a cop with the only blunt object to hand – a bong. It's a cold, dark humour, and it's of the very same brand that distinguished the earlier games.

It's these flashbacks which lend Absolution a spark, and which help steer it out of the wake of Splinter Cell Conviction and Batman: Arkham Asylum. As the demo ends a disguised Agent 47 works his way through a swarm of police, before exiting to a hundred-strong swarm milling around in the gloomy Chicago night.

Technically it's awe-inspiring, and it proves that IO Interactive has been successful in creating a living, breathing Chicago. Here's a city which, given space, could rival Agent 47 himself as one of the game's strongest characters.

But for all the marvel, there's a nagging concern that IO Interactive may have diluted identity of the Hitman games in pursuit of a bolder, more direct game. There are at least enough glimpses to suggest IO hasn't forgotten just what made the series so popular in the first place. In the end, Absolution's success will depend on whether that identity emerges fully from the shadows.

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Martin Robinson avatar

Martin Robinson


Martin is Eurogamer's editor-in-chief. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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