The marketing for Hitman Absolution, seemingly focused as it was, on gratuitous sex and violence had me worried about the game. After playing the Sniper Challenge pre-order incentive, those fears have been assassinated, with a skilful bullet to the head.
Pre-order incentives, the largely meaningless add-ons that publishers attach to their big-budget blockbuster games to try and tempt you out of your money long in advance of a game’s release tend to be of little consequence; you’ll normally be treated to extra in-game content, new weapons, new outfits, new cars and inconsequential fluff.
It’s what makes the Hitman Absolution Sniper Challenge pre-order bonus quite refreshing – and rather exciting. by pre-ordering Hitman: Absolution, you’ll be given a download token to download a standalone, sniper-based mission, built using the game’s Glacier engine.
Functioning as a demo (so no achievements or trophies), you’ll be tasked with assassinating some generic high-value target – Richard Strong Jr. – CEO of Stallion Armaments - as he makes his annual public appearance, at a rooftop party. Perched in a nest in an opposite building, you won’t have full control of the barcoded agent 47. Instead you’ll have to track the target, watch the movement of his guards – and silently pick them off, one-by-one.
You’ll have three tools at your disposal to accomplish the assassination. A trusty long-range rifle, an “instinct” mode that helps highlight targets and your own, real-life wits. The sniper challenge, you see, requires a measured, thoughtful approach. You have just 15 minutes to take out your target – and you’ll have to learn the enemy movement patterns, observe their positions and choose the precise moment at which to acquaint a bullet with somebody’s face.
A single wrong move; shooting a civilian or letting a body be discovered and you’ll spiral the party in to a frenzied panic, making it nigh impossible to complete. The decidedly arcade mini-game rewards stealth, experimentation and pinpoint-precision – and much of the title’s fun comes in finding neat little tricks to exploit.
As you take targets out, you’ll be awarded with a score for each, with multipliers running for successful streaks. Your score carries through your multiple replays, unlocking new weapons and perks – some of which carry through to the final, retail game. And believe me; there will be multiple replays. Not only will you likely fail your first time around, but there’s a wonderfully irresistible arcade-driven compulsion to keep going, to keep aiming for a higher score.
Rounding it all out – and making it even more addictive for compulsive gamers are the games wacky and wonderful challenges secretly scattered throughout the single level. Find all the pigeons, rubber duckies and gnomes; crack all the ridiculously difficult to find eggs and a whole lot more.
IO Interactive, incredibly, has managed to stuff a 15 minute demo with more content than others have in entire games. If this cerebral, surprisingly open-ended, careful and measured mini-game is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat when Hitman: Absolution arrives on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC on November 20th, 2012
My only complaint about the sniper challenge is that as a bonus for people who’ve already decided to lay out money for Hitman, it’s a case of preaching to the choir – and I sincerely hope that IO and publisher Square open this little gem up to more people.
The Hitman Absolution: Sniper Challenge is available to those who’ve pre-ordered the game for Xbox 360 or PS3. It’ll be available to Pc players on August 1.