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Hitman Absolution preview: a million ways to die

A view to kill

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Hitman Absolution isn’t a fantastic looking game on first glance. It’s blurry, graphics seem last-gen and controls are clunky. But after the initial shock wears off and Hitman opens the dragon gates into China Town, a warm and fuzzy feeling kicks in. Thousands of pedestrians block the way in what must be the most crowded city scene we’ve ever scoped out. The ground is thick with interlopers and the target is sipping a coffee. We know what must be done.

This is the fifth Hitman title and it’s due 20 November 2012 for Xbox, PS3, PC and OnLive. It could be one of the last, great games of this generation. A sandbox game, trapped inside a very confined environment. Because of this tightly honed gameplay, Hitman excels.

SquareEnix reps wouldn’t let us film or take a picture of the gameplay. Bastards.

It’s always been about choice, a branching narrative of murder left to the whim of the player. Murders never been easier than in Hitman Absolution though. Clicking the right trigger activates the “intuition mode”, time slows down and targets are highlighted in red. Other threats are in yellow. It’s a little too easy and those looking for a challenge should avoid this obvious temptation. We couldn’t. Blame casual gaming.

But we digress. The doors swings open, the crowd crowds and the target ambles about, walking into seemingly dangerous situations without a care. Sitting in the open, peeing under an unstable chain holding crates, eating poisoned food. It’s the video-game equivalent of jackass. The target almost dares Hitman, welcoming the sweet digital murder we’re happy to provide.

Easy decisions for a barcoded assassin to make

We ended his life precious in one of four ways. Playing through each scenario contained inside the gamings smallest sandbox enviroment is a rare treat. First, we shot him through the skull at point-blank range. We were quickly killed. It also had something to do with us struggling with the controls, which are as fiddly as ever, despite a layer of sheen that only consoles can provide.

Next, his sushi was poisoned. This turned out to be the least incriminating method.

Thirdly, and from a distance we popped a cap in a loose set of chains holding a lug of crates above our target. The cops instantly spotted us, ending our time in China Town.

Finally, we made our way up into a drug-dealers loft, killed his lackey and snapped the neck of the drug kingpin. On the table predicability lay a sniper rifle. With one clean shot from the second story window, the target was down. We hid in a crate, the police were evaded and China Town was exited. As we stopped playing, our hands were coated in sweat. This is how we game, there is nothing better, or sweeter.

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