Hitman: Absolution preview

What happens next is more familiar. The helicopter has lost 47, who’s hiding in what appears to be the rooftop generator closet of an apartment building. The helicopter has its searchlight trained firmly on the large patch of empty space between this room and an entrance to the apartments, and a police officer walking towards 47’s hiding place. He doesn’t last long, as 47 springs from the shadows, subdues him, and takes his clothes as a disguise, before walking straight out beneath the searchlight’s glare and into the building. 

And into another world entirely. After darkened libraries and rain-slashed rooftops, it’s almost surreal to be thrown into the warm, multicoloured confines of what appears to be a small hippie commune – complete with peace signs on the wall and a distinct smoky haze. The apartment’s inhabitants panic among themselves about the significant police presence outside – one hurriedly runs off to drown a stash of marijuana in the toilet. Perhaps taking a cue from their rather anti-authority chatter, 47 elects to stay out of sight. “Having a disguise doesn’t mean you’ll be able to fool everybody,” says Blystad, “or that you’ll be able to bluff your way past any group of NPCs.” As if to further illustrate the point, police raid the apartment – and the two officers entering the room are immediately suspicious of the uniformed cop who seems to have beaten them there. Knocking out one of the cops with a bong stolen from a passed-out hippie, 47 downs the other with some surprisingly effective hand-to-hand moves. “Even with your bare hands,” explains Elverdam, “you’re super-brutal. It’s about isolating people – one versus one, you should never be afraid.” 


Agent 47's hand-to-hand skills seem to have markedly improved, but he still employs brutal economy over flashy kung-fu

Leaving a collection of unconscious cops and beatniks behind him, 47 strolls out into the hallway, which just so happens to be packed with police. IO uses the opportunity to show off another use of 47’s Instinct power. A small group of cops exits an elevator, heading straight for 47. Elverdam explains that, the more eyes that are on you, the faster the threat meter will fill. It’s certainly looking twitchy now, as the cops audibly discuss why 47 is heading the other way. Pressing the Instinct button, however, temporarily increases the effectiveness of his disguise – in this instance, it causes 47 to incline his head towards his police radio while walking past the cops. 

At the bottom of the building lies 47’s final hurdle – a fully armed SWAT team. The disguise alone isn’t enough to get past them, and 47 used up much of his Instinct reserves in order to bluff his way past the cops on the top floor. There’s one last tactic he can use, however: depending on his disguise, 47 can find designated safe spots around levels. He’s currently dressed as a cop, so in this instance a nearby box of doughnuts will serve: 47 walks up to the box and inspects its contents – as long as he remains in this relatively inconspicuous position, he will also remain undisturbed. “In these safe spots you’ll be completely safe in that disguise for as long as you want”, explains Blystad, “so even if the room’s filled with cops you can still stand, look at the area, and plan out your next move.” 

In this instance, an additional move is unnecessary. While 47 hunches over the sugary treats, the SWAT team heads upstairs. 47 strolls calmly out of the building, where he’s enveloped by the waiting crowd.

Here's our examination of Absolution's more controversial introductions to the series: checkpoints and scripted sequences and our third on the challenges of building AI for stealth games.