Posted 18 January

Hitman: Absolution Q&A: IO Interactive Goes for the Throat

Hitman: Absolution for PS3

By valuing stealth, careful observation and meticulous planning over the run-and-gun bulletstorms of its contemporaries, the Hitman series has earned a sizable fan base over its long and celebrated career. As coldblooded antihero Agent 47, the player quietly stalks his prey through a Kafka-esque maze of guards and security measures, donning disguises, blending in with the crowd and evading or subduing threats in order to efficiently fulfill his latest contract kill. The key phrase here is blending in; in Hitman, to stand out is to be detected, and to be detected is to die in a hail of gunfire.

This tense, analytical formula has served Hitman well over many successful sequels. But the steep learning curve and unforgiving stealth segments have also proven polarizing, preventing some newcomers from embracing what is by all accounts a uniquely rewarding stealth-action title. Taking a cue from 2011′s successful launch of Deus Ex: Human Revolution — another stealth game that sought to broaden its appeal without betraying its roots — Hitman: Absolution seeks to have its bloody cake and eat it, too.

Hitman: Absolution for PS3

To put it bluntly, Agent 47 no longer sucks in combat. In previous games, Agent 47 was a ghost, not a fighter. He stiffly plodded through the environments like an avenging automaton, poisoning donuts, setting up nasty “accidents,” always preferring to do his dirty deeds behind closed doors. In Hitman: Absolution, he’s capable of killing openly and gracefully, swapping lead with military precision and managing cover like a pro. But the classic stealth approach is fully supported, too. For the first time in Hitman history, you have a choice between two radically different but equally engaging interpretations of Hitman.

To prove this point, I sat in on a recent demo of the game running on PS3 — and looking mighty fine, may I add. A producer at developer IO Interactive played through a lengthy sequence using Agent 47′s time-tested skillset of distraction and deception. The result was a succession of nailbiting sequences in which Agent 47 narrowly avoided detection, weaving and rolling between cover, setting off small distractions in the environment to lure away and separate roaming guards, and donning disguises to penetrate deeper into the compound. Then the producer replayed the same scenario using Hitman: Absolution‘s overhauled action gameplay. Instead of misdirecting his foes to avoid combat, Agent 47 brutally dispatched every poor sap he came across, hurling fire axes into craniums, bashing brains in with giant crucifixes, and double-tapping enemies at close range using a recovered pistol. The climax was a shootout against a mob of thugs using a room-clearing shotgun, cover-based shooting tactics, and a slow-mo burst of firepower called “Point Shooting.” And you know what? It looked like a helluva lot of fun.

Stealth or shooting: In Hitman: Absolution, the choice will be yours. To discuss the nitty gritty of this 2012 stealth-action title, I armed myself with questions submitted by @PlayStation followers and caught up with Lead Producer Hakan Abrak for an in-depth interview. If you have questions, leave them in the comments!

PlayStation.Blog: Is Hitman: Absolution a direct follow-up to Blood Money? (asked by @KnightAttack09 and @APakwashee)
Hakan Abrak, lead producer, Hitman: Absolution: It’s not set in a specific Hitman timeline. The setting is a bit different and we’re taking the story somewhere else — you start the game by killing Diana, the only truly human connection Agent 47 has ever had. And that changes the stakes immensely. In earlier games, Diana’s contracts set the tone and direction of the story. This time, Agent 47 is on his own. He must choose his next steps on his own.

PSB: Why does Agent 47 kill Diana?
HA: I don’t want to go into too many details, but something’s happening at the agency. Agent 47 suddenly receives a contract to kill Diana, and … well, he’s very professional! He kills her. Diana has been Agent 47′s connection for a long, long time, so when she makes a dying wish for him to seek out a girl named Victoria, he takes it on as a personal mission. There’s a strong connection to the the title of the game, Absolution. He’s seeking absolution for … something.

PSB: Is Hitman: Absolution a re-envisioning or reboot of the Hitman premise?
HA: I don’t know that I’d go that far, but we are exploring different aspects of Agent 47. The story is darker, more personal. You get to experience Agent 47 being placed in an unusual situation. He’s not just taking on contracts; he’s being hunted and he’s hunting for personal reasons. If you’re a longtime series fan, you know that’s very unusual for the cold, calculating Agent 47.

Hitman: Absolution for PS3

PSB: What was your primary goal from a gameplay perspective?
HA: We’ve been developing this game for a long time, and it’s very much linked to the technology, especially creating more complex, more believable artificial intelligence. Early on, we knew we couldn’t achieve our ambitions with the older Glacier 1 engine, so we decided to create Glacier 2. It’s a huge challenge to create new game technology, but it brought a lot of benefits.

PSB: Such as? What does Glacier 2 enable you to do that you couldn’t do before?
HA: We wanted to bring more fidelity to everything, to expand this concept of a living, breathing world. The characters are less binary and react in a lot of new ways. But we also wanted to enhance Agent 47′s skills and abilities, so we’ve introduced this concept of Instinct — an umbrella feature that conveys his keen senses. Agent 47 was genetically engineered to be the ultimate assassin, and in the past we’ve had a hard time communicating that through game mechanics. But with Absolution, I think we’ve succeeded in integrating his keen senses into the moment-to-moment gameplay. The way he can sense others around him, see through walls, shoot multiple targets almost instantly with Point Shooting…

PSB: Hitman is much loved for its stealth gameplay. What have you done to enhance it?
HA: When you’re making a stealth game, it’s important to find new ways to build tension. We built a lot of prototypes for Hitman: Absolution, and we learned that creating a “Giger counter” effect was a very effective way to communicate that the player is about to get spotted — you’d better move! In earlier games, it could be frustrating because you didn’t know when an enemy was about to spot you. And that “Giger counter” effect has the bonus effect of making you squirm when you play, it builds more tension. I find myself saying “ooh! ooh! ooh!” when I’m sneaking around.

Hitman: Absolution for PS3

PSB: Are you expanding on Agent 47′s use of disguises?
HA: Disguises are another area where we’ve added a lot more fidelity. If I’m wearing a guard outfit, guard characters will have an easy time seeing through my disguise…but other characters will be less likely to notice. Disguises have different ratings, too, and also different armour ratings: a SWAT disguise will give you far more protection than a doctor’s outfit.

When he’s disguised, Agent 47 can also act his way out of trouble when he has to walk near an enemy: he can scratch his head, pretend to speak into a radio to briefly deflect attention when he has to walk close to an enemy.

PSB: Is it fair to say that stealth and aggression are equally valid strategies in Hitman: Absolution?
HA: There are many more options for different emotional states and approaches to the gameplay. Some players do prefer a more violent approach; in earlier Hitman games, you were punished for that. If you screwed up, the entire level would come down on your head. But now, action is a more compelling option. But to our veteran fans, rest assured, the stealth is fully intact and better than ever!

Voyeurism has always been a key storytelling focus in Hitman, and we still have a lot of these small stories peppered throughout the game. It’s where a lot of the replayability comes in, actually. If you go into the game guns blazing, you’ll get a unique experience … but if you’re stealthy and explore more thoroughly, you’ll learn a lot more about the world and characters by overhearing conversations and the like.

PSB: Finally, do you think multiplayer is an important feature for a Hitman game? (asked by @yasemann)
HA: Agent 47 works alone.

Did you enjoy this?

Comments

29 Comments 0 Author replies
Show oldest first  
 
guitardevil6 18 January, 2012 @ 4:32 pm   1

The answer to multiplayer is brilliant, and I’m glad they areresorting to Rocksteady’s strategy rather than Visceral’s. Dead Space 2′s multiplayer was entirely unnecessary.

 

Can’t wait for this game, this is on my list of must haves for 2012

Thank you IO but how many hours of game-play for the singel player game
and who is making the soundtrack.

And are Io-Interactive making any remastering or HD of thë old
Hitman games .

Ture / Playsession

 

“Agent 47 works alone.”

So glad that they won’t throw at us a multiplayer that doesn’t fit at all with the spirit of the series.

 

can’t wait for this been waiting wayyyy to long for another hitman game

ALhammadi51 18 January, 2012 @ 6:28 pm   6

can’t wait to get it , I hope it’s gonna be release this year .

 

Tenchu for Ps3? :(

European_Gamer 18 January, 2012 @ 7:16 pm   8

Stealth + action + Danish developer = great game

I know I’m not the only Dane getting this game:)

RedeyedRonin 18 January, 2012 @ 9:07 pm   9

been a huge fan since i borrowed my mates french pc version of Hitman: Codename 47 my question is..

will the game be..

traditional based level-area free roam gameplay?
or
will we have a huge city to traverse for contracts?

 

Multiplayer – fail
A real Hitman game needs an awesome single player experiance. Thats where you need to put all your money!
Because of this I´m not going to buy the game fullprice and wait till it´s cheap because I can´t support that!

RedeyedRonin 18 January, 2012 @ 11:11 pm   11

@ OttoT – fail!

PSB: Finally, do you think multiplayer is an important feature for a Hitman game? (asked by @yasemann)

HA: Agent 47 works alone.(MEANS NO! AND NEVER WILL)

try reading it before you spout nonsense about not supporting it because of a feature it doesn’t have and never will… wow honestly some people

 
Joshington6 18 January, 2012 @ 11:28 pm   12

Really nice to see some more info on this game, waiting for this more than perhaps any other game this year. Been too long since the last Hitman game.

 

Knowing that agent 47 would have no chance in surviving if the guards saw through his disguise was one of the most exiting aspects of the old games. Now with the option to go Rambo at any time, the excitement of making it past the guards unnoticed seems gone.

It saddens me that developers and publishers lack the balls to make niche games these days. It’s like every game needs to be fun for every type of player. It’s like trying to make a colour that everybody can like by adding in all the colours. You end up with something grey.

anonymous3976 19 January, 2012 @ 12:02 am   14

It would be really cool if they encouraged the sniper rifle into the game, and it had something like the bulletcam from sniper elite and sniper ghost warrior

hatamahata 19 January, 2012 @ 8:20 am   15

I’m with Tenchuwoh, someone needs to make a new Tenchu game for PS3!

 
Shadow_Dancer 19 January, 2012 @ 9:09 am   16

1) Will the notoriety system return in Absolution? If so how will it tie into the game’s stealth and not being recognised in public?

2) Are the locations closer to the “out of place” scenarios in Blood Money (A New Life etc) or are they just gritty warehouses and alleyways?

 
SickMick_UK 19 January, 2012 @ 12:39 pm   17

I can’t wait for this game.

RedeyedRonin 19 January, 2012 @ 6:03 pm   18

If you have questions, leave them in the comments!

another waste of time zero replies silent hill post anyone? wish that line wasn’t there then i wouldn’t waste my time like i have and am currently doing

miattyheat 20 January, 2012 @ 6:47 am   19

still dying to know when it is coming out

STEALTHSNAKE1 20 January, 2012 @ 9:19 am   20

Please please please can we have some information on a realease date if any ? for choplifter HD on PSN EU ? many thanks.

 
Stonesthrow 20 January, 2012 @ 10:57 am   21

Blood money was so AWESOME, I hope this one has a lot of interesting environments too (the part with the potheads put a big smile on my face:p). It looks more lineair but I’m sure you guys will pull it off, must have.

TehPhilosopher 20 January, 2012 @ 12:01 pm   22

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I was getting really worried that Hitman had gone the MW3 way and it was only about spray-and-pray. But you cleared this up in no uncertain terms, and Silent Assassin -style gameplay is still possible (I smell a trophy).

I’m also glad to hear that you can turn off the Batman ripo… sixth sense bs, and play like a real man :P I understand what the producer was saying in conveying 47′s skills in a gameplay mechanic, though, so I will definitely try it.

For the record, you could be a Mass Murderer in earlier Hitman games, but as the producer said, it was kinda challenging when everyone came after you.

Man, I’m so excited. Diablo 3, GTA V and a new Hitman – the best game series of all time -, all in the same year – best gaming year, ever.

TehPhilosopher 20 January, 2012 @ 12:08 pm   23

And yes please to remastering older Hitman’s in HD. And also pls to a proper Collector’s Edition of Absolution.

#13, you do have a good point and I agree, and this was my initial fear as well. We have to play the game we are given, and since there is still at least the option to go truly stealth I’ll buy.

But yeah, more publishers need to grow balls like Valve and Blizzard, and do their own thing. There is still room for niche AAA titles, and not everyone needs to cater to the lowest common denominator (Square pressuring IO?).

nicothesilencer 20 January, 2012 @ 5:51 pm   24

I wonder why IO dropped Jesper Kyd and David Batison…
That’s not a smart move, I’m afraid hitman won’t sound like hitman anymore. And all the new rambo-features? -> unnecessary
Hitman is a freaking stealh game, if you wanna go rambo there are a million other brainless games to do that.
I hope they won’t screw one of the best franchise games ever made !

 

jes i hope release soon + i hope u not make bad game of best game in genre .

bendchester 24 January, 2012 @ 5:42 pm   26

My Test Comment

bendchester 24 January, 2012 @ 5:51 pm   27

This looks good to me!

bendchester 24 January, 2012 @ 5:54 pm   28

Load Balancer for the win$

bendchester 25 January, 2012 @ 10:46 am   29

Testing from here