Your target is nearby. Will you eliminate him with a well-placed bullet fired from the shadows, lace his next drink with poison or quietly garrote him in a corner? These are a few of them many methods of murder you can dole out in the latest Square Enix stealth action game, simply titled Hitman. Scheduled to launch March 11, 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Hitman is the sixth entry in the storied series. I had an opportunity to check out some of the action during a demo on the New York Comic Con show floor, and I'm impressed by what I've played so far.
Don't Call It A Reboot
Hitman isn't a reboot per se, but as the first Hitman to launch on next-generation consoles, it's definitely going to be the foundation for any future titles. Since this is a next-gen title, it goes without saying that the graphics are absolutely breathtaking. The demo starts with steely assassin Agent 47 walking through the courtyard of a palace in France.
As the camera draws back to show off the sheer scale of the massive building, I was impressed with how much it looked like a set piece from a James Bond movie. The campus sprawled before me, teeming with possibility. Someone was going to die here, but the how and when was up to the rep as he guided 47 through the gilded doors. From there, he found himself in a sea of people. I was informed that unlike previous entries in the series, Hitman can support up to 300 non-player characters (NPCs) on a screen at a time.
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As 47 makes his way through the palace, I learn about the target Victor Nomicov. Described as a fashion designer/oligarch, it's all a cover as Nomicov is actually the head of spy agency IAGO. Nomicov makes a grand entrance down the main staircase and has a quick conversation with a senator. But the tete a tete comes to a sudden end when Nomicov gets a message from his bodyguard, forcing him to rush off to take care of more pressing matters. Quiet as death, the barcode-tattooed assassin follows -- it's time to go to work.
The Assassin's New Clothes
Hitman draws from mechanics of its predecessor. While you could run and gun your way through the game, Hitman is best tackled with patience and subterfuge. For example, to gain access to restricted areas, Agent 47 incapacitated a stylist by choking him unconscious and relieved him of his clothes. Once the assassin was in his new clothes, he was free to explore backstage where he saw Nomicov arguing with a cranky designer.
Agent 47 went about his business, creating distractions by sabotaging things -- in this case a nearby diorama. Players can spot these opportunities easily with the Instinct feature, which highlights certain points of interest. Unlike in Hitman: Absolution, players will have the option to disable the feature if they want to plot their assassination attempt without help.
The resulting hub-bub from my sabotage sent our target on his way, hopefully to a more secluded area. In the next part of the demo, 47 was decked out in a waiter's uniform and had just stashed his silenced 9mm into a crate of food that was being moved to another area of the palace. This allowed 47 to easily pass through the security checkpoint. Speaking of weapons, before every mission, players will have the opportunity to choose their weapons loadout. You'll start off with a basic pistol and assault rifle to begin with, but you'll access better weapons and tools like lockpicks as the game progresses.
Once through, 47 grabbed his gun, concealing it behind his back. Once the coast was clear, he made his way to the top floor. From there, he switched into his next disguise, courtesy of a guy on security detail. A shot to the head with the silenced pistol, and Agent 47 was good to go.
The rep explained that while disguises are very important, some enemies, called Enforcers (demarcated by the triangle above their heads) will see through them no matter what. Another way to blow your cover is to leave a dead body in a discoverable place while you're still in the location. That's why it's important to stash your victims as well as you can.
Delivering the Coup De Grace
The rep cased the upper level, eliminating two more guards. After ensuring Agent 47 was the only living thing on the floor. It was time to turn his attention to Nomicov who had just started making his walk down the catwalk of the fashion show. A quick flip of switch and the large lighting fixture that was drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd now elicited screams of horror.
It plummeted on the stage, crushing the target while deftly demonstrating the many deathtraps lurking in the world of Hitman. With the proper tampering, a gas stove or chandelier can become an instrument of murder, much to the chagrin of the person who trips it.
Overall, I'm excited to play Hitman when it releases. The game is looks gorgeous and is a font of strategy. Similar to previous titles, there's no wrong way to play the game, which adds a lot of replay value.