E3 2011: Hitman Absolution

QUICKTAKE: IO Interactive brings back Agent 47 in Hitman: Absolution, this time under the Square Enix banner, and offers up some gorgeous-looking graphics, courtesy of the new Glacier 2 engine, and dynamic AI. It looks like a run-of-the-mill Hitman game on the surface, but the Glacier 2 engine shows a lot of promise and was breathtaking to see in action. BOOM video 9411 THE DEMO: This private demo saw Agent 47 on the run from police in the middle of a rundown library. After using stealth skills and surviving a firefight, Agent 47 dodged an assault from a police helicopter, only escaping after knocking out a police officer and donning his outfit as a disguise. Having successfully eluded police capture by escaping through a hippie pot house, the demo ended with Agent 47 blending into the populace. DETAILS: The Hitman: Absolution demo showed off a lot of the classic Hitman elements, like using stealth in order to escape and the ability to don disguises to elude capture. It also showed off a new tool called Instinct - a darkened secondary view that highlights on-screen enemies and also shows off what path they'll likely walk, so that players could plan their next move accordingly. The stealth aspect looked great and provided an opportunity to see enemy AI react with changes to the environment, like when Agent 47 sabotaged a fuse box to turn out the lights in the library. What impressed me about the demo I was shown was the Glacier 2 engine. The graphics appear a lot smoother and more realistic, with the exception of an elevator operator that looked a bit misshapen. Destructible objects shattered in gritty detail, as shown whenever Agent 47 cracked a clay bust or a hippie's bong over a cop's head. As the police helicopter shot at a running Agent 47 in a birdhouse, the screen filled with flying feathers and bullet trails. The incredible realism of the graphics went a long way towards adding to the game's theatrical atmosphere.

Agent 47 returns in Hitman: Absolution.

The Glacier 2 engine's biggest contribution is to the game's AI. Enemies will react to changes in the environment with varying senses of urgency. If they hear a sound in the distance, they'll react with curiosity. If Agent 47 creates a distraction, like the sabotaged fuse box from earlier, the police react with confusion and panic. Dynamic AI behavior also extends to the realm of disguises. After Agent 47 disguised himself as a cop, one officer grew suspicious upon seeing the disguised 47, requiring action to be taken. Another police officer confused Agent 47 with someone else, so 47 had to keep his head down to stay hidden, though the option to ditch his disguise was also available. Square Enix has promised that there will be multiple ways to play through the game, but the private demo that I was shown only displayed one way to escape the library scenario. I would have loved to see different freedom of choice scenarios play out, but from what I saw, there's a lot of potential for Hitman: Absolution to be immensely entertaining.