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Hitman Developer Talks Change in the Stealth Genre


Speaking to GamesTM magazine, the Director of Hitman: Absolution, Tore Blystad, has commented on the current trend toward action in today’s stealth games.


“It’s difficult looking at the stealth genre today,” he says. “All the IPs have moved off in all kinds of directions and, while some are pretty close to us, some have gone off in completely different way. Like the new Metal Gear… I don’t know what the hell that’s all about, but it’s definitely not a tactical espionage game any more.”

It’s a strange comment to make for two reasons. First, Metal Gear Rising was never pitched as a stealth game, even from its initial inception where we were first given the tagline “Lighning Bolt Action”. Second… well, has he seen his own game in action?

I'm more curious about the bandage over 47's barcode. Is he having trouble walking past supermarket scanners?

Though Blystad acknowledges the variety and detail of weapons available in previous Hitman games, he goes on to say: “Using weapons in the levels themselves was practically useless as a mechanic, kind of a missed opportunity. We had to look into a viable way of using these guns and not just having them there to look at in a viewer, and that meant that we had to implement this dynamic combat AI and spend a lot of time with it. It doesn’t detract from the other aspects of AI or gameplay – it just adds another dimension, something 47 should always have been able to do.”

There is a truth to this. An all-out action approach has always been possible in the previous Hitman games, but the pure gunplay mechanics were clumsy. I’ve always felt this was somewhat intentional, like a method of discouraging players from acting outside of the role 47 plays within each level. But it’s clear that IO Interactive is keen on making a shooter approach not just possible, but perhaps a little more standard, with Absolution.

Adding to this is the recent news from Kotaku that Absolution adds a new Mark & Execute ability to 47′s Instinct power called Point Shooting (or, as they put it, something like Red Dead Redemption’s slow-motion Dead Eye ability). This allows 47 to go into slow motion, target a bunch of baddies, then allow the game to execute them automatically.

I still think that this is a little too much. The Instinct power now lets 47 see enemies through walls, visualise their patrol routes, enhance his disguise, as well as automatically execute multiple enemies in a split-second without having to aim. It feels like it’s enough to discourage players from pursuing a stealth approach at all.

Hey man, I'm just here to axe you a question.

But there is one thing Blystad said to me at E3 – on Absolution’s highest difficulty level, the Instinct ability won’t be available at all. That means no x-ray vision, no Mark & Execute, and no super disguise powers. A new IGN video preview also mentions that it removes every single element of the HUD. This means a return to a reliance on the environment and 47′s natural cunning. It means a return to a more traditional Hitman game. Kind of like playing Splinter Cell: Conviction without utilising Mark & Execute – something I’ve always been meaning to try out.

I just don’t know how IO is going to reconcile this with levels that are designed around the inclusion of these mechanics. Conviction was very much designed around Mark & Execute, right down to specific enemy placement and their patrol routes. Previous Hitman games were designed to accommodate the entire suite of 47′s abilities, as well as a variety of scripted and systemic responses to them. I suspect Absolution’s new linear, checkpoint-based structure will account for most of the damage.

The thing that bothers me most with Absolution is that we still haven’t seen any footage of a traditional Hitman level – one with decent breathing room, where every NPC in it isn’t immediately hostile to, or fleeing from, 47. That is the essence of Hitman. Whilst it’s common for developers to show off what’s new with their upcoming games first, Hitman fans exist in their niche for a reason. How about showing a little of what’s stayed the same, just to tide us over like a quick sedative to the neck?

Enjoy the rest of the new screenshots below, and be sure to let us know what you think of these new developments for Hitman: Absolution’s different direction.

 

Daniel Hindes

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