NYCC 2012 – Hands On With Hitman: Absolution & Tomb Raider
I got to sit down for some hands on time with with Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider and came away more excited than ever about both of them.
Hitman is one of those franchises that’s always been on the back burner for me. I own the PS2 trilogy but never really got to put any decent time into them. They’ve always been high on the backlog pile but unfortunately, often forgotten. After playing Hitman: Absolution that needs to change. I know there have been some concerns about whether this would feel like a true Hitman game and I can assure it’s everything a fan could hope for and more.
I started out on a mission to take out the “King of Chinatown”. The game looks gorgeous. The lighting and textures really made the cramped alleyways and surrounding buildings feel much more realistic than ever before. Everything is laid out for you in the area to take out your target in any number of ways. It’s really up to you to decide how you want to do it. I could have planted explosives on his car but I’d have to get the guard away from there first. I watched him circle the area and eat some food from one of the booths in the courtyard, maybe I should poison him? In the end, I decided to follow him up a flight of stairs to an apartment where he was having a meeting. In doing so, I had to distract a guard at the foot of the stairs then hide in a cabinet outside the door to the apartment. When he came back out, a quick garroting made easy work of the doomed gangster. I stuffed the body into the cabinet but then realized I had no easy way out. The guard was back at his post downstairs and I had no way to slip past him unnoticed. I decided to play dumb and as the guard told me to stop I just kept walking, then running, towards the crowd in the square. I was able to get lost in the crowd and eventually slip out the exit from the area but it was sloppy and I know I could do better.
The fun thing is, you can go back and try again, and again and again. You’ll be rewarded for trying different solutions giving the game high replay value. That crowd I slipped into by the way, the long ago promise of Rockstar’s State of Emergency has finally come to pass. It was a huge crowd of fully independent and autonomous NPC’s tightly packed on screen and it is marvelous. Each and every one of them moves in their own way. There are no shared animations with every seventh character across the screen, this is one of the most densely packed and realistic crowds I’ve ever experienced in a video game before.
All the staples of the Hitman franchise are intact. Disguises, brutal kills, a dark sense of humor and of course, stealth are there in spades. Everything about the game feels right including the new melee combat system. It’s all there to give you the tools to carry out your missions with very little limitation, making sure the controls don’t get in your way.
Tomb Raider was up next looking every bit as good as Hitman: Absolution did. Here I played a basic tutorial level that ended with some hunting where Lara moves with grace and fluidity. All the control issues I’ve had with a number of installments in the Tomb Raider franchise are long gone.
Early on in the demo, I had to get across a deep chasm by climbing an old plane hanging precariously in a tree. My thoughts immediately ran to the well known train sequence at the start of Uncharted 2. Comparisons are inevitable as Uncharted has taken the over mantle of treasure chasing adventurer during this console generation. Don’t forget though that when Uncharted was first announced at E3 2006 it was derisively known around the internet as “Dude Raider”. For all you long time Tomb Raider fans out there let me assure, Lara’s back.
She’s young, she’s survived a plane crash, she’s grubby, she’s dirty and she seems a little unsure of herself but she’s learning how to survive. The animation definitely takes a cue from games like Assassin’s Creed and the Uncharted series. Lara smoothly transitions from running to jumping to climbing and more. It’s really great to see. I eventually got hold of a bow and arrow and set about hunting some deer to eat. You’ll gain Survival XP from certain plants and all food sources along with Skill Points which can be used to upgrade your skills toward a particular skill set that suits your play style. The demo was all too short but everything is looking good for Lara Croft to make her return to glory when Tomb Raider releases next year.
All in all, both Hitman: Absolution and Tomb Raider look like they’re on track to potentially be the best installments of each franchise. Special thanks to the folks at Square-Enix for inviting us to sit down with both games.