Eurogamer Expo preview: The bald-headed assassin is back in HITMAN: ABSOLUTION, but is he still good for the job? We see just how many ways we can brutally or silently claim the throne from the so-called “King of Chinatown”.
If Agent 47 wasn’t such a stoic, stone-faced bastard I’m sure he’d be laughing all the way to the bank with the money he’s made assassinating idiots throughout his career. After dying, coming back to life and disappearing for six odd years he must have built up quite a slush fund to keep himself out of the business all this time. But now he’s free from the Agency, he’ll have to take it on himself to find more numbskull’s necks that need wringing, heads that need shooting, and bodies that need mysterious disappearing.
Take this suited chap up above, the “King of Chinatown”, for example. He’s too dumb, too lazy, and too arrogant to care about his own safety. He’d rather leave that in the hands of hired protection. Protection that’s too dumb, too lazy, or too arrogant to actually do their job properly. They may stand around and keep watch on his pagoda in the centre of this area of Chinatown with more ferocity than a dog guarding a disgusting bone, but show them that shiny, squeaky new toy and they’ll dash off, allowing you to dispose of the rotting mess unhindered.
But first comes the planning, and as a silent observer in the crowd 47 can spot all sorts of deathly possibilities. What a crowd it is too. The moment you burst through the doors and into the hustle and bustle of Chinatown the atmosphere washes over you. Flames erupt from the nearby vendors cooking up their stir-fry, customers haggle for the best prices for food and a sea of heads bob about between the stalls – it’s the perfect environment for 47 to scout the area and plot mischievous methods of murder incognito.
Every security slip an opportunity. Every object a potential weapon. Every uniform a new disguise.
One stall vendor, distracted by the baying crowds after his fresh produce, leaves some poisonous fugu fish unattended. It’s gone in a flash and into the bottomless pockets of Agent 47′s slick, black suit – somehow no one notices the smell. Through the teeming mass of people, the “King” slips off for a cheeky taste of the local cuisine at the rear of a market stand. He gobbles up a serving of stir fry as if it’s Ambrosia, before heading back to the supposed safety of his pagoda. The greedy bugger will be back, though, and next time it’ll be his last supper. With the fish mixed in, just a single bite is all it takes to start the poison flowing through. He chokes and collapses away from all the ruckus. No one knows he’s dead. And 47 slips out of the area.
An expensive-looking car hides out of view down an alley. Knowing the “King’s” level of self-importance, it’s probably owned by him. With some explosives planted under the chassis, 47 gives the bonnet a firm punch to set off the alarm. The “King” runs in to check on his prized possession. A quick examination reveals all is well, until with a push of a button the car door has been blasted off into his gut and his body lays smouldering on the ground.
Look again: the “King of Chinatown” drinks so much coffee that he has to piss constantly. Unsurprisingly, the dolt chooses to evacuate his bladder standing right under some poorly suspended pallets. It’s surprising Agent 47′s signature move isn’t a face palm rather than a fibre wire choke hold.
Why not disguise yourself as a drug dealer (until now I didn’t know that drug dealers all wear a specific uniform to sell their goods – in case you were wondering, it’s a vest top, sports jacket, tracksuit bottoms, and a fake gold chain) and instead of leading him to the cocaine the little addict so desperately wants, take him towards a secluded alley and introduce your garotte to his neck?
Or you can be really boring and snipe him from a nearby window. It’s all easy pickings for Agent 47.
This is killing with skill
What’s clear from spending some time exploring the different ways to off the King of Chinatown is that the core of the Hitman series is still very much there. More importantly, the extra time to work on a completely new entry in the series has brought with it a more refined Agent 47 – he’s now far more efficient than ever before.
Where in past Hitman games your best laid plans may fall apart due to the game’s inconsistencies or clunky interface, Absolution’s smooth, context sensitive controls ensure any failings are always your fault alone. He’s no longer stumbling into restricted areas you didn’t want to enter, or lashing out with the garotte like he’s windmilling in a mosh pit and somehow missing a target directly in front of him. Each move is calculated and the world responds as you would expect, leaving you to be the silent assassin 47 is known as.
And while the King of Chinatown doesn’t reach the inventive and elaborate highs of a hit such as Curtains Down from Hitman: Blood Money – a level of such unprecedented freedom, variety, and imagination that many would hold it as the greatest in the series’ history – there are still enough sneaky and wild methods of murder at your disposal that shows IO still remember how to make a Hitman game awkwardly satisfying. With targets this dumb, though, maybe you’re actually doing the world a favour. Coming up with ingenious ways to remove them from it is just a chance to show off.
Hitman: Absolution, by Square Enix and IO Interactive, is scheduled for release on November 20th for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.