E3 2014: Could Hitman: Sniper Redeem Absolution?

Hitman: Absolution was a massive disappointment. After the wonderfully open Blood Money, Absolution completely undermined everything the series is about by turning the highly experimental gameplay into a mundane checklist. Triple-A Hitman is in trouble,  but fans of the series need not give up hope – at least if they have a good mobile device.

Square Enix Montreal has developed a pair of incredible mobile Hitman games that condense the series action down to its purest form. Hitman Go turns Agent 47’s contracts into an intricate board game, but manages to keep all of the series core mechanics – stealth, accidents, disguises, and weapons – in a turn-based format. It’s an addictive little puzzler that’s garnered a lot of positive response on iTunes.

Now the studio is coming out with Hitman: Sniper, a more action-based game (inspired by the pre-order tie-in Hitman: Sniper Challenge) wherein you must eliminate targets using, as the title suggests, a high-powered sniper rifle. Though obviously you do a great deal more killing with a rifle than you would on the ground, don’t take that to mean that this game is missing the Hitman fundamentals. You can distract guards by shooting out electronics, cause accidents by breaking the railings they’re leaning against, and even dispose of their bodies using things like an industrial fan.

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You look down on each level (there will be two at launch) from a high vantage point, picking off guards before you go to take out your mark. The game is score-driven, and once you kill your mark the mission ends, so your real goal is to kill as many guards as possible using all of the creative environmental tools available to you. Of course, this is still a stealth game of sorts, so you’ll fail the mission if any of the bodies you drop (except through accidental kills) are discovered.

The goal of killing everyone in a level is a bit of a departure from past games’ emphasis on subtlety, but the score-driven gameplay does capture the spirit of creativity that drives the best games in the series. It might seem a little light on content with only two levels at launch, but as you progress you’ll unlock different challenges on each map, as well as new customizable weapons to vary your experience. The development team is also promising constant expansions based on player input, so the game should only get bigger and better as time goes on.

Obviously, as a fan of the series I want to see another triple-A title in the vein of Blood Money, but for now, these mobile games are doing a great job tiding me over. Square Enix Montreal is working on a followup to Absolution as we speak, which is a little worrying, but the team seems to have a solid understanding of what makes the series tick. Hopefully, they can bring that into the triple-A space and deliver the Hitman game fans have been craving for so long.