Hitman Sniper challenge is currently available as a free download to anyone that preorders Hitman Absolution and it acts as a way of giving players an idea of how the full game will pan out. The developers could have quite easily just produced a short demo, consisting of segments from Hitman Absolution, and we would have been happy enough. However Hitman Sniper Challenge consists of 100% new and exclusive content that will not be seen in Hitman Absolution at all.
As such we feel that they could have quite easily sold this on Xbox Live Marketplace or the Playstation Store for a low fee, a la Dead Rising Case Zero, and we wouldn’t have had any complaints. Although it is fairly short in length there is a huge scope (excuse the pun) for replayability.
The basic aim of the game is to assassinate all of your targets, of which there are a total of 15, within 15 minutes. Adding to the level of challenge is the fact that all of your targets are present at a rooftop party, mingling with a large crowd of innocent bystanders. Putting you in the role of Agent 47, the bald headed assassin with the barcode tattoo, you’re heavily penalised if you shoot anyone that is not on your hitlist, so careful aiming is a necessity.
Sure, you can go gun-crazy and blow away your targets as you see them but the way to earn the most points is to be carefully pick your shots and take out targets in a stealthy way. This can be achieved by shooting targets when they are close to the building’s edge – a carefully landed headshot can cause the bodies to go tumbling over the edge – or shooting them when they enter secluded areas. From your rooftop vantage point you’ve got a pretty good view of almost all parts of the party, so it pays to simply observe your targets’ movement patterns.
Should you take out a target and the deed is witnessed, or the body is discovered, the alarm will be raised and all targets will attempt to flee the scene. If the person discovering the body happens to be a target you have a few short seconds to take them out before they report what they have found, while civilians cause the alarm to be raised immediately.
It is an undeniable fact that it is possible to complete the mission within a few minutes and earn a fairly decent score, however there are a number of challenges and rewards that are available to players with real skill and dedication.
Firstly there are about a dozen bonus challenges that add a permanent score multiplier once they have been completed. These range from performing specific skillful kills, such as shooting a target and knocking them down an elevator shaft, to shooting specific objects, such as rubber ducks. The vast majority of these challenges are fairly easy, but some of them will require a great deal of patience and some careful shooting.
Earning points goes towards unlocking bonus skills that you will be able to use in Hitman Absolution, such as steadier aim or increased ammo capacity. This is arguably the greatest incentive to keep playing, and you’ll likely need to complete the game a number of times as the final unlock requires you to amass a total of 50 million points.
A further incentive for playing is the inclusion of online leaderboards that track your score and let you compare scores with friends and determine where you stand globally. Obviously this will only incentivise continued play if you’re the sort of person that gets all hot and bothered about your global standing – the vast majority of players likely won’t care at all.
In terms of graphics, this is the first glimpse we’ve had of Io Interactive’s Glacier 2.0 engine, and it really is quite impressive. There are dozens of party guests wandering around at any time, each with their own independent movements and though processes. Upon closer inspection some of the character models look a little basic, but this is made up for by the fact that the environments are so beautiful, and the lighting so spectacular.
One disappointment however is the lack of achievements or trophies. As this is a free title it likely means that they were not allowed to have achievements or trophies, but it still feels like there’s a little tiny hole in the game. Achievement whores may feel disappointed but the fact of the matter is that you’re getting a brilliantly addictive game for free, so we really shouldn’t complain.
Graphics: 4/5 – The beautiful environments are populated with large crowds of enemies. Some of the character models look a bit basic, but it’s nothing to turn your nose up at.
Sound: 3/5 – Everything sounds as you would expect it to. There’s not a great deal of variety in terms of sounds – gunshots, glass breaking, explosions, that sort of thing – and voice acting is mode than adequate.
Gameplay: 4/5 – There’s a lot of scope for different play styles in this short game. You can go gun-crazy, shooting everyone in sight, or you can carefully select each shot. The addition of bonus challenges, requiring some skillful shots, spices things up considerably.
Longevity: 4/5 - As this is a score-based game you could potentially play it forever as you try to improve your standing on the leaderboards. Most players will feel like they’ve seen it all after completing it a few times, but players that stick at it will be rewarded with bonus skills in Hitman Absolution.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Hitman Sniper Challenge is an addictive and challenging title that is surprisingly deep. The fact that you can get it completely for free if you preorder Hitman Absolution online only sweetens the deal, so we encourage everyone to give this a shot.
- Luke Mears