Hitman: Absolution Does Pre-Order Incentives Right With Sniper Challenge
It’s no secret that Hitman: Absolution is my most anticipated game for this entire year, and that its predecessor Hitman: Blood Money is one of my favourite games of all time. Any sort of glimpse of this game gets me drooling in anticipation, so you can manage how I felt when I recently got the opportunity to play Hitman: Sniper Challenge. Admittedly I didn’t have much interest in it initially when I heard that it was a stand-alone mini game that was only a pre-order incentive, as I didn’t expect much from it. However, I was truly surprised to discover just what it had to offer when I sat down and played it.
In case you’re unaware of what this is, Hitman: Sniper Challenge is a bonus mini-game that is given free to those who pre-order the upcoming Hitman: Absolution from specific retailers. What makes it very interesting is that it’s made using Absolution’s game engine, so it’s exactly like you’re getting an early taste of the game, except that Sniper Challenge isn’t part of the main game, so nothing is getting spoiled for you. This is a stand-alone challenge level much like those found in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, except it’s packed with extra goodies. First on the list are leaderboards, which allow you to see how you stand up against your friends as well as national and global players. Second, and best of all, is that your performance in Sniper Challenge can unlock upgrades for the full game such as silencers and extended ammunition clips, in addition to the Sniper Rifle that you use in the level itself.
The one real downside to Sniper Challenge is that it only offers a single level, one that you’re capable of finishing in just a few moments. However, doing that would be a complete disservice to what’s on offer here, and obviously won’t get you the best rewards and best ratings. There’s a surprising amount of depth and replayability to this single level, and while it most definitely won’t keep you entertained until the game comes along in November, it’s certainly something special if you want to get an early glimpse at the game. And if you’re interested in getting Hitman: Absolution, then Sniper Challenge is a fantastic bonus to give you a taste of the game as well as unlock extra goodies for the full title.
In this level, Agent 47 starts out on a rooftop geared up with a powerful, silenced Sniper rifle, and it’s your task to watch the rooftop below you and kill your target, who approaches by helicopter, as well as all of his bodyguards – or at least, as many as you can get. You’re given fifteen minutes in total to complete this mission, although it can be done a lot faster than that depending on how little or how much you care about your rating. Within a few minutes, the sadistic smile that only Hitman can bring was back on my face, because one of my favourite franchises ever has finally returned. This mission alone offers lots of ways to complete it, and true to form of Hitman you can chase after that Silent Assassin rating, enjoying the skill and patience involved in perfect execution, or you can gun down your enemies like a true psychopath. Whatever gets the job done and works best for you is completely allowed, and you have the freedom to explore the different ways in which you can go about your business. I know that this is just an isolated level, but it seriously got me excited for the full game.
Sure, you can start shooting everyone without giving thought to subtlety, but the problem is that your target will then begin to flee, as well as his bodyguards in short time, so you’ll lose a lot of points and have to annoy yourself trying to gun down running targets. Doing this also prevents you from seeing the entire level play out and the amount of enjoyable options you’ll get. Patience actually leads to a great deal of immersion in the Hitman series, and despite this just being a mini game, Sniper Challenge really slams that awesome immersion home. There is the possible frustration that a small mistake can cause you to start everything over again, but the game does try hard to emphasise enjoyment, as even missing a shot will not blow your cover, but make nearby enemies suspicious as they investigate the sound of the bullet. Of course if you outright kill someone in plain sight, then your cover will be blown.
I knew that this was Hitman in all of his glory when I started experimenting with the game’s mechanics, shooting one bodyguard off the edge of a cliff, wiping him out as though he never existed, and taking down another by gunning him into a pool as his friend turned his back. It was entirely satisfying to see this count as a stealth kill and I received bonus points for removing the body from sight creatively. Yes, Sherlock, obviously that’s not very realistic, but that’s always been the beauty of Hitman. It puts fun and sadistic pleasure first before anything else, allowing you to meticulously plan the downfall of your enemies using the gift of your imagination, or lack thereof, but not being forced to go about your business subtly or even entirely realistically. If Absolution can bring this element back, then it’s surely going to be a complete winner. I loved the feeling of power that the Sniper rifle gives you in this mini game, and I liked the ability to slow down time for only a few precious seconds by gently squeezing the fire button, giving you just a small moment to steady your aim before pulling the trigger. It also works pretty well with the new Instinct mode that you get to try out. In Sniper Challenge your usage of it isn’t limited, and it’s a pretty cool effect to see the colour fade and your targets being highlighted, with the main priority glowing red and his bodyguards glowing white. You can also see targets through walls.
The mission is pretty straightforward as already explained, and once you take out the target and as many bodyguards as you can, you’re pretty much done. You’ll get points for straight up kills, as well as large bonuses for creativity, subtlety, headshots, kill streaks and so on. That’s all there really is to it. It’s still too early to judge the game’s graphics, but I will say that based on first impressions it looks pretty fantastic so far. The visuals and character models are highly detailed, and there’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had from the blood splatter effects that are a result of a successful shot. Sniper Challenge also gives you a tiny glimpse at the Glacier 2 engine in action, and you’ll see the game flow smoothly despite the amount of people rendered on screen. There’s a real, fantastic sense of immersion to be had from just sitting back and watching things unfold, waiting for your moment of glory and planning out your next moves while carefully lining up your shots. It’s really great fun.
Sniper Challenge is surprisingly fantastic. Sometimes, if I have to be honest, it made me forget that I was just playing a mini-game consisting of a single level, which is the only downside here. However, I replayed the level at least five times, completing it in different ways and experimenting with the game’s fun mechanics. Plus, there was always the incentive to chase after those upgrades for Absolution. This is truly an awesome pre-order incentive that shines above most other games’ offerings of some in-game costume or unimportant item that you probably won’t use. Sniper Challenge is a demonstration of real effort and class from the developers of Hitman: Absolution, and I think it’s seriously a great initiative and step forward as far as pre-order incentives go, especially since it’s isolated from the main game and won’t spoil anything for you, but it will make your Absolution experience more enjoyable through the unlocks you can acquire. Keep in mind that it’s completely free with your pre-order and you’ll get to play it now, so both the Indian and Hitman-loving freak in me couldn’t really resist this.
Hitman: Sniper Challenge is one of the best pre-order incentives I’ve ever seen. Period.