Lethal accidents and lazy disguises come to Cougar country.
At E3, there’s nary a sex nun to be found in the Hitman: Absolution gameplay demonstration. The repellent E3 trailer itself is conspicuously absent, the presentation prefaced instead with a cinematic montage of other bits from IO Interactive’s assassination title.
Either the original nun video was hastily swapped out for something less controversial and more representative or, more likely, it was only ever a cynical attention grab, incongruous to Hitman: Absolution’s actual showing at 2012’s Electronic Entertainment Expo.
Welcome to Cougar Town.
It’s a showing that takes Agent 47 to Hope, a small, sun-dappled town in South Dakota where the fifties never ended. The town is run by the Cougars, a gang of greasers fond of baseball jackets, American classic cars, and old timey barbershops. The Cougars are led by Lenny, who is 47’s prime target in this ninth chapter of the game. Before his execution, though, come those of his henchmen.
Like Hitman: Blood Money before it, Hitman: Absolution rewards you for arranging your hits to look like lethal accidents. The score counter is boosted with a Target Accident Bonus as Agent 47 crushes a Cougar mechanic beneath a car lift, first luring him under there with the clattering sound of a lobbed wrench. When 47 uses C4 to remotely detonate a leaky gas pipe, disguising the death of another Cougar target as a bit of explosive bad luck, the score counter likewise surges upwards–then drains back down again as a series of secondary blasts take out a cluster of innocent onlookers.
The town of Hope is a bigger map than we’ve seen previously for Absolution, with more sandboxy style than the cramped, concentrated Chinatown level. There’s space enough for a convenience store, in which 47 dodges past a distracted store clerk to garrotte one victim in a backroom and bundle his corpse into a wardrobe, and a junkyard, in which 47 placates a barking guard dog with a bone before non-lethally subduing a yard worker and nicking his overalls.
Disguises and social stealth (that is, blending in) work as we’ve seen before: a disguise will fool a stranger but not someone who would recognise the original owner of 47’s new duds, even with 47’s sly blending manoeuvre (rubbing the back of his head to conceal his barcode tattoo). So although a cop hanging around in the junkyard doesn’t give 47 a second look, another yard labourer is suspicious of his new, bald colleague.
Agent 47’s prime target, gang leader Lenny, is less cautious than the lowly yard worker. The demo’s final disguise is lifted from a barber when 47 sneaks into the Cougar clubhouse, through a Cougar party, and into the adjacent Cougar barbershop. There, Lenny chatters away in a barber chair, heedless of the hairless new hairdresser looming over him with a cutthroat razor. So ends the demo: a pretty slice of Americana-flavoured assassination and, here’s hoping, a truer account of Hitman: Absolution’s character than leering at brutalised sex nuns.