Hitman Absolution preview: How user-generated content extends the life of the game
14th Oct 2012 | 09:00
For the final part of their
And it's probably best not to narrate one of these player-made tales to the kids before bed.
Called Contracts mode, it's the road taken instead of shoehorning competitive multiplayer into the game. And it's set to extend and enhance your Absolution experience in terms of both mission quantity and difficulty, by harnessing the (slightly twisted) imaginations of the series' devoted fans. It's also something that holds appeal for both creator and player, because in Contracts those two things are one and the same - rather than a traditional level editor, here you design your mission by doing it yourself.
Contracts are much like hits in single-player: they take place in the same locations, and involve 47 making sure some poor sap has eaten his last hot dinner. But there are a few key differences: not only can each Contract contain up to three assassination targets, but any NPC is a possible mark. And to add an extra layer of complexity and competitiveness, you can include a number of different criteria for how you want your Contract to be completed.
So, if you want players to remain unnoticed, carefully dispose of all bodies, and kill your chosen targets in a certain order, then that's exactly what you need to do when playing the level to create it. If you want them to use only a pair of scissors while wearing chef's whites, so be it - but you first. As you play to create, the way you do so dictates your desired playstyle for those who attempt your Contract once it's published online. As gameplay director Christian Elverdam says: "You change how the level plays, what it's about, the pacing, which route you take - all of that is defined by what targets you choose for other players."
This has a number of knock-on effects. Firstly, it means no one can create a Contract that's impossible to complete. If it's been published online it must be doable, because the creator managed it first. But it also means that more skilful players can devise fiendishly difficult puzzles. And the slightest tweak can make all the difference, as showcased in our hands-on with two Contracts set in the Chinatown level.
The first simply requires one policeman and a drug dealer to be bumped off, and in that order. The copper kindly acquiesces by walking into an alley, alone, where he can have his neck broken and his body bundled into a dumpster. Then it's simply a case of sneaking into the dealer's apartment and knocking a silenced pistol round into his bonce.
But the introduction of a third target - a policeman stood right in the middle of the town square - changes things completely. With the Contract stipulating that all kills must go unnoticed, and half the town having him in their eyeline things get... tricky. We end up with half the town dead after a shoot-out with a SWAT team. Failure.
And it's the malleable nature of these criteria that lend the mode its competitive edge. Simply killing the targets and escaping the level technically constitutes completion, but the amount of money you earn is dependent on how many of these you fulfill. So players will compete against each other and you as a creator, providing the kind of addictive, asynchronous back and forth that we've seen in games like
There will also be weekly 'featured' Contracts, chosen by IO. "It's the first time you can really go heads-up with other players - you can challenge your friends to see who's the best assassin," says Elverdam. Contracts mode is an inventive, alluring, and potentially endless addition to the Hitman series, and the perfect online accompaniment in place of some inevitably disappointing traditional multiplayer. So start embracing those dark thoughts: killing has always been an art form for Agent 47, and now you're being handed a blank canvas.