Will Preston

Tag: IO Interactive

The last bastion of true stealth? – A First Look at Hitman Absolution

by on May.27, 2012, under First Look

Probably something I shouldn’t admit, but I love sneaking up on people. No, wait, come back. It’s not in that way, I just adore the intense concentration required to move up to someone without them noticing. I’ve managed to perfect this dodgy talent to such an extent that, whilst bored at a previous job, I tailed a colleague from one end of a quiet office to the manger’s office without them knowing. I’d like to add that I did this whilst wearing a pair of Cuban heels. Not that I’m trying to impress you…or make you feel uncomfortable.

Let's hope that's the only thing being injected...

Either way, I’m blaming stealth videogames for my behaviour. This genre has produced such subtle sneaking sagas like Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell and, of course, Hitman. I almost included Assassin’s Creed on the list, but running around rooftops in broad daylight whilst wearing a circumcised Ku Klux Klan outfit is almost the opposite of keeping a low key profile. But because of Creeds immense popularity amongst impatient gamers, it looks like stealth games today are less about tactics, strategy and patience, and more about running in, raising a ruckus and bogging off. Sam Fisher already started down the gung-ho garden path, and now Mr 47 is sneaking shortly behind.

After more than half a decade of absence, the next Hitman game is emerging from the shadows with a more mainstream approach. The last title in the series – Blood Money – saw Mr 47 assassinate the corrupt Vice President of the United States before faking his own death and going off the radar. Now the bald anti-hero returns, as he is hunted across the US by the police. Plot details were revealed earlier this year by Hakan Abrak, the games lead producer.

The setting is a bit different and we’re taking the story somewhere else — you start the game by killing Diana, the only truly human connection Agent 47 has ever had. And that changes the stakes immensely. In earlier games, Diana’s contracts set the tone and direction of the story. This time, Agent 47 is on his own. He must choose his next steps on his own.

This isn’t the only shocking change. David Bateson, the voice of Mr 47, has been unofficially dumped by IO Interactive with a new voice yet to be announced. Bateson spoke to Hitmanforum, a fan site for the game, in June last year to reveal the bad news.

The absolute truth is: no one from IO Interactive is answering my calls, e-mails or sms. Feeling very let down at the moment but I haven’t heard personally.

Not only this, but veteran videogame composer, Jesper Kyd, won’t be providing the soundtrack this time round. Instead, music will be provided by Peter Kyed and Peter Peter, whose back catalogue includes both Kane & Lynch games…and not much else. Probably best if they didn’t admit to being involved with that redundant timewaster. Even Vivienne McKee, voice of Diana (47’s boss), has been replaced by Naomi from Lost. They’ll probably give the bald chap himself some hair next.

I recognise Square Enix's lens glare from anywhere

But sacrilegious changes aside, the game is not looking bad at all and a sense of liquidity has been injected into the gameplay. A few gameplay mechanics have been pick pocketed from Splinter Cell Conviction, including the transparent bubble statue of yourself that pops up showing where everyone thinks you are. There also looks to be a lot more focus on using objects in your environment, instead of creeping up behind people with a cord of strangulation wire 50 times in a row. The gore seems to have been increased to a level comparable to Manhunt, but I doubt we’ll see the same censorship backlashthat saw Dixons refusing the stock the title. But then again, when’s the last time anyone shopped at Dixons?

Tickling...?

Nothing much has been revealed about the locations in the game apart from several rainy scenes in Chicago. So far, it looks like Mr 47 will be restricted to the US – just like in the last game – which is a shame. Of course, that doesn’t mean that there will be a linear feel to the variation of environments, but there’s not enough globetrotting in games today. Will we see sprawling city after sprawling city, or will a few mansions and military bases get tossed into the mix? As long as we don’t have to make another unscheduled stop in a South American jungle again, we’ll be fine.

Seeing Square Enix’s looming logo on the games promotional art does make things unclear as to whether the Hitman games will start pandering towards the more mainstream crowd of gamers, whose sense of patience has been whittled down after masturbating through years of unchallenging affairs. Still, it’s a hard formula to ruin. Will everyone’s favourite bald, emotionally redundant killer upgrade to running around with grenade launcher, or will the shadows remain his best friend?

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All style and no substance. A First Look at Kane & Lynch 2 Dog Days

by on Aug.21, 2010, under First Look

Giving a new meaning to the genre of “casual shooter”

What the hell is going on with Square Enix today? No longer content with simply releasing JRPGs over and over again, this publishing company has already engulfed Eidos in its blubbery mass in a scene similar to the climax of Akira. A big amorphous blob squeezing more Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Hitman until it bursts under pressure. Not that it could be a bad thing. Well, for Lara Croft it’s been over for a decade. Style over substance doesn’t cut it, young lady. And here’s another game that’s good on the eyes, but not on the imagination.

I never really got around to playing the first Kane & Lynch game. Every now and again I keep wondering whether I should give it a go, but it just doesn’t seem to present itself in the ways I want it to. On the contrary, the games presentation seems to be its finest point. I say finest point, it looks like its only focus from what I hear. This stopped me from buying it. Not even the £10 price tag in the second hand shop could tempt me. And now the sequel is set for release later this month.

I suppose now is the chance to see what kind of game the first one was like. If anything, the sequel should be a more improved version of it, shouldn’t it? As soon as the introduction movie rolls, I can tell that my standards on good graphics will be further raised beyond the monolithic plinth where they’ve rested nicely since most games began to look the same. It’s amazing. It looks incredible. You can’t mince your words on how well rendered the visuals are. The characters look real, the settings are so grimy you could taste it. For some bizarre reason this also a cameraman (our view on the character we control, I suppose) on the scene. That would explain the shaky cam ‘technique’ being used.

Probably the closest I’ve ever come to motion sickness in a game.

All these expectations came hurtling down faster than Gary Glitter’s record sales at the end of the Twentieth century. The game is a clunky Gears of War. That’s it. You run, hide behind cover and shoot people who, for reasons not adequately looked into, shoot at you. Your partner helps outs at times, but I was so preoccupied with flying shrapnel placing me back at the start every 10 seconds.

I spent 95% of the demo running around and shooting, but all of this was a bit of an uphill struggle. Not a challenge, an uphill struggle. Every now and again, I would die and have to restart that one section again, losing passion to play each time. This may sound a tad hypocritical coming from a FPS player, but at least most FPS’s add a bit of zazz, variety and a reason to continue despite constant death. This was running and shooting in the most linear fashion, where dying became second nature.

The visuals were stunning, but ended up being the scenery of something monotonous like looking out of the window on a long car journey. As well as Clover-cam, the screen was pixelated at certain moving parts to give the further impression that there was a cameraman following you. That’s right; instead of relying on good graphics for presentation alone, they shoot themselves in the foot by smudging all over it with this ‘feels like you’re there’ gimmick. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m there, it makes me question what density the cameraman’s body is.

Christ, it’s just like the second half of District 9.

The other 5% of the demo was spent using a guard as a human shield against nothing and opening doors. At one point after a particularly predictable and frustrating fire fight, my player says to his wingman “The next street is heavily crowded, so play it cool.” I don’t need to tell you that at the next moment on that street, two dodgy and blood covered strangers (our heroes) walk out holstering fully automatic rifles. As if subtlety wasn’t hiding you gun, but merely not shooting it?

The demo ended abruptly, giving me nothing more to want the game. Just a montage of more and more linear gun fights, each more linear than the last. There’s a multiplayer option too, but I don’t hold out much hope for it.

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