‘A nameless metropolis at dusk. A rooftop party in full swing. The world’s greatest assassin and his favourite rifle, just across the road.
Take a deep breath. Hold it…’
I’d be a crap sniper.
Moral conundrums aside, I’m crap at sniping in video games.
I flounder around like a pissed seaside telescope, flinching in wild arcs as if my scrotum is being flicked every five seconds.
And a Help for Heroes day at Bisley Ranges put paid to my ambitions of being a sniper in reality. I was more concerned that the scope might punch a hole in my eye socket at twelve hundred feet per second than I was at hitting any target.
But, thanks to Hitman Sniper Challenge, there is hope.
Square Enix and Danish developer IO are resuscitating the Hitman series after a six-year hiatus with the November release of Hitman Absolution.
Created using IO’s new Glacier 2 engine, the new game promises plenty of international espionage, stealth and an obsession with inventive deaths that would give Dr Gunther Von Hagens the sweats.
But the game isn’t ready for show and tell so, to get lovers of the barcode-bonced assassin to sit up and take notice, Square Enix have launched Hitman Sniper Challenge.
This is no simple cross-city blatting. Covering your tracks is as important as turning craniums (crania?) into trifle.
Only available to gamers who pre-order Absolution, this one-off mission puts Agent 47 where he’s happiest – within 1000 yards of a high priority target, complete with an army of minions to dispatch against the clock.
And this is no simple cross-city blatting. As with previous Hitman outings, covering your tracks is as important as turning craniums (crania?) into trifle. So wait til the guard heads to the edge of the helipad before nudging him off. Guard on the dance floor too public a kill? Open the door with a well aimed round, then send him down to reception. Fast.
The quicker and more frequent the headshots, the higher the score and the more advanced weaponry and refined skills are unlocked. These extras can then be used in both Sniper Challenge and Absolution.
Ventilating Richard Strong and his bodyguards is only half the fun. Scouring the highly detailed surroundings for unsuspecting pigeons, gnomes and ninjas to perforate is both entertaining and an engaging way to hone those impossible long shots. Each of these bonus targets multiplies your score.
On the basis of Sniper Challenge, Hitman is different. The controls feel second nature, yet smoother, adding to the aura that you are the genetically modified exterminator.
So rather than expelling all my energies attempting to line up killshots, I was a weaponised Bill Oddie, exploring the mobster party, learning the patterns of the goons and practicing faster paced sniping than I’d ever thought possible.
It’s a brilliant piece of pre-launch buzz creation. The only downside? By limiting access to players who’ve already preordered Absolution, Sniper Challenge is potentially preaching to the choir.
Would it have made more sense to open Sniper Challenge to all, rewarding pre-orderers with weapon and skill unlocks?
Only a successful Christmas for Agent 47 will tell.
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