Review: Hitman Sniper Challenge
Pre-order bonuses as a concept are not bad, but the way in which they are often implemented is. Retailer specific bonus in particular are something that should not be, followed closely by exclusive missions/levels or weapons. Hitman Absolution sidesteps all these problems by presenting a stand-alone “game” for everyone who preorders from most retailers (at least in the UK, as I believe it’s a GameStop exclusive in the States).
What you get is a single mission that stands outside of any entry in the franchise, instead showing just another hit for Agent 47. This isn’t just another Hitman mission though. Instead of having a sizeable sandbox to wander around and solve the puzzle that is the perfect Silent Assassin run you’re given a sniper rifle and 15 targets. Don’t misunderstand me, however – Silent Assassin is still an option, and is still as mind stretchingly puzzlish as ever.
Instead of given free reign over the movement, position and execution of the hit you’re instead given a sniper rifle and a great vantage point – a rarity in the franchise – and told to eliminate the head of an arms company and his 14 bodyguards. In true Hitman fashion you can open fire at will and gun down anyone and everyone, but (again in true Hitman fashion) the real challenge and experience comes from chasing down the elusive Silent Assassin rating.
To achieve this rating no bodies must be found and nobody must see someone else being executed. Simple enough when you’re given control enough to move the deceased and hide the evidence, but when you’re on an adjacent rooftop the challenge is slightly amplified. Instead of hiding bodies kills must now be carried out in such a way as to cause the corpses to fall into a hiding place already, whether this be in a pool, behind some flowers or, indeed, off the roof (the streets are apparently empty at this time).
Trying to get all 15 targets this way is a real nightmare at first, but eventually you start to wait and watch and plan. Waiting, watching each and every patrol pattern through your scope and planning when you can, and how you will execute each and every person you’ve been hired to kill. This is where the majority of the missions 15 minute time limit will be initially spent, though granted later runs will see you trying to achieve greater speed, which is a challenge all in itself.
Besides the challenge of the Silent Assassin rating, and fun of general sniping malarkey, Hitman Sniper Challenge also includes certain challenges of its own, such as pulling of particularly sneaky kills or finding gnomes and rubber duck. While adding extra incentives for more playthroughs (not that the addictive nature of the game needs more excuses), these challenges also provide final score multipliers, which will come as a god send for those who are trying to top the leaderboards, whether that be friends, national or global.
Control wise it’s all very simple, and should come as second nature to anybody who’s ever handled a sniper rifle in any shooter before, though with one slight, but excellent adjustment. Most games when handling such high calibre resort to letting you hold your breath with a click of the left stick; Sniper Challenge instead has you gently squeeze the fire trigger to prepare your shot. Dubbed the hair trigger this is both intuitive and easy on the fingers, adding an extra dimension to the sense of immersion. Not only does it act as a better function than clicking the stick ever did but it also means that when things go wrong and you start to panic shoot your accuracy realistically decreases due to the haste of pulling the trigger before preparing the shot.
All told, as a free download for those already excited for Absolution, Sniper Challenge can do no wrong. It’s both a great game in and of itself and a great moment to jump back in to the skin of Agent 47 for a quick blast. Rather than have to commit an hour or so to a mission of Hitman you can now jump behind the scope of an Agency sniper rifle and let off a few shots on the space of 5 minutes, perfect for wasting some time, which there’s plenty of before the release of the full game.
It’s short, but you’ll keep coming back to beat high scores, get better times, or just simply execute some targets. Fun, free and a great addition to the download library of anybody who likes Hitman, sniper rifles or score based shooters. Just don’t preorder the game, get the download code and then cancel your order. That would be wrong…
Hitman Sniper Challenge is available now to those who preorder from most UK retailers and to American’s who preorder from GameStop. Hitman Absolution will be released on November 20th 2012