I've been playing Hitman for a couple of days now and I have deliberately waited this long to do a first impressions piece about it because, to be honest, I wasn't really sure what my first impressions were! The opening cinematic for the game is truly mind blowing, the new Glacier 2 graphics engine that has been the cause of the lengthy development cycle makes things look truly brilliant whilst the cinematic itself sets the game up to be the most story driven of the Hitman games so far. It's in the first mission itself that my impressions got skewed.
You see the thing is the game is still Hitman but it is significantly different. It looks different, it plays differently, it sounds different and it just feels different. Half of me loved this and thought the game was already noticeably improved, the other half of me rejected it and at one stage simply wanted to give up on the game altogether. There were only two things about the first mission that I knew for sure. The story behind it is incredible and the new steady aim mechanic is terrible and everyone should just stick to regular aiming.
The second mission improved on things a little and the latter half of my opinion began to fade but it wasn't really until the fourth and fifth missions that I truly fell in love with the game. Sure the steady aim system is terrible and the disguise system seems utterly broken which essentially forces you to play it differently but all in all the game is far superior to its predecessors. The range of difficulties make it accessible to everyone from people new to the series and to stealth games to people who have done every game several times on the hardest difficulty with their face strapped to their arse and their hands in a blender.
The graphics, as I already mentioned, look amazing with characters and their environments looking truly stunning. The sound is amazing and suits the game perfectly, the voice acting (I love David Bateson!) and the script are as good as ever and the level design is brilliantly Hitman with awesome 'accidental' kills available as well as normal stealth kills or the all guns blazing approach.
So what about Instinct? I'm playing on normal for my first play through (its been years since I've played Hitman so go easy on me) so I can use it but I don't use it too often. I never use it to see guards through walls or see the way they walk because that to me is too much like cheating and ruins the fun of watching guards to learn their patrol routes. I do occasionally use point shooting which allows you to go into slow motion and tag things/people to shoot before 47 fires with deadly speed and precision at whatever it is you've targeted. Ultimately I think it will depend on how much of a 'purist' you are. Instinct is definitely geared toward making the game more accessible but its done in the brilliant way of not being mandatory. Harder difficulties don't feature it and on the easier ones you can simply not use it.
So far I am very impressed with Hitman: Absolution. Check back on Wednesday for my full written review and feel free to ask questions in the comments below.