The Sniper Challenge for Hitman: Absolution has been out for some time now, and console players have already enjoyed the detached delight of picking off Richard Strong Jr. and his team of bodyguards as they socialise on a nearby rooftop. With the Sniper Challenge just now being released for PC though, it’s a great opportunity for PC players to get a preview at the engine powering Hitman: Absolution, to see what it’s capable of and how it handles.
The Sniper Challenge is automatically made available on Steam to those of you who pre-order Absolution, and successfully completing various tasks in it will unlock weapons and additional extras in the main game (when it releases). It’s a test of knowing the paths taken by the guards and knowing when and at whom to fire to maximise your kill points, while staying unnoticed for long enough to take out the primary target and escape unseen.
But besides all that, it’s a great chance to see what Absolution is shaping up like on PC.
Sniping’s a good job, mate
The PC version of Absolution is being handled by Nixxes, who you may remember as previously working for Square Enix on the PC version of their other recent multi-platformer, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. The DXHR PC port was generally considered to be one of the best of many recent multi-platform titles, and it’s perhaps no surprise that hiring a dedicated company to specifically handle the PC version results in a better product.
Cracking open the Sniper Challenge reveals a solid set of graphics options, including refresh rate, vsync, texture filtering, SSAO, AA, and individual texture quality, shadow and LOD controls, as we can see below.
I cranked everything to Ultra and fired it up, and unsurprisingly, Absolution looks good. Frame rates hovered around 65-70, and everything was crisp and smooth. The level takes place over a skyscraper rooftop in the setting sun, and golden lights and deep shadows play across the scene, making it necessary to use your ‘instinct’ to locate guards hiding in crowds or lounging in alcoves. Occasionally a plane or chopper will pass across the sun, sweeping the roof in a gigantic moving shadow for a brief second. It’s well done, and although the polycount is visibly low on some of the models, it’s still a very pretty game.
I’m not a crazed gunman, Dad, I’m an assassin
So is Sniper Challenge on its own worth pre-ordering Absolution for? It’s certainly a good bit of fun and a reasonable way to see how your machine will handle the final game, but it’s not particularly deep and will probably only appeal to the dedicated high-score-achiever after the first hour or two of shooting and giggling. Plus, after every attempt the game hits you with a (thankfully skippable) video, reminding you how amazing Absolution is going to be (which is a bit on the nose since you would have had to pre-order it to get the Sniper Challenge anyway).
I’ve taken the liberty of capturing one of my more successful Sniper Challenge rounds below – take a look for yourself or, alternatively, download it from the file library. A YouTube version is also available, if you’re having trouble with the player.