The retail videogame pre-order system has become a muddled mess of late, with retailers often holding back content from customers that elect to not pre-order titles, or even worse, elect to purchase a game from a less-favoured retailer in the eyes of the publishers. With videogame sales dwindling it’s an understandable move, however the confusing situation we’re left with shows how badly retailers and publishers have handled it. Hitman: Sniper Challenge is the latest in a long line of exclusive content offers to try to secure early money from customers – will it serve to alienate or gain a larger share of our precious disposable income for Square Enix?
Pre-ordering Hitman: Absolution gives you a free code for Hitman: Sniper Challenge – a one-off mission based around sniping an important target from afar as he attends a rooftop party. The excellent rendered intro gives you some basic information, including how your target is extremely punctual and will spend only 15 minutes mingling with his guests. So, 15 minutes is your window of opportunity, and within that time Agent 47 has to rub out the main target, Richard Strong Jr. – CEO of Stallion Armaments, and as many of his 14 personal bodyguards as possible. The methods at your disposal are your trusty sniper rifle, an ‘instinct’ mode to highlight targets (similar to detective mode in the Batman: Arkham games) and your own cunning.
Most of the fun in a sniper scenarios lies in learning movement patterns, observing positions and choosing the right moment to strike, however the AI reactions in Hitman: Sniper Challenge aren’t easy to predict. Realistically it’s about trying to guess the abilities and reactions of the AI, rather than expecting them to behave in a realistic manner, and this makes Agent 47′s job a lot harder. Shoot a bodyguard positioned on his own, away from any other AI and suddenly everyone is suspicious. Shoot one in full view of his colleague however, no-one bats an eyelid. This makes Sniper Challenge quite difficult, however the longer you play the more the game reveals itself.
The wide variety of AI behaviour and unlockables in Hitman: Sniper Challenge give the game terrific replay value, and once the game grips it doesn’t let go. Anything unlocked by completing the many challenges in the game will be available for you in Absolution when it’s released. For example, I can now look forward to Controlled Breathing and an Extended Ammo Clip to play with when Absolution is released later this year.
You have to wonder whether the decision will be taken at some point to make Hitman: Sniper Challenge a free demo, or a charged spin-off once the game is released because as good as the game is, theoretically the vast majority of players will have already pre-ordered. Once the main game is released, Square Enix could do worse than add a few more levels, more challenges, and charge £6-£8. It would be well worth it.
The aim of a pre-order gift is to increase anticipation for the main product, and ultimately this is where Hitman: Sniper Challenge excels. You are taught that patience is a virtue in Sniper Challenge: good job because patience is what you’ll need for the long wait until the release of Hitman: Absolution in November.