WHAT WAS IT?

A 30-minute hands-off presentation of the game's Fashionable Paris level. Pre-alpha build.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?

  • More Blood Money than Absolution.
  • Levels are six to seven times larger than the biggest levels in Absolution.
  • Linear levels have been scrapped in favour of complete player freedom.
  • A huge number of ways to kill your target.

HOW WAS IT?

Goodness me, I'm excited. Going by the initial presentation, Hitman appears to be the game fans have been waiting for since 2006's Hitman: Blood Money, with huge sandbox environments and an unprecedented amount of opportunities to assassinate your target.

The E3 demo offered a fly-through of the game's Fashionable Paris map, one of three locations revealed so far alongside an Italian coastline and a bustling Marrakesh market. Fashionable Paris is a huge, sprawling location set within the grounds of a 3-storey Parisian mansion host to a fashion show, and opening with Agent 47 emerging from a limousine onto the red carpet. Your target is Viktor Novikov, a villain using the fashion show as cover for other shady business.

How you kill him, of course, is entirely up to you. IO describes the new game as a "creative stealth" title, highlighting the vast array of methods - and 'accidents' - available to kill your target. One example is to drop the rigging on Novikov as he's walking down the catwalk. Or smuggle a gun in via a crate. Or sabotage a firework show. Or climb a tower to use as a sniper nest. Or infiltrate the makeup room. Or do something with the helicopter parked on the lawn. Or this. Or that.

Every room has been designed to have a purpose and, as in earlier games, it's up to players to work out how best to use them, with maps said to be 6-7 times larger than Absolution's biggest levels. NPC density is considerably larger, too, with around 300 AI characters allegedly populating some of the game's stages. In Fashionable Paris, scores of guests mingle in the bar and crowd around the catwalk, each reacting to 47's movements. Walk into a journalist reporting live from the show and you'll get a stern telling off.

As before, levels are based around timing, with certain characters performing certain events at certain times. If you want to catch Novikov on the catwalk, you'll have to make sure you're ready in time.

One thing worth mentioning: Hitman won't be content-complete at launch, but it will be full-price. Instead, IO plans to roll out additional content throughout 2016, introducing new locations and story content as the year goes on. All of those additional levels will be free.

But no matter how much content is included at launch, just like Curtains Down or A New Life, Fashionable Paris is already shaping up to be one of the most iconic missions in Hitman history, and a level you'll likely return to time after time to perfect your kill. Let's just hope the rest of Hitman's missions are able to capitalise on 47's fantastic return to form.