This time, we played through a level ourselves, the AI definitely functioning. The mission played out in three distinct phases – distinct, by being separated by a loading zone masked first by mashing a button to jimmy open a window, and second by a third-person cutscene. The first phase took place in a manor courtyard, tasking Garrett with infiltrating the building to steal a large jewel. The second phase took place inside the manor, and was more puzzle-focused, with Garrett searching for secret rooms and switches. The third phase saw Garrett escaping the manor in the midst of a riot by crossing a bridge that itself was on fire – and collapsing.
The sequences is brimming with scripted events; first-person cutscenes in which something collapses in front of Garrett and then he makes a jump to safety in slow motion. At one point the camera cuts to third-person as Garrett climbs away from explosions along the side of a building. An explosion throws him free, he loses his grip and falls – when a quick-time event prompt appears to perform an “aerial save”, which sees Garrett throw is grappling hook at a grate, which finds purchase at the last second, so he can continue climbing.
Yet this spoke to our major concern with the demo – one far greater than the insipid, dated nature of the burning bridge sequence. The “ingredients” that featured within the level did not feel general-purpose and consistent. They were not systems; they were hand-placed, hard-coded points of interest.
Case in point (no pun intended): rope arrows. Previously, Garrett’s rope arrow stuck to any wooden surface, after which a climbable rope would unfurl from its point of impact. Here, rope arrows only attach to specifically marked anchor points that have been placed by level designers – anchor points that seemed to exist when the only way forward was through the use of a rope arrow.
Well I guess I managed to get some enjoyment out of Hitman Absolution. Maybe I'll be able to do the same with this game. They're always quick to say "but you can turn off all these special powers and giant arrows telling you where to go" but in my experience the game just doesn't work well without them. I remember in Dishonored you had to bring some guy to safety and are told to "put him in a safe place". I didn't have the HUD on and couldn't figure out what it meant. I eventually turned it back on and you had to put him in a specific place. Hitman Absolution was apparently pretty much unplayable on higher difficulties without the instinct too.