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Interview: Cord Smith details Hitman: Sniper Challenge

We recently spoke with Cord Smith, product marketing director for the newly announced Hitman: Sniper Challenge. Smith explained the origins of the standalone title and discussed the gameplay experience awaiting gamers immediately upon preordering Hitman: Absolution starting May 15 for PS3 and Xbox 360 (or August 1 for PC). Most importantly, he listed the number one reason why players will benefit from capitalizing on Sniper Challenge before the major fall release.

GameZone: With Hitman: Absolution coming out in November, why did you decide to move some of that focus onto a smaller release in the meantime?

Cord Smith: The concept of the “Sniper Challenge” developed organically from a fixed position sniper mission that the team at IO prototyped more than a year ago. After playing that early version, the brand team started asking “What if?” One of those "what ifs" just happened to be “What if we took this experience and turned it into a preorder offer?” The core of the campaign seemed to spawn from there.

GZ: What exactly is Sniper Challenge? Do gamers need any previous experience with Hitman games to pick it up?

CS: The Hitman: Sniper Challenge is a deep and highly replayable sniping mission that challenges players to take out an arms dealer — and his security staff — within a limited amount of time and a finite amount of ammo. Combos, headshots, body disposals, and a host of secrets (with accompanying achievements) will have expert players competing for high scores, but anyone should be able to pick up the game and have a blast from the very first squeeze of the trigger.

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GZ: How closely is Sniper Challenge tied to the story of Absolution?

CS: There is actually a direct link between the "Sniper Challenge" mission and the events within Absolution. Although unaware of it at the time, Agent 47 — under contract from the Agency — is working on behalf of a man who will play a major role in Hitman: Absolution.

GZ: What kind of gameplay is included? Is it focused on single-player, or is there multiplayer?

CS: It was always meant to be a single-player experience, but online leaderboards allow players the chance to compete for scores against other snipers around the world. We’ve found that it’s a perfect game for couch-based competitions.

GZ: Can you tease some of the achievements, trophies, and weapon upgrades we’ll see?

CS: The official trailer does a nice job of teasing the various rifle upgrades (reduced recoil, advanced breathing, extended clip, etc.), but if you want an obscure hint with regards to achievements, I’d encourage you to take a good look at the entire city as well as jump at any chance to take out your anger on a gnome.

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GZ: The premiere trailer mentions monthly prizes. How will that work?

CS: In North America, we’ll be starting up monthly prizes shortly after launch, rewarding the top players at the end of each month. Look for a full prize list to be announced shortly, but don’t forget that the grand prize is a trip to Copenhagen to meet the development team and get your likeness integrated into the next Hitman game!

GZ: What characters will appear, besides Agent 47? Any cameo by Blake Dexter, the new antagonist?

CS: I can confirm at least one cameo, although it’s not by Blake. Do you think you can find them?

GZ: How will players benefit from playing Sniper Challenge before Absolution?

CS: The amazing Kazo TRG sniper rifle, earned upgrades, and achievements all carry over into the full game — and hopefully a bit of your own assassinating skills. The Sniper Challenge provides an excellent early preview of the powerful technology, high production values, and outstanding depth of Absolution.

GZ: Why make this an advance download, rather than incorporating it into the upcoming game?

CS: We felt that Agent 47 had been away from the spotlight for long enough, and — as gamers ourselves — we’re all a little bit tired of waiting until the fall holidays to play all the great new games. Why wait to tackle Agent 47’s next assassination contract when the dev team was prepared to serve it up as early as May?

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GZ: What makes the experience of Sniper Challenge unique compared to other Hitman installments?

CS: It’s not really how it’s unique to other Hitman titles, but how it’s unique to all other titles. The Sniper Challenge provides a 100% unique interactive experience that can only be accessed through this exclusive preorder. It’s the sort of high-quality instant gratification we rarely expect nowadays, but we think gamers have earned it. This is a sincere “thank you” to long-time fans and a “nice to meet you” for those new to the Hitman world.

GZ: With this title whetting gamers' appetites, what can they look forward to when Absolution arrives later this year?

CS: Hitman: Absolution is the definitive “Hitman” experience and documents Agent 47’s most personal “contact” to date as he is propelled through a dark and violent world. The team has worked tirelessly to create a Hitman experience that is accessible to newcomers without diluting any of the challenge that the hardcore fans demand. I think both groups are going to be absolutely blown away.

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Tags: Cord Smith, Square Enix, Hitman: Absolution, Sniper Challenge

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