Being competitive in multiplayer shouldn't just be regulated to taking on others in direct versus match-ups. Sure, it's a lot more fun, but some of us just don't have the time to wait around for others to match up against, or want to compete on our own schedule, then go back and see how others compare. In this regard, leaderboards are the next best thing to online play — and Hitman: Absolution has it in spades with its new Contracts mode. During a private event this past week at Penny Arcade Expo Prime in Seattle, Washington, Square Enix invited us down to take the new mode for a test drive.
Essentially, Contracts mode is made up of a series of challenges not unlike what you would find in the single player campaign. You've got a specific set of targets that you need to take down, and only a certain amount of time to do it in, with certain conditions to meet over the course of the match. What's different about Contracts, though, is that you can actually put these together however you see fit.
In the game's menu, you simply decide which targets you want to set up for the kill, apply the rules that you want to put in place, and then let it loose for others to try. From there, people will jump in and do the best they possibly can, earning points for getting their kills and meeting certain conditions on the map in question.
One level we tried out required us to bring down three crooked cops in the middle of a crowded market square. Granted, this made it a bit more challenging, as killing someone in public is bound to make certain people panic. So, in pure Hitman fashion, you need to try and corner your targets in an isolated space, while not raising attention to those surrounding them.
For one target, hiding in an upstairs villa near the square, we distracted a guard by shutting off the power, distracting him with the dim lighting and opting to either knock him out or snap his neck. (Remember, if the conditions say you can't kill anyone else, you don't want to violate that rule, or you'll lose points.) Another guard required us to throw a bottle to get his attention, then activate a timed explosive near a fruit stand to take him out "by accident", as it were.
Another stage featured Agent 47 in the midst of a police-filled stakeout in a "hippie plant". However, we managed to use the drugs to our advantage, sneaking around in the leaves and avoiding those with flashlights as we ran up and snapped the target's neck. This situation played out two ways for us. One involved straight-up action, with enemy cops shooting at us while we scrambled for the exit, highlighted on the map. The other had a bit more stealth, with Agent 47 sneaking around walls and eventually booby-trapping a safe, then blasting a crooked cop — and a few of his cohorts — to bits, then conveniently walking towards the exit.
How you play each stage really makes a difference on your score, and the better time you have and more conditions you meet, the higher your final point tally is. From there, you can see how you're comparing with your friends or other players through an online leaderboard, then try and challenge their best times again, if you feel you're not "elite" enough as a hitman.
This new Contracts modes holds a great deal of promise, and while some players may prefer the thrill of direct competition, this is the next best thing. And besides, why rush assassination perfection?
Look for our review of Hitman: Absolution following its release in stores on November 20th.