Hitman: Sniper Challenge is a standalone "game" that ties into to IO Interactive’s upcoming Hitman: Absolution. It’s more or less a demo of sorts in the sense that
it teases some of the features in Absolution. But there’s a catch in its availability: It only comes with a pre-order of the main game, and it has been announced that it won’t be available in any other way anywhere else.
The "game" consists of a single mission where Agent 47—the main character of the Hitman series, for those unfamiliar—is tasked with assassinating a CEO of a weapons manufacturer along with his bodyguards. The modus operandi is sniping them from a rooftop across from another open rooftop party they are at. All the shots have to be taken from the given position, and it cannot be changed.
The controls are more or less straightforward: Hold down L2 to aim with the scope; Up and Down on D-pad allows switching through three levels of zoom; R2 controls the rifle’s trigger when you press it all the way down; tapping R1 reloads.
There are two sniping mechanics that I assume are going to be in the main game. If you just squeeze R2 gently halfway, it invokes the "Hair Trigger" ability, which is a split-second time slowdown where Agent 47 subdues his breathing to eliminate aim instability; it lasts for only a second, but there are no penalties for using it. While it seems like a universal mechanic, it shines especially when sniping moving targets.
The other is Instinct mode, activated by holding down R1. Instinct is essentially a gray X-ray vision that highlights your targets wherever they are, even beyond walls, as well as some objects that can be interacted with. It is akin to the Detective Mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum, but much less visually intrusive to the default vision.
While the game has only one mission, it does have some side content called "Challenges". These involve looking around for peculiar things within the entire area visible from the sniping perch. For example, one instance involves shooting at a sandbag atop a far, far away balcony, making the boxer who is practicing with it think he’s finally champion material. Another involves combing the entire area for a series of little things to shoot at, like rubber ducks, pigeons and garden gnomes. No, I did not make any of that up.
Aside from providing Where’s Wally-type concentration-based scavenger hunts, completing each challenge gives a multiplier to the final score of the mission. Each multiplier is rather minute by itself, but they can stack up to a pretty nice amount—over 2 times in this case. (As an aside, I’m assuming Challenges will be stage-specific in the main game, seeing how this one revolves around looking for things in this particular stage’s setup.)
What are the scores for? For one, they’re added to the online leaderboards, which come in three varieties: Friends, National and Global. Another use for points is that as you replay the mission again and again, they add up to unlock various bonuses: longer Hair Trigger, less reload time, magazine expansion and rapid-fire
upgrades. Those who want to work hard to ace the demo won’t have their efforts wasted, because it’s been announced that the progress in Sniper Challenge can be transferred to Absolution.