Over the past few years, countless games have offered players pre-order bonuses, and Square Enix plans on taking it to the next level with the standalone Hitman: Sniper Challenge. This game is being offered on preorders of Hitman: Absolution across Xbox360, PS3 and PC. There is a catch though; unlike the actual Hitman game, you can’t roam around the level. Instead, you’re restricted to a rooftop from where you have to take out Richard Strong, Jr, the CEO of weapons manufacturer Stallion Armaments as well as his entire entourage of guards using only your sniper rifle (hence the name).

On paper, this sounds like any other Hitman mission, but like I said, you can’t move around or change your clothes to blend in. Whatever needs to be done has to be done all the way from your rooftop, and you have 15 minutes to do so. In all probability, you will fail the first few times until you learn guard patterns so you can take them out silently and effectively. Every time you play through Sniper Challenge, you’ll figure out something you missed earlier, like the ability to shoot open an elevator hatch and then shoot a guard standing next to it so his corpse falls into the shaft without alerting anyone.

Objects in my sniper scope may appear closer than they are.

Objects in my sniper scope may appear closer than they are.

Sniping is quite arcadey, unlike games like Sniper Elite V2, where at higher difficulties, the experience becomes a tad authentic as you have to take factors like wind and bullet drop into consideration. Here, it’s just a matter of moving your crosshair over an enemy and then squeezing the trigger. What keeps things fresh, however, is the fact that you’re always discovering newer ways to take out the trash. Although I have to ask – who keeps mines lying around the table during a party?

Anyway, once you finally assassinate Richard Strong, you’re graded depending on how subtle and efficient you were at hiding dead bodies. Another cool aspect of the game is that it allows you to unlock certain abilities or weapon upgrades that can then be transferred to Hitman: Absolution. It’s good to know that all the time and effort you put into Sniper Challenge will yield some rewards in Absolution.

Hitman: Absolution and Sniper Challenge both use developer IO Interactive’s in- house Glacier 2 engine. The game’s decent looking, but at least on consoles, it does suffer from a ridiculous amount of jaggies and screen tearing. Plus, the frame rates do tend to dip at times, especially when a body is found and a huge crowd suddenly disperses. I wasn’t too happy with the controls either, but sniping using a controller has never really been my thing.

All said and done, Sniper Challenge is one of the better preorder bonuses out there and I’m pretty happy with the amount of content that’s been crammed into it. If you don’t plan on buying Absolution at all, this won’t change your mind, but if you do plan on picking up Agent 47’s latest adventure, I would definitely recommend pre-ordering it so you can enjoy the Sniper Challenge.

Note: The PC version of Sniper Challenge will unlock on 1st August, 2012.

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