Hitman Absolution Characters Part 1

After I finished working on Hitman Blood Money back in 2006, I started working as Lead Character Artist on Hitman Absolution. I worked with the talented programmers at IO Interactive to develop the entire production pipeline for characters and created 100s of characters for the game. The work displayed here is just a small part of the work I did for IO Interactive between 2006 and 2011.

Creating characters for a Hitman game poses many challenges that most other games don’t have. Besides creating a living, breathing world with 100s of characters, Agent 47 has the option of taking the clothing of the other characters in the game as a disguise. This means that unlike most other games Hitman have 100s of possible hero characters. This created a huge challenge for the very small character team to manage.

What you see are the actual low poly game assets I created for the game. Each character is about 12.000 faces (triangles) and uses 120 bones.

Images rendered in 3ds Max using Mental Ray and V-ray.

In order to create all the characters on time, we tried to keep a maximum of 10 work days spent on each, which included up to 5 variations, different faces, hats, etc. but also an undressed version in underwear and a version with Agent 47’s face and body. The work also included rigging and skinning the characters.

Certain, more reusable, parts would get some extra attention… below you see the high resolution version of Agent 47’s hands.

These renders have all been rendered outside the game engine for the sake of uncompressed presentation. To really show off the details I used Mental Ray and V-ray to render the characters inside 3ds Max. The background is a HDR image that I used to light the scene, or a 3D photo studio I build like in the image below.

For textures we use Diffuse, Normal Map and a Specular. The faces would also use a translucency map. Clothing and skin would, in many cases, use tile-able detail normal maps for when the camera get extra close to the character. Additional Cube/environment and gloss maps were used when it made sense for metallic or other reflective surfaces.

As we created more and more characters we built up a huge library of character assets, pants, shoes, shirts etc. That meant, towards the end of the project, we were able to create characters in a rapid speed by reusing elements from other characters, sometimes as fast as a day or two.

We used ZBrush and 3ds Max to create most of the characters, however a series of in-house developed plugins were also used to handle all the variations of the characters, face rigging and various other elements.

The character designs were, for the most part, created based on concept drawings done by the very skilled Concept Art department at IO Interactive.

To cope with the gigantic work load, we used 3D scanning to help create some of the many heads needed for the game. But several of the main characters’ heads, like Agent 47, were still created the old fashioned way.

To achieve more realistic skin shader in the game, special post filters were added to create a translucent subsurface scattering effect.

Hair was another huge task, and we experimented a lot with different methods and technology. But in the end, the simple technique of modeling planes with alpha maps was adopted.

The tattoo on the character above was done by the great Oskar Lundqvist.

Hitman Absolution is set to hit the stores November 20 – 2012 on PC, PS3 and XBOX 360.

Thanks for reading; You can now read Part Two here.

A Huge thanks to IO Interactive.

Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter if you would like to keep track of my work.


  1. Haroldo BragaHaroldo Braga11-07-2012

    Fantastic work Tom! Greetings from Brazil!

  2. Yohann GhezziYohann Ghezzi11-07-2012

    Absolutely amazing, fantastic!!! Greetings from Brazil, Seven Game, Rio de Janeiro!!!

  3. SteveSteve11-08-2012

    Please make a Tutorial and help us how to make like these 3d models

    • Tom IsaksenTom Isaksen11-09-2012

      I’ve written a lot of tutorials that covers a lot of the stuff you need to know to make nice 3D already. Check here:

      • KarenKaren11-09-2012

        The only tutorial that doesn’t exist on the internet is how to make hair mesh the same way you do them.
        why not making a tutorial of how to model Victoria’s hair mesh?

        This would help the whole 3DCG community.

  4. Jens VejrumJens Vejrum11-08-2012

    Whoa – I expected this to be good, but you still manage to rock me with your awesomeness 🙂

    • Tom IsaksenTom Isaksen11-09-2012

      Thanks man, appreciated!

  5. TevTev11-08-2012

    Great work! Can’t wait 4 the game 2 come out

  6. superBoisuperBoi11-09-2012

    Super 3d modeling!

  7. MarllonMarllon11-13-2012

    k muito show mesmo!

  8. DaniellynetDaniellynet11-13-2012

    Woah, this is amazing work!
    Looks so good and realistic.

  9. flefle11-29-2012

    awesome work

  10. mannymanny02-04-2013

    imma big fan of the 47’s game since the time when i had an intel inside 3 powered desktop computer ….
    the journey of the game has been terrific and its all due to your excellent creativity and hours of hard work ,
    man i respect you like god , cuz as he made the galaxies , you make them virtually…

  11. MojtabaMojtaba02-04-2013

    wow man! GREAT job..
    i love every character in hitman absolution which means you guys did the right and perfect thing..
    thanks a million and good luck 😉

  12. DanielDaniel05-17-2013

    Just like your site and this work is great.

    Greetings from Ukraine.

    Sincerely yours.

  13. german shepherdsgerman shepherds06-23-2013

    I’ve seen a load of these kind of articles over the last few months, and I can’t account for it.

    Hot topic it would seem

  14. Annop CatsmanAnnop Catsman07-24-2013

    Great work, and I have spent many hours playing hitman absolution (and all the previous hitman games), also just walking around and admiring all the artork and detail done. i was wondering, was jade’s tattoo made in full or just the parts that you can see? i kinda remember having seen the whole tattoo somewhere but can’t fin dit anymore.

    kind regards,


    • Tom IsaksenTom Isaksen07-27-2013

      Like mentioned above the Tattoo was done by Oskar Lundqvist who was on the team at the time, I believe part of the tattoo was also used on the bartender in Hope, but otherwise I’m not sure.