After a long wait our favorite bold assassin has finally come back in his new murderous adventure called Absolution. How has the hiatus treated Agent 47 and how will he stack up against other assassins like the likes of Ezio and Corvo that have taken the spotlight in this generation?
Unlike previous Hitman games, Absolution concentrates on a more story-driven plot, where we discover Agent 47’s more personal and emotional side. The story begins with a basic assassination contract, which Hitman must complete. The target this time around is Diana Burnwood, his former handler in the International Contract Agency (ICA). As Hitman confronts her and as is going for the kill, Diana asks him to find and protect a girl named Victoria from the ICA. Nothing else is explained, but Victoria seems to be a very valuable asset for the ICA and as the plot develops Agent 47 discovers her hidden powers and past, which touches him emotionally and gives him reason to protect her.
The story is a more personal take on Hitman’s life. Personally, I didn’t fully endorse the fact of the warm-hearted savior and emotional bonding, even though the reasons for it were good. Nonetheless, thanks to the story, you are taken through a variety of levels from basic small villas and factories to open countrysides and with many possibilities of practising your murdering skills.
The game mechanic of Absolution is still basic Hitman. You are given a huge level, a little sandbox if you will, and either single or multiple targets that need to be dealt with. After that it’s your decision on how you will complete the level. Make the kills look like an accident? Minimize civilian casualties? Do a lot of collateral damage or just go guns blazing and leaving a trail of bodies? It’s up to you to decide and depending on your execution the game scores your performance and gives you challenges that, if completed, give you even more points. Personally the scoring system “disappointed” me. I thought I was doing well, but the points were not reflecting it. It might just be me, but I would have liked to hide the score, so my mental balance wouldn’t have been all torn up. In the end though, Absolution steers the gamer with the score system a little more to the quiet approach, but there’s always room for a little improvisation.
The controls in Absolution are made to be dynamic. Now you won’t get frustrated by missing the crucial kill with the fiber wire, since your actions are tied to face buttons. Near enough, you can either strangle, kill or whatever you can do to the enemy with the press of the action’s corresponding button. Hitman also knows how to go to cover. Moving in and out of cover is fast and fluent. With these little improvements Hitman feels much smoother to control and more dynamic with the environment.
Hitman also has some new tricks up his sleeve, the biggest being his super sense on detecting danger, called “Instinct”. By doing said tasks and executing silent hitman signature moves you earn instinct which gives you the ability to see enemies through walls, their walk routes, improve blending in with your costume or use bullet time. That’s right. The old agent now knows bullet time. But, not to worry. It’s a last resort move that is well thought-out. By activating bullet time you go into slow-mo, pinpoint your desired targets, accept the lock-ons and then Hitman sweeps them all in a couple of seconds. It’s similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction’s “Takedown” move. Of course for all the hardcore Hitman fans this might sound as a cheap trick. You can turn up the difficulty all the way to purist, which has no Instinct, no clues, even no HUD. Or if you are like me and are new to the series you can choose from four other difficulty settings to find the one that suits you best. I played on Normal my first play-through and it was intense and challenging, but without many frustrations so I could just enjoy the story.
Hitman: Absolution also brings online play to the table in the form of Contracts. This brings the more linear-oriented single player levels closer to the sandbox model. For starters: you choose one map from the single player where you want to make your kills. Then you start the game, mark the targets and kill them in the most quickest and efficient way or whatever way you desire then escape, ending the mission. Share the finished contract online and now it’s up to others to beat your score with the same tools and targets as you. It’s a very simple concept but it is a very rewarding feeling to beat your friends’ score. Unfortunately there are many not-so-great levels in the mix, but thanks to filters you can most certainly find above average levels that require you to really think before you act.
Absolution doesn’t have many flaws. Sometimes the AI glitches and enemies won’t proceed out of the way forcing you to expose yourself to get their attention. The most annoying thing about Absolution is its new disguise system. When you knock out a policeman, for example, you can take his uniform. You can walk past everybody who doesn’t have the same outfit as you and go to areas where your uniform grants you access. The only people who can discover you are other policeman. You can’t be too close to them, though, or they will recognize you. It is important you use your Instinct, as previously mentioned, to blend in. The problem is the level of recognising they’re doing. They can notice you from too far away, when you don’t even see them. And on the harder difficulties they will notice you in an instant, which causes frustration. When you have a couple of plumbers who know each other it’s understandable they recognize a new-face, but in a big city with over 100 cops roaming the streets they notice the big, bald assassin right away? It’s not believable. Nevermind the fact he has a barcode tattooed on his neck…
Hitman Absolution makes a great debut on this generation’s consoles. A new, more personal story aspect could be a love/hate affair for some people, but the improved gameplay tweaks and added multiplayer make for a great package, despite the annoying disguise system. It’s time to cause some accidents.
By Kari the Platinum Stig
Game Purchased by reviewer
Images from Square Enix Press Site