After a six year hiatus, a new publisher and ideas, plus new gameplay mechanics to appeal to a more accessible game, does Hitman: Absolution live up to its predecessors or does its ambition ultimately ruin what makes Hitman, Hitman? Developed by IO Interactive and set directly after Hitman: Blood Money, Hitman: Absolution has Diana Burnwood suddenly goes rogue and betrays the Agency, forcing Agent 47 to take a very personal contract out on his life long handler and, as a last good will promise to his handler, Agent 47 agrees to protect her daughter and keep her away from the Agency that made 47 who he is. As a person who has not had a chance to play every single Hitman game (missed the first two), I noticed that Hitman: Absolution has to be the most narrative and story driven Hitman game out of the installments that I’ve played, including nice set piece moments and various cutscenes featuring a colorful and dark exaggeration of their archetype characters that players will surely love to hate and/or love to laugh at (sometimes not in a good way).
Hitman: Absolution (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 [Reviewed])
Developer: I/O Interactive
Released: November 20, 2012
MSRP: $49.99 (PC) / $59.99 (PS3, Xbox 360) [Buy Now]
Agent 47 can still seek out his targets in a number of different ways using various disguises, some found and some taken by force, and with different weapons and means to get the job done. All the while, players are ranked and scored on how they do during each level and sub level to better help keep track of what they’ve done and to see how their friends stack up to their score. The only downside to the game is the fact that it’s levels aren’t as big as past installments and the locations are not as diverse as past installments. In terms of Agent 47’s arsenal, players aren’t able to take any weapons that they want on missions and are stuck with finding new weapons to use per level. After a player finds a weapon and completes a level with that weapon, they will be able to use them and money earned in this mode to purchase other weapons in a new multiplayer centered Contracts mode, though Contracts mode is not the typical multiplayer mode that we are all used to (thankfully).
What Contracts mode allows players to do is enter any level in the game and mark their own targets with specific objectives as well and challenge their friends and/or the world to beat their contract. Contracts mode is a nice addition to the Hitman series and will give players more than enough reason to come back to the game after beating the single-player story. Speaking of which, the story, while nothing amazing, is a semi-solid narrative that gives players a reason to keep playing the game for more than just its gameplay. Looking back at how Square Enix, as a new publisher for the franchise, chose to advertise and showcase the game earlier before its release as a more action oriented Hitman game, rest assured when I say that the entire game can be played just as stealthly as past installments including the showcased levels that seemed as if it was impossible to do so. This is aided by a new gameplay mechanic in Absolution called Instinct that depending on the difficulty the player is playing on( higher levels don’t have hints or instinct gauge recharges), gives the player hints in his/her enviroment and helps to identify their targets and exit destinations which means that as well as helping the player, the new Instinct mechanic also replaces the overhead map from previous installments. As well as helping the player, Instinct can also be used to aid the player while in disguise.
Coming to close to a similarly dressed guard and about to be caught? Use Instinct to have Agent 47 interact with his disguise or certain special areas of the level. For example, Agent 47 will fake use a walkie talkie on his police officer outfit, tilt his hat in most other disguises or pretend to read a magazine or examine something if he interacts with his environment. While I do enjoy having a more “realistic” disguise system in Absolution, at times the disguise system is a little bit too “realistic” and I felt as if when I wasn’t using Instinct, my disguise was borderline pointless. There was one point in the game where I knocked out a guard who had a mask and when I took the disguise the mask came with it yet somehow in another room another guard was starting to become suspicious of me while I was standing in another room turned around with the mask still on, his suspicion meter was rising as if I were standing next to him. This level of frustration didn’t bother me in the beginning of the game, but around the halfway mark it became problematic and took some of the fun factor away from my experience, but not enough to where I wanted to stop playing, just be cautious as Absolution requires more patience and trial and error compared to past installments.
Along with the disguise frustration, Hitman: Absolution features a very…different checkpoint system. While the game does have the standard area through area checkpoint system, it also features random checkpoint spots in some of the larger areas that were always found by accident since they aren’t marked in any way for players to find (not even by Instinct). There were times where I had to take down a primary target, died trying, then suddenly had to repeat 30 minutes worth of sneaking just to get back to my original pursuit of my primary target. Even with its faults, Hitman: Absolution is still a somewhat enjoyable game that with its slower, more thinking man’s game makes it different than the majority of whats on the market for gaming right now. With it’s foundation of (albeit somewhat broken) stealth mechanics, improved 3rd person shooting mechanics, and new narrative story, Absolution isn’t the worst in the Hitman franchise, but its definitely not the best.