Hitman: Absolution Review!
After five outings can IO Interactive keep the Hitman franchise feeling fresh and new, whilst continuing to give us the gameplay we have come to know and love with Agent 47′s adventures?
I have been a fan of the Hitman series, ever since it hit our PCs back in November 2000. No other franchise lets us play a game specifically to our own style of play, I love sneaking around and getting a job done without be seen, but some people prefer a kill everything that moves approach. Both of which are valid gaming strategies and Hitman caters for all, and once again series protagonist Agent 47 dons his black suit and red tie for the 2012 Hitman: Absolution, available for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. This is the fifth title that developers IO Interactive have released in the series, and once again 47 gets the job done with style.
Unlike previous outings of the Hitman series; where you would usually just get a name in a mission briefing to dispose of, Absolution has a gripping and entertaining story behind it. This helps us see more of Agent 47 and form our own opinions on the characters in his life. Agent 47′s journey begins with him being asked to take out his former handler Diana Burnwood, who went rouge and took down the Agency. The new reformed Agency wants this past discrepancy taken care of and Agent 47 is the best man for the job. During his mission, 47 discovers that Diana did all this to protect a girl called Victoria, who the Agency are trying to groom in to becoming an assassin. Agent 47 is not best pleased about this and makes it his business to look out for Victoria and take down the Agency once and for all. It is pretty much your bog standard action story; save the girl and take down the evil organization, by disposing of the bad guys by any means necessary be it by feeding them to angry pigs (seriously) or by putting them in a bin and making them the city refuge collectors problem and look damn good in a crisp suit and tie combo while doing it.
If you have played a Hitman game before you won’t find any real surprises in terms of gameplay – you still get your basic third person experience, but Absolution offers an Instinct Meter, which helps you and gives hints on how to kill in style. This system works really well and you can transition in and out of it with ease, making it fluid. Other things that the franchise is well known for is large environments and amount of options when trying to tackle anything ingame – if one way isn’t working out then there is usually a simpler way available. There are different ways in which Agent 47 can carry out his hit, all of which have a different outcome on your final score, this will make you want to keep trying until you get that perfect Silent Assassin rating. If you decide to walk up to your target and shoot him the face, chances are people will see you and you will have to shoot your way out, which obviously isn’t the best option for an assassin. However if you pay attention and look at your surroundings you may find a way to kill your target without getting near them, which as you can imagine makes you feel like a total bad ass.
One way of nailing that Silent Assassin rating is by using a classic feature in the Hitman series, the disguises. Square Enix have tweaked this a bit, to improve its slight downfalls – in Absolution, it’s only people who are wearing the same outfit as you who can see through your disguise, however if you have enough left in your Instinct Gauge you can use it to bypass potential prying eyes. This all helps to make a more believable and useful feature. Sometimes you may need to slum it in some greasy overalls, which can either be found lying around in certain locations or be taken off a dead/ unconscious guard or worker. If you get spotted doing something you shouldn’t and people are looking for you, then some new threads can be the perfect way to blend into the crowd.
Aside from the single player campaign, there is also Contract Mode. When I heard that Square Enix were attempting to add a sort multiplayer feature, I thought it would be an Assassin’s Creed style affair, but I was pleasantly surprised by what they did do. Contract Mode is where you can create a single-player kill contract for other players online to try out. The gamer has full control on how they set up a contract; who the target is, where it will take place, how it’s carried out and even the weapon and disguises used; after you have got the perfect contract set up you post it online and let others complete and rate your level. Alternatively you can just take on someone else’s creation. This feature is totally refreshing and original, and is sometimes a nice break away from the main story mode.
You would think that with such large areas and things going on all around that visually Absolution would fall short in places, however Square Enix have managed to put out a really polished release. From Agent 47 himself to an average guy just trying to buy some noodles, everybody has been carefully thought through and rendered, there are of course a few repeats by way of guards and crowds, but in a world the size of the one in Absolution it is totally forgivable. Highly rendered characters however don’t mean anything if they don’t have anywhere to wander around in, and yet again this has been beautifully brought to life. Be it the crowded streets of Chinatown or a grimy hotel, all aspects have been thought about to make the environments feel as real as possible. This has been done by IO Interactive looking at every single possible detail, for example you won’t see a high class duchess strutting around a rundown hotel, you see drug dealers. Everything that you would expect to see you see, and that makes the environments that bit more believable. My only graphical criticism is the way 47 changes in to a new disguise; he will crouch down and his clothes will change by way of a kind of fade in and out animation, which must be a real time saver when he is running late for work. It doesn’t feel like lazy programming however, as there is so many different outfits that having different animations would be a lot of effort for very little reward, it’s just something that could be looked at for future releases.
Graphics will only get you so far though; a game also needs a decent audio presence, something else that Hitman: Absolution excels at. The voice acting is pretty solid, if not in places a little cheesy, and David Bateson has once again lent his voicing talents to help bring Agent 47 to life. The background music and noises really solidify the feeling of being a part of the game. When walking through crowds or even just walking past a couple of beat cops, you will hear an abundance of varied conversations, most of which won’t help you in your mission, but do help you realise that these people are just going about their business, which has no direct conflict with your mission and should be left alone. In no other video game have I ever felt the slightest emotional connection to a man who is just trying to do his job, it’s almost as if everyone has their own background story, this is just another way in with Square Enix brings us in to the Hitman universe.
Overall I would say that Hitman: Absolution is a great game and is definitely worth picking up. It has something for anyone who has a taste for action, whether you fancy a stealth based adventure or just want to causing a bit of mayhem with your twin ballers, then you won’t be disappointed with this title. Also if you are a PlayStation Plus member then you can download Absolution for the low price of nothing, which is always a good amount to spend on a video game in any currency. This game has also solidified my love for Agent 47 and all that he does, and I hope we see more of him in the future.
Written by Guest Contributor: SteelFox