Hitman: Absolution Review
Sadistic, depraved, disgusting, brutish and inhuman. Agent 47 is on his own, following a sad and somber scene involving a gun, a shower and a mission. 47 has cut all ties to his former assassination contracts life trying to get by without The Agency or a handler. No parents no rules. But as expected such a powerful organisation is difficult to get away from and as always, there are plenty of people to kill – for the good of the world of course.
The graphics without a doubt have been hugely improved but like an extreme make-over there was a lot to be improved. The scenes are well designed, the colours suit the mood and the environment looks amazing as well. This game overall generally looks a lot better than other Hitman games – the atmosphere and the mood come together nicely whilst the sound effects also add to the feel of each environment.
It’s pretty clear that the King of Chinatown level was the most well-polished and believable – the people talking, food sizzling, chefs yelling, steam rising, police staring all add to this scene to create a great feeling of being lost in a crowded town. It’s very claustrophobic and loud but brilliantly atmospheric.
Possibly the most important feature of the Hitman series has been the costume changes; being able to kill someone, steal their outfit and pretend to be a guard, a chef or sometimes something as fun as Santa or a giant bird. Although Absolution does have many outfits to choose from throughout the levels and even achievements to find them all, there has been one change that really does quite frankly destroy it. NPCs who are wearing the same uniform as your character will recognise that you are not one of them unless you use your ‘instinct’ which is a rapidly depleting interface bar to the right of the screen.
Sure it’s more realistic and shows how well the NPC coding had improved but the point of the costume change was to blend in seamlessly, it was the best thing about the game and now it’s gone. Thankfully there are some redeeming features and as you progress through the game you earn upgrades which slow down the rate at which your instinct is lost – not a lost cause after all.
Point shooting is a handy yet patronising addition and it’s not the first time we’ve seen it – it does add to the theory that games are getting easier. The system, similar to many other games like Fallout series and Red Dead Redemption, slows down time; allowing you to tag each target, press the trigger and kill – assuming you haven’t wasted all of your instinct blending into a staff room already. If you’re a sneaky one you won’t have to use this very often at all but it’s good in a pinch.
‘What? What was that?’ is the type of phrase you’ll be hearing a lot while playing Absolution. You can throw any object that isn’t a gun and smaller than a bread box to distract any NPC while you either sneak past or garrotte them. The brilliant but unbelievable thing is that they never go to investigate in pairs.
The NPC with the most authority will send a minion to ‘go check out that goddamn noise’ which can also be the sound of a radio; however, turning one on in the presence of another life-form will probably get you shot. The AI are a funny bunch but not as comical as they used to be. A good example being when you hide from a guard pressing your body against a wall to peer round, passers-by will mock you for behaving strangely and make jokes about how you think you’re some kind of spy which is a nice bit of dramatic irony.
The points system is a real bint. You are scored on how well you follow the code, how well you stick to the morals of your playable character Agent 47. He is a man with some morals and so you are forced to go around the levels avoiding NPCs and not stealing their silly clothes because you loose a tonne of points if you kill them, injure them or even if they find you suspicious momentarily before you knock them out. Sedating characters and hiding the bodies seems to be the only way of clearing the areas as the points system evens out for that scenario as you have shown attention to detail by shoving them in a bin.
You gain some points by performing head shots but you receive less points than you lose by killing them so there isn’t much point, doesn’t really make sense that you gain any points for head-shots anyway since there’s auto-aim on melee weapons such as knives and screwdrivers. The problem with the system is that you feel as if you’re doing something wrong in a game where there used to be no wrong answers – it used to be a game of free-will and choice but being graded feels very controlled and confined.
The achievements per level go against the grading system entirely and want you to kill everyone in crazy ways like your instincts have been telling you to but it also means you cannot collect them all in one sitting – a good thing for replayability though more challenging for achievement/ trophy hunters.
Along with the two Chinatown levels there are some other really excellent gameplay moments. One particularly well planned level is Fight Night which is a level where you have to kill a pro wrestler named Sanchez – it’s a good, fun level with various options to approach, feeling very much like the previous Hitman games like Contracts. Absolution is much more story driven and continuous but an exciting self-contained scenario is always good to throw-in to keep you interested.
The bar area in another level is a fun scenario, most things you do will cause a bar fight and almost everyone will try to attack you but one at a time (let’s not get crazy now). Although the quick-time combat system is a little tedious, you really feel like a champion when you get through all those bodies with no point-losing consequences.
Hitman Absolution is the strangest of games. It took away most of the good things about the old games and replaced them with less intuitive and more painful systems but it somehow manages to be oddly addictive. The game looks very good visually and has a large scope for replayability such as the out-of-the-way achievements and freedom in experimenting with assassination; setting a stabbing machine on a doctor is gold and will forever stay in the memories of many gamers for years to come. The overall image has vastly improved along with the sound and atmosphere as mentioned before, things have changed but it is still a very good game and very fun to play; throwing knives and hiding in the cornfield – what’s not to love?