Today’s game review is a favorite series of mine, made by Eidos Interactive in the older years, this series is now under Square Enix and IO interactive. This is of course, Hitman : Absolution.
Hitman : Absolution is the latest installment to the series that follows on the story of Agent 47, a genetically enhanced super assassin with perfect finesse and to the point professionalism.
For those unfamiliar to the game, this is a 3rd Person Stealth Action game, while the emphasis is to prioritize on stealth assassinations and leaving the environment completely untouched, the option to go guns blazing and all out gun fighting is available. You can take the slow route or the fast route. Its greatest strength is in the multitude of choices available to players in taking down their targets, you can snipe them from a vantage point, poison their food or drip gasoline on an area they’ll walk upon and start a fire with a well placed shot, the choice is yours.
The game runs on the Glacier 2 Engine, and its a real treat to see just how detailed and lovingly made each level is. Character models too have been given a much deserved treatment making cinematic sequences that more engaging, coupled with very good motion capture that displays facial emotions very realistically and an amazing group of voice actors that absolutely drew me into the game when the action picks up. The engine also has the ability to create crowds of people to populate levels, as many as up to a 1000 or more people as seen in the Chinatown game play demo below.
Now as amazing as this game looks, there were a a few minor points which I didn’t quite like, mostly to do with the color. Some cut scenes had some odd color schemes that felt out of place and actually gave me some flashbacks to Max Payne 3 which used very off tone colors and also threw around some shocking bright lights. But these are very few and aren’t headache inducing.
The art style of the game is realistic and serious in tone, but don’t let it fool you, there are plenty of funny moments found within the game ‘s environments and from ‘accidental’ eavesdropping. Its the familiar kind of dark humor found in nearly every Hitman game, which balances the serious story line, giving a very enjoyable giggle or two in between missions. Like in the very first mission, a guard gets some good news and is having the best day of his life, nothing’s going to rain on his parade, until I came along and thew him off a cliff. Don’t look at me like that, he was in my way.
Environments range from secluded villa hideouts with lush gardens, a strip club, a shooting range and a small township stuck in a 50’s era feel, giving the game a lot of variety. Also in between the larger map missions, there a smaller ones that can be completed in mere minutes, but even these short sections showcase parts of the Hitman back story which are actually interesting to play through. There are a total of 20 levels to play through, and while most can complete the game within 15+ plus hours, many will be replaying the levels, not just to collect every weapon or disguise available, but to complete the Challenges unique to those levels only. Completing the challenges unlocks abilities for 47, which are generally just minimal improvements such as faster reloading or quicker knock outs. These abilities remain active upon acquiring them, so there is no customization at all for Single Player. That includes the pre-mission load up of choosing your weapons and gear from your safe house. I always loved that feature of walking around your home base and testing your weapons before starting a mission, sadly this was taken out completely.
What is a great thing though is the fact that each mission and level is so well done. I found myself coming back to replay those missions at least three to four times. This is because at the end of every mission, a check list is shown next to your score and rating, showing all the possible items you can find and disguises as well as Challenges that act as clues to a specific way of killing your target. This actually compelled me to replay each level over and over again, until I got everything I could, or when I got stuck trying to complete them.
Game play wise, 47’s movements and gun wielding abilities and tight and easy to execute. Also, when aiming with guns, lightly squeezing the trigger actually focuses the cross hair, improving accuracy before taking the shot. Bringing in more fun to this is the addition of an Instinct Meter. This is 47’s “Eagle Vision”, when activated, all targets and henchmen are highlighted in a red or yellow silhouette and items of interest, such as key cards, switches, hiding spots and weapons are shown. The Instinct Meter is only used up in two ways, to slip by enemies of the same outfit 47 has on and when using “Point Shooting” which slows down time and allows the player to manually mark any enemy within sight and which area on their body 47 will shoot at (head shots, or crotch shots if you feel like it…), which when done or when the meter runs out, 47 will then do as planned in one swift motion automatically, with the dynamic camera zooming in and going slow-mo on killing hits, it is truly a sight to behold. This mechanic is a beautiful addition, and is easily my favorite thing to do, as it not only helps in a rough gun fight, it is also a surefire way to making sure a silent shot will make its mark. This ability does not work with sniper rifles though.
Without spoiling too much of the story, in Hitman Absolution, Agent 47 opens up the game with a prologue where he has been assigned to assassinate his former handler, one which many veterans of this series will recognize, Diane Burnwood. Agent 47 later discovers why he has been tasked to do so and rescues a young girl, who holds a secret which forces the Agency to track them down, and along for the ride is a well organized team of very menacing cowboy-esque mercenaries and a top kingpin, who’s only goal is to get the girl and hold her ransom. The story is a chase, and a very engaging one at the that, but like many great titles out this year, its ending tends to be rather generic and does just enough to close up, its an appropriate ending, but I can’t help but feel that more could have been done.
Despite some characters having little to no exposition or growth from the entire story, the voice actors do an amazing job in displaying each character we see on screen. Each voice is just a perfect blend into the character models and expressions, and this makes a really absorbing and cinematic experience for players and viewers alike. Even the henchmen who chat and complain about their less than stellar employers add to the setting.
This is also the first game in the series to include multiplayer. This mode is called Contracts mode, and what it is, is essentially a worldwide challenge mode. Players can opt to go online and tackle assassination contracts for in game money which can be used to purchase more weapons and disguises as well as compete to be the richest assassin out there. The coolest thing about this is the ability to create your own contracts, and this is done in such an easy way. How do you make a contract? Well, just play the game like your normally do, only this time, you can choose your targets and decide what disguise and weapon is to be used on said target. You can mark up to 3 targets and use anything found within the level or whatever you chose to bring for the mission from a very simple load out screen of whatever weapons and disguises you have unlocked. You then write in a mission brief if you want and then its saved online to be taken on by any and every player around the world.
This makes the game very competitive, as your high score is shown on every level along with the average high score for your country and worldwide. Placing not only you as an individual to outperform your friends, but as country to country as well.
Suffice to say, I loved this game. It took away a few things, but it gave back so much more. Veterans and fans will find this game does justice to its predecessors and new comers to the series get to see and know just how bad ass Agent 47 is. As a whole, this game stands very strongly on its own, it does not call too much from its past lore to confuse new players, at the same time it does offer very little to long term followers. Nevertheless, its a very fun game to play, has a decent story despite its short and generic ending, a good amount of challenges to complete in Single Player and a good host of online levels to play through. This is a solid game to buy and to keep in your library.
Hitman: Absolution is available for purchase in your local game store for RM 189 and on Steam for USD$49.99. Free DLC is included with full game if pre-ordered in certain outlets.