Before we get into the nitty gritty, and this game has gritty in spades, there’s something you should know: I’ve never actually played a Hitman game. I’ve watched a friend play through about twenty minutes of Blood Money, then we both got bored and switched to Resident Evil 4. That’s my experience with this series. I know, it’s lame, but at the very least it meant I could go into Absolution with fresh eyes. I came in wide-eyed and innocent and left a hardened, emotionless killer who won’t hesitate to choke you with my shoelace and hide your mostly naked body — oh, did I forget to mention I’ve taken your clothes so I can get real close to your friends before I kill them too? Oops — then I’ll hide you in a closet next to the other mostly naked guy I just killed. The Adam you once knew is gone, he’s been replaced by the man that stands before you now.
He’s no less pale and he can still type like a mad man, but behind those once innocent eyes is a darkness that’s been recently unleashed. If you think you’re up for the challenge, you should read what this badass mamba jamba has to say about Hitman: Absolution.
The Baby Factor: Agent 47’s been doing this long before Corvo started assassinating unsuspecting fools in Dishonored, but if you were to mix a powerless Corvo and the many options Dishonored gives you to accomplish your goals with the more stealth centric gameplay of the Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid series than Absolution is basically what you’d get.
When I first booted up the game, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew I would control the silent badass known as Agent 47, and I knew I would be stealthily killing my way through a lot of goons. Now, you don’t have to kill anyone — in fact, the game punishes you for killing non-targets, but because I’m awful at stealth games, my only hope of getting through it’s levels is by using brute force. Even semi-stealth games like Dishonored are too difficult for me to get through without alerting everyone. Usually, I’ll go into a level, decide it’s possible to get through silently, then five minutes in when I’ve alerted half a dozen guards, I just give up and run in guns blazing.
You can’t do that in Absolution. You have the skills to best pretty much every guy who’s unfortunate enough to get in your way, but more often than not you’re going to have to get through many guys to reach your goal. Thankfully, the talented folks at IO Interactive had unskilled gamers like me in mind when they were developing the game, because they’ve implemented a new system called Instinct.
Instinct is a lot like Batman: Arkham City’s Detective mode — you can see enemies, enemy routes, items, and assorted other points of interest through walls. As if that isn’t useful enough, it also brings with it a nifty trick that can help you get out of stickier situations. If someone recognizes you and starts getting suspicious, activating your Instinct will hide Agent 47 (usually it means he blends into the environment or tilts his hat over his head to conceal his face). Using it this way also depletes the meter, which can only be replenished by doing certain actions.
There’s also Point Shooting, which works very similarly to Splinter Cell: Conviction in that you can slow down time to mark your enemies and quickly eliminate them with your gun. It looks intensely badass, and only reminds you that even when Agent 47’s wearing a girly bath robe, he’s not the type of guy you should underestimate.
Story-wise, I don’t have a clue as to what’s going on. Something about Agent 47’s handler turning on the agency, which forces him to kill her while she’s taking a shower. He then has to save a little girl named Victoria who’s been genetically engineered to be an assassin just like him, so he protects her from the agency, which now wants him dead along with everyone else. If you’re a fan of the series, I’m sure you’ll love it. I found it got in the way of my constant desire to kill every single thing that moved.
Oh, and those dominatrix nuns from the infamous trailer also make an appearance.
Also, is it just me or do the cut-scenes in this game look like they were made a long time ago. They don’t look bad, but they have that weird last-gen CG look to them that kinda bothered me.
IO Interactive has done a wonderful job in making this game more accessible to newcomers, like me, while keeping its hardcore edge. If you hate wonderful things like warnings that let you know you’ve been spotted or mini-maps that show the locations of nearby guards, then you can always play on the harder difficulties where those features have been disabled.
If you’re a fan of the series who feels scorned by its slightly more mainstream appeal you can always take it out on the world by creating your own impossible missions in the fantastic new Contracts mode. How it works is you go through a mission and the game records every decision you make. If you kill a guy by poisoning his food while dressed as a priest, then it’ll record that as the way other players will have to eliminate the target when they play your contract. The more impressive your eliminations are, the more your contract is worth. You can even like or dislike contracts you play so other players know if it’s worth their time. I love this, and I’m awful at this game. Talented players will undoubtedly have a lot of fun coming up with crazy contracts, but I couldn’t make one that was worth more than $50k.
Apparently, killing a guy after you’ve messed up three or four times while SWAT teams approach because your dumb ass alerted the guards by getting caught as you were in the process of hiding a body is not the way a pro plays this game. Lessons have been learned.
Something else I really enjoyed about this game was how amazing it looks. The environments are incredibly detailed and there’s plenty of variation between them. You’ll explore flooded apartment buildings, a very crowded Chinatown, strip clubs, wrestling matches, and many more — all beautifully realized and stunning to look at. Even listening in on the conversations between NPCs is hilarious — I was standing outside a window on the top floor of an apartment complex listening to a guy find out he didn’t have prostate cancer. He was so happy, but I needed to get into the hotel, so I pulled his giddy ass through the window. He fell to his death, but at least he died with good news.
Hitman: Absolution is a great game. It looks great, plays great, snapping necks and shooting guys in the face sounds great, and while I’m decidedly not great at playing it, I still had loads of fun and came away a significantly less awkward killer than I was during my first mission.
The Final Word: If you’re a fan of the series, you’re going to love this game. If you haven’t played a Hitman game before but are now interested because of everything I just said, you should still check it out. I highly recommend it.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Hitman: Absolution, which was provided by the publisher.