With Christmas no more than a few days away now, what do you plan on buying the gamer in your life? Allow me to make a recommendation, Hitman: Absolution – providing they are 18+ of course. This is one game not meant for minors.
Absolution continues on the series from where Blood Money left off. Diana Burnwood has vanished, taking down the Agency as she went. Without providing too many spoilers, Agent 47 is assigned a new contract; Diana. Agent Benjamin Travis has reformed the Agency, tracked down Diana and sent 47 to complete the assignment. Kill Diana and retrieve a girl named Victoria. And so begins a new chapter to this saga, one comprised of espionage, betrayal, redemption and most importantly, absolution.
One of my personal gripes about the Hitman series is the difficultly and inaccessibility of the previous titles. I always loved the concept of the games, the idea of being this Hitman, the silent assassin, but I found some of the gameplay elements… well, just too bloody tedious. Before the release of Absolution, IO Interactive, the developers behind the series, commented that this title would be more accessible for all players alike whilst still retaining some of the more ‘hard-core’ elements of the game from those perfect score game seekers.
There is a big, distinct difference in gameplay between Blood Money and Absolution. Gone are the clunky controls and problematic gameplay elements and instead we introduce a system that is rather fluid and simple to use. There’s the usual dual trigger set up for aiming down the sights of a gun shooting and it equals most over the shoulder shooters on the market. There is also the Point Shooting mode, which freezes time as long as the Instinct metre has any instinct left (instinct is simply gained by hiding or completing objectives). It’s a useful mode if you aren’t a perfectionist and get surrounded. This is a series of stealth: either through shadow or by hiding in plain sight. Entering and exiting sneak mode is easy, just push the right thumbstick down to toggle the mode. Or you can find disguise by taking out enemies/civilians or just found in the world. While you can’t hide in plain sight as easily as past games in this franchise, it is still possible if you know how to use crowds to break line of sight.
And speaking of disguises, the spotting system isn’t quite perfect, in fact it’s a little annoying. While donning a disguise is relatively easy, the AI’s spotting capability can be almost godlike at times and the disguise can be rendered useless quickly, especially at higher difficulties when Instinct is depleted quite easily. Square Enix are apparently working on a patch to address the disguise system.
These minor problems are completely overshadowed however by the truly great main feature of this game; freedom. Absolute freedom in the game allows you to choose how to accomplish your goals. Do you wish to sneak around and go unseen? Do you wish to simply run in guns a blazing? Do you wish to steal a disguise and try to waltz by in plain sight? Enjoy! Then… there are the hits. All those options above still exist, but you are then offered various environmental kills that every mission not only has insane replay ability, but immense satisfaction in executing the various methods. Who wouldn’t want to make an entire gas station explode and take out two targets in one fell swoop?! Add this in with a bunch of challenges and a variety of weapons littered all over tied to completing missions in certain ways and you have a game that can easily monopolise your time.
Absolution not only achieves polished gameplay, but delivers a story that is engaging and filled with some of the most over the top villains that are enjoyable to kill and mangle in so many ways. From the moment the game starts up, you are hit with the story. The game manages to balance the story with the gameplay, evident from the tutorial all the way through the environmental dialogue 47 will come across if you sneak quietly through the stages. There is no letting up on either front, there are no long stretches of pure exposition or similar absences of story and characterisation. The game’s pace is almost perfect. And I found the journey extremely satisfying.
Let’s take it online and talk about Contracts. Any mission played in the game can be played through again and through marking up to three targets with Y, the player can create a contract for other players to play. It is engrossing and extremely challenging. You can’t simply pick contracts and situations arbitrarily. You must actually play through the level, and the contract mirrors exactly how you play. If you go in guns of blazing, then there are almost no optional objectives that must be completed. However, if you sneak in, go undetected, and execute each target in specific ways then the contract will reflect that. This doesn’t mean players are bound by those limitations however. They can complete any way they wish still; it just means that the maximum bonus will not be awarded to those players if they do not complete the objectives as completed by the contract creator.
In the end Absolution is a fine addition to a well-known and publicly loved franchise. It allows new players to join in and not feel overwhelmed by a steep, difficult learning curve. This isn’t a game for FPS fans mind. You can’t go running in, all guns a blazing, well you can, but you won’t last long. It’s nice to see the game introducing new features not yet seen in the franchise, albeit they have been found in other titles. A deeply involving storyline with superb graphics, smart AI and a fantastic line up of voice actors makes Hitman: Absolutions one of my top games of the year. A well-earned 9 from me.