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Game Review: Hitman: Absolution
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Hitman: Absolution Image

Hitman: Absolution
Xbox 360 l PS3 l PC
DEVELOPER: IO Interactive
PUBLISHER: Square Enix
Rated M
RELEASE DATE: November 20, 2012

Six long years. That’s how long fans of the Hitman video game franchise have waited for this. And finally, Hitman: Absolution arrived this year.

Six years is a very long time to wait for the next installment in a game series you adore, indeed, as fans of Hitman and Bethesda games can very well tell you. For we who have anxiously awaited the chance to once again slip on the gloves of Agent 47, watching in stunned silence as not one but two Kane & Lynch games were made instead, the moment we finally got our hands on it could only be described as blissful.

This also comes with a healthy dose of bias, even for those trying to be as objective as possible such as myself, as Absolution was going to have to be an unfathomable disaster for fans to be unsatisfied. Still, while the game has a lot to be happy about, there were still some minor flaws to overcome.

When it’s all said and done, I love Hitman: Absolution. Again, this was going to have to be a real mess for me to hate it. But let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first, because there were undoubtedly some points in the game that had me scratching the ol’ noggin.

The biggest problem I had came in the form of what I thought were glitches. After much searching for answers, it became more and more apparent that these issues were not all glitches—perhaps more buggy than anything—but just the way it was designed. Unfortunately some of that design is messy and sometimes confusing. Absolution hinges 100% on your targets and your surroundings doing and functioning exactly how they were designed to, so that you have the freedom you’re meant to have in executing your missions as flawlessly and as surgically as possible.

The best example of a problem I had came during a section of the game called Chinese New Year, in which you have three targets you need to eliminate while surrounded by hundreds of people celebrating and enjoying the festivities. The section itself is fantastic. There’s fireworks constantly going off around you and confetti floating through the air; people everywhere oohing and ahhing, talking on their cell phones, and perhaps drinking a little too much; cooks selling all sorts of different foods. There’s also some very amusing options in taking out these bad, bad dudes, such as sending a lightning bolt worth of electricity through a truck one of your targets is about to relieve himself on.

But my issue came with one of these three targets, who, instead of moving around from spot to spot doing whatever it is he was supposed to be doing (as most NPCs do in this game), ends up at the back of the map, completely surrounded by walls and with two people who can spot you and blow your cover standing at the entrances. This didn’t feel right, as it took a chunk of what was fun about being a silent assassin out of the equation. Instead of stalking, you just stand outside looking at this box and wondering which ways you’ll try dancing your way in.

And even if this was intentional there’s still something off about it, as there’s food on the outside that you can drop a little rat poison in for the target (which is what led me to believe it was a glitch in the first place, as he never ever came out to eat it). But apparently you must sneak into his little fortress no matter what, and only when you initiate the phone call he has, will he go out and eat, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the grand scheme of what this game is all about. I have yet to test to see if that actually works.

What I ultimately ended up doing is I had to grab a cop uniform, use my instinct to get by the two people at the entrances, and then quickly lock in the checkpoint. Once you do that, if things go south, you simply reload your last checkpoint. You’ll already be inside, and your target will not be there yet, allowing you to set the trap. Not the way I wish it would have went down, but you do what you need to do. Maybe this was the way the designers intended things and maybe I was just clueless with that target, but again, something felt off about the whole thing.

On top of all of that, I ended up having to deal with the other two targets an absurd amount of times while I tried to figure out if target 3 was stuck or where he was supposed to be. These are the things can be severely damaging to a game’s pace. It’s also a perfect example of why EVERY video game should allow you to save whenever you want to. Even in a game like this that allows you to go back and play the level of your choice to try new things. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about doing multiple things 25+ times, and instead could have concentrated on the one issue.

All of that said, when you do figure out that something may not be a glitch, and then re-approach with a different strategy, it can be even more satisfying to pull off. Patience is the name of the game when it comes to Hitman, in more ways than one.

Another issue is more of a nitpicky issue, but one I feel needs to be fixed for the sake of immersion. It’s not important, but it will bother you if you care about attention to detail. Agent 47 has a very familiar look: a nice black suit with a white shirt, red tie, and black leather gloves. To help you navigate an area, you are able to change into the clothes of those around you in order to blend in better, which is a great option to have, and part of the reason the Hitman franchise has been one of the top stealth series out there. But if you’re wearing a disguise and get to a point where the game kicks into a cinematic cut scene, you’ll suddenly be back in your own clothes. Again, it’s a nitpicky issue, but, knowing there’s games out there in which you’ll be wearing what you were wearing when it cuts to a cinematic, it’s not something that should happen.

The only reason I bring these issues up is not to bash the game or complain, but strictly in hopes of informing those interested in knowing pros and cons, and so that perhaps IO Interactive takes notes and keeps them in mind when developing future Hitman games.

Now that all that negative energy is out of the way, let us get to the good stuff, shall we?

After a six year wait, it’s safe to assume that this new game would look much bigger and better than its predecessors. This is absolutely true. It’s a beautiful game, with fun locations, solid graphics, and some great sound work. The team at IO did a great job in creating little mini worlds that don’t feel nearly as robotic as can often be the case when dealing with a stealth-heavy game. Sometimes it’s just as entertaining to listen in on the conversations of others as it is to play the game.

I also have to highly commend the sharpness that’s been applied to the stealth gameplay. Other Hitman games have felt much more difficult to navigate silently without someone becoming alarmed and forcing you to unsheathe 47’s iconic silverballer handguns. Don’t get me wrong, I love me the silverballers. But I love being quiet as a ghost even more, slipping in and out of a location without a soul knowing you were ever there. You can still go after your target guns blazin’ if you feel the need to, but they don’t feel as necessary. They are a last resort if things get out of hand.

The real fun comes from your environment and finding ways to use it to get the job done. Guns are the easy way out. Whether it be slipping a little something extra into someone’s food or drink or drugs (I was able to mix some toxins from the deadly fugu fish into someone’s cocaine, for example), having something heavy fall on someone or someone falling “accidentally” themselves, or using a bottle, wrench, vase, bong, or katana to remove someone from this earth, there’s a seemingly endless amount of options on the table.

Also improved is the story. Other Hitman games have had a story, but it was mostly just contracts you needed to complete. Here, there’s a tale to tell. And we see a whole new side of Agent 47 we never thought existed. It’s a refreshing improvement, and the targets you seek feel like they have much more purpose when you know who they are and what they’re involved in.

IO made an ingenious decision with the scoring and challenges section as well. Much like the Hitman Sniper Challenge that came out as a pre-order bonus a while back, there’s a variety of challenges to complete in each section you play, and these challenges act as a score modifier. When each new mission begins, you’ll see the average U.S. score, the average worldwide score, and the score of your friends who have played it. Now instead of just playing Hitman: Absolution, you also have plenty of reasons to replay levels and try to score the best score among your friends…if not the entire planet!

This ties into the game’s “multiplayer” gameplay as well. It’s called Contracts Mode, and it allows YOU to make the contract. You’ll enter a level of your choosing, and play through it. But instead of seeking a predetermined target, you’ll choose who the target (or targets) will be. This can be the target you had in the game, or just a random person you walked by without a second thought. You’ll also determine the method of disposing of these targets, kind of like a game of H.O.R.S.E. in a way. When done, you’ll send your contract off for friends and other players around the world to attempt. Likewise, you can try your hand at contracts your friends or complete strangers have made. The result is a cool and unique way to compete against other players without just having a bunch of people running around shooting at each other.

Despite a few flaws, Hitman: Absolution is a ton of fun to play. There may be times where you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again trying to figure out how things play out, and how you want to do them (I call them Scrubs moments), but this doesn’t always feel annoying thanks to how entertaining the game is to play. The story is solid, the characters and voice acting strong, and the enemies evil and sleazy. Lovers of stealth video games should find hours of entertainment to be had here, and loads of options and replayability to follow.

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