Hitman: Absolution Review
If you see me coming, I have failed.
It’s been over six years since we last saw Agent 47 in Hitman: Blood Money, but the long wait for Hitman: Absolution seems to have been really good for the contract killer. He’s never looked so good, been this creative with his kills and has definitely never given us this great of a game.
The story in Hitman: Absolution is a tale of betrayal, corruption and greed, with Agent 47 stuck in the middle of it all. It starts with him receiving a new contract from his employers at the International Contract Agency, which turns out to be to kill his former handler, Diana Burnwood, who has since gone rogue, taking an Agency asset with her. ICA contracts Agent 47 to kill Diana and bring the young girl Victoria back, but he soon finds out that there is more to this story and must decide whether to stay loyal to his friend or his job.
Hitman: Absolution is a big game, with 20 levels that are separated into stages that can last anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour. They work this way because, much like Dishonored, Hitman: Absolution gives you creative control over how you approach each level and how you take out your target. There are multiple pathways to take, areas to hide in, disguises to wear and plenty of weapons and skills to use as you see fit. Once you’ve found your target, you can walk up to them and kill them right then and there or you can stalk them, monitor their actions and wait for the perfect time to take them out. Having the freedom to play how you want is great and I’m a big fan of games that are designed like this.
A big part of the game and the objective in many stages is to just simply escape, which can lead to a lot of waiting for guards to move past you or stray from the pack so you can take them out quietly and steal their outfit for a new disguise. When wearing a disguise, anyone who is wearing the same outfit will be able to spot you and the closer you get to them, the more suspicious they’ll get. If your cover is blown then you’ll have to hide and wait for them to lose interest in finding you or find another disguise to blend in again. When you combine the disguises with the cover system and the ability to hide in dumpsters, closets and other objects around the environment, you can expect to spend more of your time hiding than killing. Patience is definitely required in Hitman: Absolution.
If you don’t have the patience to wait for your kills then you can charge into a room and open fire with a Shotgun or Machine Gun, but it will only make things harder for you and half the fun in these types of games is getting in and out without ever being seen. It’s not like Batman Arkham City where you can just fight your way out of a jam, in Hitman: Absolution if you go loud, then you’ll have 10-15 heavily armed guards coming at you, with backup on the way, and it’s never easy to get away after that. I did play a few stages where I went right for the kill but it only ended up making me work twice as hard and die more times than I had to.
It’s not all about wearing disguises and waiting for guards to walk around though, as Agent 47 has quite few other tricks up his sleeve. He can using his Instincts to reveal enemies and objectives through walls, he can slow down time and mark enemies to kill, he can grab someone and use them as a human shield, he can pick up and throw knives, bottles and other objects to distract or kill his enemies while hiding in cover, he can go out on a window ledge and pull enemies out as they walk by, he can pull the trigger half-way for precision zooming, he can use his trusty Fibre Wire to choke out unsuspecting victims and every good Hitman knows that you have to clean up after your kills so Agent 47 can hide bodies in dumpsters and closets so they’re not seen. It’s a big game, full of different mechanics to give you plenty of variety when taking out your targets.
Two of the bigger mechanics that you’ll end up using the most are Instincts and Point Shooting. Using your Instincts will reveal your target’s location, the location of objects you can interact with and the outlines of any enemies through walls, much like how Dark Vision works in Dishonored. You can also use it when wearing a disguise to help avoid being detected while walking by characters wearing the same outfit. With Point Shooting, you can slow down time and mark multiple enemies for Agent 47 to take out. It also drains your instinct meter but is a great way to silently clear out a room. Sure, both have been featured in other games, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not still fun to use.
Technically speaking, Hitman: Absolution is well executed, with fantastic graphics under the new Glacier 2 engine and a great score to back it up. I didn’t run into any bugs or glitches during my time with the game but I did read about some day one issues that seem to have been patched already, so you shouldn’t expect too many issues at this point. I think the biggest issue that some people will have with it is how hard and frustrating it can be if you don’t have the patience to play it a certain way. Those looking for big guns and action will be disappointed with the experience, but if you can stay calm and place your shots wisely then you’ll love what Absolution has to offer.
The single player campaign will last you anywhere between 10 and 20 hours depending on how you play, but the replay value is enhanced by a great rating system. During each level you’ll be awarded points for completing challenges, finding collectibles like evidence and new disguises and for completing the objectives. At the end of each stage, if you earned enough points you will unlock new upgrades for Agent 47′s character and/or weapons. There are a ton of things to do in each level to boost your score, which drastically increases the replay value of the game. Even after you’re done with the single player portion, you’re not even close to being done with Absolution.
Hitman: Absolution doesn’t feature any traditional multiplayer or cooperative modes, but that doesn’t mean that it’s disconnected from the rest of the world. In Contracts mode, you can pick the level, the target(s) and what weapons are available to use and share it with the rest of the world to play.
The best part about Contracts mode is how you actually create one. After you’ve picked the level, weapons and disguise, you have to actually play that level which will create the contract based on who you killed and how you did it. After you mark up to three targets and kill them, you must escape and it will then save and upload it for others to play. This is so much better than just picking options from a menu, and it makes you prove that it’s possible before you challenge other players to complete it.
As you play a Contract you will earn money, and you’ll get more if you complete it under the conditions that the creator set. You use this money to unlock new weapons, disguises and upgrades to use while you create new Contracts. IO were really smart to include a mode like this instead of tacking on random multiplayer modes, which I don’t think would have been half as good.
Long time fans of the Hitman series are in for a real treat with Absolution, as it’s easily the best game in the series. The single player campaign gives you the freedom to be whatever kind of assassin you want and make each kill your own, instead of just forcing you through linear levels with only one way to complete the objective. Then there’s Contracts mode, with free, community created content popping up every day, so you always have a reason to keep playing. This is the time of year when we start thinking about awards and Game of the Year contenders and I think Square Enix and IO Interactive have definitely saved one of the best for last.
Price: $59.99 ($49.99 on PC)
Available On: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC via Steam