AMD Athlon II X4
AMD Radeon HD 5770
Hitman: Absolution, the long awaited sequel to the Hitman franchise, has finally arrived. Hitman: Blood Money was known as a revolutionary game, which introduced many new features and mechanics while managing to have great gameplay and top-notch graphics. Can Absolution live up to these same expectations or is it just another cash-grabbing attempt by a big publisher?
An ice cream truck arrives at the front gate, the bells ringing; everyone excited to get their ice cream! But today was not to be their day to relax, no, today is the day Agent 47 shows up and kills everyone. This marks the start of the game’s campaign and kicks off with a tutorial and your initiation into the world of assassination. As Absolution introduces a surprising amount of new mechanics and features, as well as having completely reworked assets from previous Hitman titles, the tutorial does a great job of explaining how all of these work. Better yet, the tutorial, similar to Hitman: Blood Money, is your first mission and kicks off the story.
Hitman at night, ice cream vendor during day
The story emphasis is perhaps one of the biggest changes that Absolution introduces to the Hitman franchise. While previous Hitman games did have some element of story to it, most of it boiled down to creating a setting and reason for killing each target. In Absolution however this is the complete opposite. Here, the story is the reason for each mission. While the majority of it is delivered through CGI cutscenes, some of it is also told through in-game cutscenes. The developers also were very clever in the way they connect each mission. Instead of simply showing a cutscene and then warping the player to the next location, Absolution has you playing through each “middle section” of the story. Thus how you get from mission A to mission B is no longer done through a fade-to-black screen, instead you actually get to play through that section.
Simply telling more story is not always a good thing. A story has to have emotion, character development and be able to pull the player in. While Absolution does have an emotional and deep story, it still lacks in some areas. In typical Hitman style, the story features greatly over-exaggerated personalities. However in this case, this is not a bad thing and works out very well. If anything, it will just give players even more reason to hate the people you are killing. What more could one ask for in a Hitman story? The main issue though, as a result from the exaggerated characters, is that the game does not have the chance to develop these personalities. The only character that does have some degree of progression is Agent 47, but this is very limited at best. That being said, if the story was too serious it probably would not feel like a Hitman game anymore. Besides, you are playing as a bald, cute looking man with a barcode on the back of his head who knows over 9000 different ways to kill a human being.
Hitman: Blood Money had some of the best-looking graphics of 2006; Absolution is no different in that it has some of the best graphics of this year. The game does not run on Windows XP as the game uses DirectX 10 and 11. Simply using these versions of DirectX does not guarantee a game will have better visuals, but in the case of Absolution, you can instantly see the DirectX 10 and 11 being used in different places. If you have a good gaming rig, you can set the game to “Ultra” settings and enable features like SSAO, Tessellation and FXAA. If however you do not, do not worry! The game still looks stunning on low and medium settings without all the DirectX 10/11 special features enabled. The performance and graphics scale really well and accommodates a large range of PC hardware configurations. Perhaps one of the most impressive visual elements in Absolution is how easily the game renders large AI crowds in equally large environments. All this, without sacrificing performance and graphical detail. It really adds to the experience to see all the activity going on within a level, while never having a single FPS slowdown.Yet, a game can have the best graphics in the industry and yet still be no fun at all to play. This brings me to perhaps the most important element of a Hitman game, the gameplay.
Shaken, not stirred
Absolution has many different gameplay elements. The key element in Absolution is sneaking by using the new cover system. This takes some getting used to as in Blood Money, the disguises played a bigger role in getting around each level than in Absolution. This is also reflected in the new in-game score display and level-based challenges. The game rewards players for only killing the target while greatly penalising any non-target kills. As such, even killing someone to take their disguise will give you a score penalty. Along with this the game has slightly changed the disguise system from Blood Money. Just as in previous Hitman titles, different disguises allow you access to different places however, Agent 47 now gets spotted by any NPC of the same type as the disguise he is wearing. The only way to avoid this is by using Instinct to make 47 act even more suspicious. This somehow avoids any suspicion and makes the NPCs go about their business. As you could already tell by my tone, this system just feels awkward to use, especially when using Instinct to avoid suspicion only causes 47 to look conspicuous. It also makes you wonder why 47 does not just always behave in such a way. While this would not be such a big issue normally, currently the AI can spot 47 in the same disguise as them from far too far away. The developers did counter this, by implementing some really neat scripted events if you can find and acquire the unique disguise on the map. This even allows you to skip all the sneaking and tampering with security systems.
- Story: The addition of a great story from start to finish is a nice change for the Hitman franchise
- Gameplay: Lots of player freedom and practically endless possibilities means the game is both fun and has high replay value
- Graphics: Best looking game of 2012? Most definitely!
- Difficulty: Even on normal this game is challenging, but never becomes frustrating
- Disguise system: Lots of controversy surrounding this change, while I love it, many people on the internet are complaining about it
- Safe House: It is only used for the creation of Contracts, the campaign levels have pre-set starting weapons.
- Lack of items: No more on hand poison, sedative and remote bombs; these must now be found in the level itself, if it has them.
- Contracts: It is cool what they tried to do but it just feels far too restrictive, to the point that replaying the campaign levels is far more fun and has far more possibilities.
Full disclosure: Hitman: Blood Money is one my favorite games of all time, ever. It’s memorable giant set piece levels (i.e. the Heaven and Hell party) are genuinely brilliant game design. Hitman: Absolution captures the general feeling of what made the previous title so great, even if it often does this in little slices. While there is the occasional massive set piece ala Blood Money, most levels are sequences of smaller scale sets, like a single house or bar. The general pacing of the level design is still good even though playgrounds aren’t so massive and there are still plenty of different options as to how to proceed.
The main review pointed quite acutely to the change in the disguise mechanic in the game. This is something else that has seen some serious tweaks since Blood Money. At first I wasn’t sure what to think about it. In general, though, there are still definitely some levels that feel like classic Hitman in terms of disguise mechanics, but the smaller slices tend not to feature this because the whole level is full of the same types of enemies. The same disguise mechanic in the new level design would have made the game trivially easy in these places, so concessions were made. Overall, disguise still has utility though, so that’s alright with me. Ultimately, this is more Hitman, and Hitman is still, frankly, amazing.
Hitman has been a part of gaming for many years, but he has been absent since 2006. Until now. Where has Agent 47 been for all of this time? Well, Kane and Lynch happened. Fortunately for us gamers his long awaited return has not been without reason. Absolution takes many of the loved concepts and mechanics of the previous games and gave them a swift kick in the butt. The story, controls, graphics, disguises, and many more features are overhauled. While Absolution does not completely pull off all of these shiny new features, it does enough to make it one of the best games of the year. Hitman games really never had a story. They did not need to. Absolution will not be praised by many for its story because it is just not that great. The controls feel tight, and responsive: Agent 47 moves with fluidity and it is easy to dispatch your foes with ruthless intent. Graphically this game will melt your eyeballs. It is a stunning looking PC game, and easily one of the best (if not the best) of the year.
Hitman Absolution does not pull off all of its new changes as gracefully as 47 can complete a contract unfortunately. The A.I. is not always the smartest and sometimes downright stupid. Agent 47 could throw a brick right past their face and they act like they could not see it. They will then go investigate where the brick landed. This is one example, but there were plenty more moments that were equally awkward. The new disguise system is great most of the time, but felt sensitive. Seriously, how could a police officer know you were wearing a disguise all of the time. Similarly how could every chef know every other chef in Chinatown! If you wear a particular disguise, anyone else with the same disguise will notice you, but it feels weird. Even with the issues, Hitman Absolution should be played by fans of the series, or stealth nerds everywhere.