Agent 47 has emerged from hiding for the first time in 6 years since Blood Money, much to a divided reception. The Hitman games are for those who have a lot of patience and don’t mind the trial-and-error style of playing, with the reward of achieving a ‘silent assassin’ rating. Those elements are still present in Absolution, but the construction of the levels appear almost against that style the games are know for. The long, sprawling and open plan arenas (such as infiltrating a hospital) have been replaced by much shorter and objective-specific levels. The developers must have felt the need to update the formula to keep it fresh and entice a few newcomers. However, the story really is the weakest I have ever seen in a video game. It just doesn’t work; the enemy characters are so vulgar and despicable (which we get, is the idea) you just simply don’t care about watching them. Thankfully, the gameplay itself is enough to forget this and you don’t necessarily even need to follow the story to get an idea of what’s going on. The levels are pretty much self explanatory as they’ve always been; get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ or assassinate ‘X’. Fans will be glad to hear that the stealth element is still very much back with a bang, but some may feel it’s too much like Splinter Cell than before. The in-game achievements increase playability, as there are multiple ways you can kill your target.
Graphically, Hitman Absolution is outstanding (to a similar standard of Rocksteady’s Arkham City). The moody film noir locations look stunning with blue and red police sirens diffusing through the heavy rain. Interior locations are grimy and have a high level of detail as do the character models. Agent 47 can interact with pretty much every object lying around. He can throw a wrench to create a distraction or pick up a book and deal some heavy-handed justice to goons. This is one of the many things of Absolution which is darkly enjoyable. This seems to have had a lot more focus on art direction than previous games to create the bleak but rich environments. For example, when Agent 47 takes down a enemy with a gun before he alerts others, a slow motion camera is briefly triggered. The style is as dark as ever, echoing that of Hitman Contracts in many places.
Before playing Absolution, the idea of the new ‘Instinct Mode’ completely threw my interest off this game. However, after playing a few levels on a Professional difficulty (which does not recharge Instinct) and realising there’s no area map available, the Instinct Mode is a good replacement. In previous games you were able to plan a route via the map and see enemy NPCs, but now you have to use Instinct to see barely further than the room behind the wall, which can make for some tense situations. There is a mini-map to show you nearby NPCs, but this doesn’t detail and of the area at all; it’s more like a sonar. Once Instinct is fully depleted on the ‘Professional-Hard’ setting it will add some more once an objective is completed. When it’s at zero you can still see enemies through walls, but the ability to plot their walking path is gone.
Contracts Mode is a new online addition to the series. Players can choose from a selection of online assassination contracts which are based on the single player levels, but the target objectives are different. You can either create your own (in which you must play and succeed in before it being valid to submit to the community) or play a handful of developer created ones. Contracts Mode is a nice addition for those wanting a break from the campaign levels for a while.
Hitman Absolution has turned out to be a great addition to the series, much to the dismay of the action-heavy ‘Nuns, Guns & Agent 47’ trailer to some fans. It’s a different pace to the previous games, but I can assure you that this is still very much a Hitman game. If it weren’t for the really second-rate story and uneven length of a few levels, I’m sure this would be hitting the 5-star mark.