Warning: minor spoilers in the event a reader has not kept up with Absolution videos or developments, or have experienced the game themselves.
It feels like it was just yesterday that Hitman: Absolution was announced, but sometimes the wait was almost entirely unbearable. With the previous instalment, Blood Money, having been released about six years ago, it seems like Absolution was a long time coming. Now, Agent 47 has returned in his most explosive adventure yet...but is that high octane feel actually a good thing? Let's find out.
Fortunately for me, the wait for Absolution was cut surprisingly short as I was able to pick up the game around one half hour past midnight and get myself situated with it. As I detailed in my impressions blog about the game, 47 finds himself in the most emotionally taxing and personal assignment of his forty-some-odd years: the death of his ICA handler of almost twelve years, Diana Burnwood. We learn early on that Diana betrayed the Agency and stole a valuable asset in which she asks 47 to protect: a fourteen year old girl named Victoria. This is where fans will recognise that familiar babysitting feeling as seen in the Hitman film, when 47 looks after Olga Kurylenko's character, Nika Boronina. However, this seemingly annoying plot actual proves fruitful in terms of its interest and originality, giving an intriguing twist on the general plot line of the Hitman games.
Without giving away too much, the overall story for the game feels lacking sometimes when compared to the impression we received from the trailers and preview videos, as well as developer blogs and interviews. However, the story on its own is wonderfully written and perfectly executed. Even though it's different, it still feels like a Hitman game and the experience is almost Tarantino in its disturbing, but brilliant elements.
Indeed, there was some talk and concern of the gameplay not living up to the standards set by the previous games. I can agree, but respectfully disagree and for a reason you might find acceptable. IO Interactive and Square Enix have seemingly taken Absolution and in their attempt to make it appealing to a broader audience (in methods in which I still remain oblivious), they turned it into a mainstream, cinematic experience and focused more on that than putting control into the hands of the player. In some instances, the assassination of 47's target is shown in a cutscene, opposed to experienced during gameplay. Sometimes, the assassination (cutscene wise) goes horribly wrong, leaving you sitting there wondering the point in all the work you did leading up to it. Aside from these hiccups, players will clearly recognise it as a Hitman game, and will hopefully, as I have, put the disappointment aside and enjoyed the game as it is.
Stealth elements take a wonderful precedence, as they should, and are more polished and more enjoyable than ever before. In addition, the cinematic action elements (while sometimes unwanted) are executed quite well and feel in-place within the world of Absolution. While sometimes players aren't given much of an option in terms of avoiding a shootout, it's still enjoyable and an interesting twist.
The new points rating system can be an overall annoyance, if I'm completely honest. In previous games, you're given your assignment and you carry it out the way you want to, and your rating is given to you at the end. In Absolution, every time 47 lays out a fart, he's either given or penalised points, making the player want to restart the mission right then and there. It basically feels as though the team at IO Interactive are right there over your shoulder acting as backseat gamers, adding and deducting points for every action as if they want to criticise, "No, no. Don't kill that civilian. Poison your target over here, that way there's minimal witnesses," and it's a bloody task and a half.
Disguises take an interesting...and a somewhat annoying turn this time around. In one mission, taking place in the small town of Hope, if the player were to take the disguise of a working man (i.e a mechanic), the townies will be more suspicious as they do not recognise 47. This suspicion makes it easier to be detected, prompting the player to make use of the Instinct feature, which will cause 47 to "blend in." However, 47's idea of blending in is rubbing his head and avoiding eye contact. While this element proves to be realistic in certain instances, it's can be a little annoying and somewhat senseless when you steal the disguise of a security guard, and while other guards will detect your identity if you get too close, the head of security (whom one would assume knows his agents) will not.
Contracts, a new experience in the Hitman franchise, is beautiful, fun, and bloody good riot. It's a wonderful way of interacting with the online community without the game involving a complete multi-player experience. It's great being able to set up your own contract assassinations and parameters and challenge your friends, as well as taking on theirs. While the Contracts mode is not canon to the story, it serves as that missing element from the main game, in terms of getting your assignment and carrying it out your way or to the letter as the parameters detail.
One thing that I thought would stand out from the game, was the ability to unlock disguises you pick up in the world and use them from the beginning of a mission if one is replaying it. However, it seems that such is only available in Contracts mode, where you also have the ability to purchase disguises for basically $1,000,000 each. Furthermore, remember how the old Hitman games allowed you to take any weapon(s) you wanted to a mission replay once you found them in-game? It seems IO threw that concept out of the window, as now (as with disguises), any weapon you find can only be selected at the start of a Contract. Unless I'm doing something wrong, otherwise, the lack of this subtracts from the overall replay value. As I mentioned before about feeling like the game is basically trying to tell you how to play it...taking away the options you had in previous games pretty much highlights that in a bright yellow ink.
While some bits of humour shown in early previews for the game have not made it to the final cut (i.e the dogs having sex in the Streets of Hope mission), there's nothing shy of crude humour and potential Easter eggs to make up for it. While I'm still unsure on how to feel, whether it be offended or entertained, about the vast and prevalent homosexual innuendos that flood the game, I still have to laugh at the blatant disregard for it. For example, in the King of Chinatown mission, if you get too close to the King, he'll often comment, "What, do you like me? I like you too," in a seductive way. Just a misinterpretation, you say? Well what about in another mission where if you get too close to a guard, he'll comment, "Whoa, why don't we talk a bit before we touch?" No? Still not buying it? Well...I suppose you could always reference putting two bodies in the same closet. No, not a container. A standing, vertical closet. Try stealing the disguise from both, if not the second body before loading him in, and then before the door shuts, ask yourself what it looks like the two bodies are doing. Or if you need further proof, have a look at something blatantly obvious: a male NPC offering 47 "a real good reach-around" in trade for his life. If that doesn't convince you that IO Interactive deliberately added a plethora of homosexual innuendos and "humour," I don't know what will.
Overall, Hitman: Absolution does indeed fall flat when compared to the previous games, but when you look at the slight innovation and originality it has to offer, it picks itself up and shows you the intriguing turn it's taken in the franchise. While some players may enjoy the different experience and others will yearn for the classic feel, Hitman: Absolution is an undeniable hit and a must-play this year.
(1) The Nasty Jokes of Absolution - http://kotaku.com/5962193/t...