If you were to ever discuss the Hitman video-game series with friends who have played it or long term fans, the first thing they will most likely discuss is what they had done during a mission. They would talk in graphic detail of how they stalked their victim to a remote location and snapped his neck, while others “strategically” thought about how they removed of their target and make it look like an unfortunate accident. No matter how savage or simple it was done, Hitman’s reputation has always been centred on how a player can deal with their target and escape unnoticed. Sadly however, the same cannot be said for Hitman Absolution.
The primary and most obvious problem with Hitman Absolution immediately strikes at you in the opening credits when you start the game; they have given Agent 47 an emotional attachment to his first hit in the game and in return, agrees to provide her with one last favour. You are meant to be Agent 47, the cold calculating killer. The man with a silent presence, one that has never raised his voice or spoken out of place; a man who has spent his life specialising and slaughtering men and women for large sums of money to suddenly develop feelings does not mould well with the game. You could argue that this is needed development for the series, a turning point in 47’s life or you could remember that the man is a genetically enhanced killing machine!
With the games focus directed towards Agent 47’s new found emotions, so are the missions. Instead of traditional hits which have you target rich sleazes and often dangerous corporate figure heads you are instead fighting off anyone who may harm the girl in which you agreed to protect. These kills in return don’t feel rewarding as a majority of them are low-tier thugs or crooks that Agent 47 would have normally just walked by in previous instalments in the series.
The targets themselves during missions are far too obvious and easy to find as the game itself seems stuck in a small rotation. One example of this which happens very early on in the game has you eliminate someone who considers himself the “King of Chinatown”, who will forever circulate the small market stalls, occasionally stopping in isolated areas to complete a shady deal. If with the right equipped disguise, you could intentionally follow him around until the route is reset to the very beginning. This isn’t a one off thing or done to build the players confidence so 47 achieves the hit, this happens with every mission in-game no matter how high-profile the target is.
What really drags down these missions are not the environments in which they take place in, but what little space they provide to players. While there is no denying that what is put on display really is quite outstanding from a visual stand point, is perhaps, possibly, there is very little on offer for the players. Unlike previous Hitman games, you are provided with very few entry points to engage in and the ones that do, will all interconnect with others.
When you aren't smashing in skulls and pushing unaware victims to their death, you will also spend a large part of Hitman fleeing and hiding from the police. Naturally you can engage in attacking the police officers one by one, however by the time you obtain the uniform of unsuspecting victim you can with ease waltz by everyone other officer you encounter thanks to the new “Instinct” mode which allows you to see when enemies are looking at you or the paths they are about to take. Who knew that by tipping your hat for a few steps could honestly have you walk past an entire swat team? “Instinct” mode takes what was once a challenging aspect to the series and removes it completely with a click of a button.
Also bundled into Hitman Absolution we have a free multiplayer mode entitled “Contracts” which allows you to customise and create your own personal missions for friends or the entire world to take part in. However in order for you to set up these contracts, you must first be able to complete them yourself. Although you can have some fun with this by having Agent 47 murder someone with a Sledgehammer whilst dressed up as a Mascot, the mode itself is very limited and the sense of true creative freedom feels very limited as you are unable to add any weapons or disguises into the environment, all of which you will have seen from Single-player.
Agent 47’s years away from action has seen his aim become somewhat sloppy and poorly timed, shooting down concepts and key-game play elements that made the series so enjoyable. Removing the iconic bald headed Hitman from this game and replacing him with a generic character model, leaving a majority of this game untouched could have easily resulted in the same result for IO. There are obvious ideas and concepts that work and it’s was a noble effort, but using the reputation of the Hitman series was a bad idea. Agent 47 might have been able to escape this time, but not in the way he would have wanted.