by Christopher Coke
reviewed on PC
There's a Killer On The Loose...
Hitman: Absolution is the story of an Agent 47 gone rogue. You are contracted to kill your former handler, Diana Burnwood, now thought to be a traitor, but upon finding her, Diana reveals that she was blacklisted for rescuing the tortured subject of the Agency's cruel experiments, a young girl called Victoria. She must be protected at all costs and with Diana dead, the task falls to 47. So begins the birth of a new Hitman, a second-guessing Hitman, one who still lacks pity but begins to see outside the lines of his contracts.
The question of “why” underlines all in Absolution's campaign. Why is this girl so important? What experiments did they put her through and what does all of this mean for Hitman's character? Story Mode is the exploration of these mysteries. For information, you will reach out to contacts, perform favors, and follow-up on leads. You will listen in corridors and vents, gleaning information bit by by from your enemies. In Absolution, being an assassin is as much about spying as it is killing.
The writers have done an excellent job of leaving the player wanting. Each mission expands the rabbit hole, leading you deeper and deeper into a web of intrigue. Before long, finding out what happens next becomes as important as playing through missions.
Small Levels, Big Possibilities
Coming from Blood Money, players may be taken aback by how much smaller levels are in Absolution. Sprawling mission locales are now broken into segments and things feel less open than they have in the past. From the outside, some may fairly criticize the game for losing scope, but what is lost is made up for in focus. The mission structure is the same, eliminate the target by any means necessary or find an exit to escape, but IO Interactive has followed through on the series' strong points by making sure that's possible in multiple ways.
In an early level, you are shown just how much choice you can expect going forward. You can poison a target's food, poison his drugs, push him in a grate, drop rocks on his head, blow him up with C4, shoot him with a sniper rifle from an apartment window, or walk by and give an old fashioned bullet to the chest. There is so much experimentation involved in each phase of the game that it is easy to see how overwhelming things would become if IO Interactive didn't pare things down.
High score chasing is also a driving element of Absolution's design. Finding new weapons and disguises contributes to challenges which add multipliers to your score. Disguises, too, keep you from being spotted and provide access to areas which would otherwise be trespassing. It is a deep, rich system of motivations and every time you begin you're shown the average and worldwide player scores. Completing a level below that average is maddening and encourages multiple replays.
While the game allows for a lot of freedom in completing assassinations, doing so without killing anyone else is highly encouraged. Non-target casualties result in a score deduction which seems at odds with the game's encouragement of choice. Being spotted also results in a hefty point reduction, so stealth is key.
Peppered through these missions, the developer has added cinematic escape sequences. These segments are thankfully brief. Escape missions are showy but lack much freedom and exploration. They stand out as being at odds with the rest of the game.
Right Tool, Right Place, Right Job
Agent 47 is genetically engineered to be the best assassin possible and you have a fitting amount of versatility in getting the job done. While you are no longer able to select your loadout before beginning missions, you typically start with a weapon and a length of fiber wire for getting rid of enemies. A new Instinct Mode is also built into the game, which allows you to see enemies through walls, view their patrol routes, and blend in when enemies become suspicious of your disguise. Instinct Mode also allows users to Point Shoot, which freezes time and lets players paint marks on their targets. When exiting from Point Shooting, Agent 47 fires with expert precision hitting every mark, not unlike Red Dead Redemption. Instinct Mode is a powerful tool veterans may want to avoid but can be of great help to newcomers.
Throughout each level, you will come across a wide array of interactive objects. Knives and screwdrivers can be picked up and thrown, radios turned on, wrenches, and other throwables for distraction. Other elements, such as circuit boxes, can also be sabotaged to disrupt enemies from their patrols. Occasionally, you'll find objects which allow for darkly humorous killings. In one level, Agent 47 can restore power to a flooded basement and electrocute half a dozen enemies at once.
Lots of choices to complete objectives, freedom in approaching those choices, beautiful graphics, lots of replayability in contracts mode
Escape missions are one-off, levels are smaller and segmented, keyboard controls can be cumbersome