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Hitman: Absolution (Xbox 360) Review

 
Hitman: Absolution image
Hitman: Absolution image
Hitman: Absolution image

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
9.0
9/ 10


User Rating
2 total ratings

 

We liked?


Faithful to the Hitman series
Hugely atmospheric
Solid stealth and action gameplay

Not so much?


No 1st Person mode
Some corridor levels
Instinct mode for the veterans


Final Fiendish Findings?

Hitman: Absolution is another strong instalment into the franchise. It allows you to perfect the art of the kill before melting away into the background seamlessly as part of the crowd. To create chaos through the bluff of an accident. To rampage your way through the levels with solid and intense fire fights. For continuing this unique blend of enjoyable and engrossing gameplay, it scores highly in our books.

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Posted November 26, 2012 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Having been a loyal Hitman supporter since Silent Assassin 2 came out for the Playstation 2, the latest title in this series from IO Interactive has been pretty much the only big name title I’ve had my eyes on this year. The last Hitman title (Blood Money) came out at the launch of the Xbox 360 so a return to the franchise has been long overdue.

This may sound odd, but it’s difficult to mention this game without drawing parallels to the badly executed Hitman film. In which there was a concerted attempt to show more depth and humanity to the cold as ice genetically engineered assassin. It never quite paid off however, the film lacking any of the atmosphere that made the games so engrossing to play through. Absolution does try and inject more humanity and story into Agent 47, but it arguably does a much better job than the film ever did.

The storyline focuses on Agent 47 protecting a young girl who has been subjected to the same cruel and twisted experimentations by the Agency that he too endured. As a result of this, Agent 47 turns on his long term employer and goes on the run, attempting to keep the girl safe whilst going on the offensive against both the Agency and those who attempt to kidnap the girl for financial gain. Previous Hitman games have included an overarching storyline, but this has often been played out via mission briefing updates from 47′s handler, Diana Burnwood and has felt somewhat secondary to the act of assassinating an objective. Absolution differs from the previous titles as there is a greater emphasis on the story progression through cut scenes between missions and even during them.

Hitman: Absolution image

The levels are significantly more interconnected than the previous games. In previous titles you would go from one level straight over to the next, often in a different country and with a very different environment. However Absolution does a good job of tying many of the levels together as a progressive sequence. One such mission involves you performing a simple hit on a would be kidnapper in a hotel. But things take a turn for the worst and soon Agent 47 is running across rooftops, entering and escaping a block of flats before attempting an incredibly tense escape from a train platform. When you focus back on that entire mission, it has quite an sense of progression that makes the story entertaining to play through.

As you narrow down on the main antagonists, newer threats and characters are added into the fold in a way that never feels clumsy. Double deals are made and the whole game carries a strong thriller vibe to the story. It does sometimes stray a little too far into the grindhouse genre than previous Hitman titles have done (including the meat packing factory in Blood Money). Nowhere is this more apparent than the focus on black humour that is prevalent throughout the game, such as being able to throw a man out of the window who has just received a call confirming that he doesn’t have  cancer.  On the whole, Absolution’s stronger focus on narrative and story is competently executed. But may be an unwelcome addition for those who are looking for more of the open sandbox assassination levels that previous titles have offered up.

Going into the gameplay, and my biggest gripe of all, is that the 1st person camera has been removed for this title. One of the things I loved about the Hitman games was that not only could you play it as a stealth game or an action game (or both), but also as a 3rd person game or a 1st person game. The latter being particularly useful and enjoyable when your cover had been blown and you had no choice but to shoot your way out of the level. This has been removed from Absolution and I’m not entirely sure why they felt the need to do so. It may have been so they could implement a cover based shooting/hiding system which is perfectly functional. But does mean that you’ll often sneak your way around a level in hiding rather than relying on your disguise and behaviour to blend in.

Hitman: Absolution Image

Another change is that people dressed in the same clothing as you such as guards, chefs or staff are a little more alert to a strange bald man walking around than in previous games. This adds to the realism, and ramps up the tension and difficulty even more. Balancing this out is the newly implemented “instinct” feature which allows you to blend in and act naturally when nearing those who find you highly suspicious. This can also be used to highlight important items in the world and to predict the path of patrolling enemies. As a long standing veteran of the Hitman series I refused to use it and found that I was still able to employ a variety of different methods to get around the levels undetected. It did meant that I had to spend a bit more time hiding behind objects, rather than casually strolling through a level in disguise which always gave you that sense of being a truly professional badass Hitman.

My favoured playing style during my first run through on any Hitman game is the reactive one. Attempt to stealth my way through a level but if I get collared and found out then the guns come out and I go loud. Happily the shooting mechanics in Hitman are solid and enjoyable. One particularly brutal fire fight took a good 10 minutes before I’d cleared the level and enemies will both attempt to rush and flank you. As well as holding back in cover far away which forces you out to go deal with them. Hand to hand combat takes the form of quick time button presses which can help you to deal with the odd isolated guard rather than causing an unnecessarily loud ruckus. If you’ve caused guards to become alert then rather refreshingly they continue to remain in a slightly more cautious state rather than pretending that everything is okay and going back to their same predictable patrolling patterns.

Hitman: Absolution image

As with every Hitman game, the excellence comes in the way IO Interactive have carved out the levels for you to ply your trade. The atmosphere is rich and the world detailed through both the variety of settings that you’ll progress through and the NPCs and their conversations with each other. An example already mentioned is the unnerving end of level sequence which sees you making your way through a bustling train platform, with police offers searching the area attempting to locate you. Complimented by a fantastic tremulation of violin strings in the score , it’s in moments like these where Absolution delivers the tense and white knuckle experience of being a man on the run. In other levels, you are part of the noise and bustling scenery as you make your way towards your quarry. Your executions can either be open and bullish, or made to look like an accident which leaves the surrounding NPCs confused and distraught, but never suspicious.

The contracts mode offers an interesting alternative to the normal attempt for a developer to shoehorn in an online mode. From here you are able to replay any level, mark any character out for execution and dispatch them however you want. You can then upload and share these missions online as well as take on any that other players have created. This is an interesting and unique concept as essentially mastering the campaign doesn’t mean that you can’t revisit your favourite levels for additional challenges. It adds an extra layer of longevity to the game and is a refreshing way to implement a shared experience that doesn’t involve a badly developed multiplayer function.

Hitman: Absolution image

Despite some questionable design choices, Hitman: Absolution is a title that the true hardcore fans of the series can relish and enjoy. With the fears around the title being dumbed down and more action packed as a result of the earlier teaser trailers being unfounded. The newer players can utilise the cover based mechanics and instinct function to help them through some of the trickier parts of the game. The Hitman titles have always been at their most fun when you are given the true freedom to perform your executions as you see fit and Absolution doesn’t stray from this model. Although the progression of the storyline necessitates some more hemmed in level design than you would normally expect from this series.

Hitman: Absolution is another strong instalment into the franchise. It allows you to perfect the art of the kill before melting away into the background seamlessly as part of the crowd. Or create chaos through the bluff of an accident. Or rampage your way through the levels with solid and intense fire fights. For continuing this unique blend of enjoyable and engrossing gameplay, it scores highly in our books.


Adam

 
Playing games since I'd developed enough motor functions to hold a joystick. From Commodore 64 all the way through to the latest gen. Favourite games to play are FPS games and anything with a deep and compelling story and a world that draws you in. I also enjoy writing, film making and playing bass in whatever band will have me :)