Hitman Absolution is not the Hitman game of old. It is not what the fans of the series expect and want from another Hitman game. But what Hitman Absolution is, is a fantastic update of a loved franchise and a game with a huge amount of replayability.
Let’s start from the top. Hitman Absolution’s campaign starts with Agent 47 taking an assassination contract on Diana, his previous handler who sabotaged the International Contract Agency. The first mission, which acts as a tutorial sees you work your way towards this goal and quickly after finds 47 standing over a dying Diana in a pool of shattered shower glass. Diana asks 47 to keep Victoria, a teenage girl whom she stole from the Agency, safe from the ICA. The campaign then follows Agent 47 as he tries to find out why Victoria is so important, and protect her from the Agency he once served.
Absolution differs from previous Hitman games in that before, levels were openworld sandboxes where you had a target and how you completed it was up to you. Absolution feels a lot more restrictive than previous incarnations. There are still plenty of open levels for you to explore, plan and then execute in, but these are matched with as many restrictive less open missions.
There is no save system in place in Absolution, just a series of self operated check points and the spacing in missions themselves. While this isn’t an issue if you are just working through the campaign, playing however it plays out (shooting when you’re spotted or hiding until they stop searching for you), purists will have the frustration of having to restart from check points, and constantly work through low challenge stealth crawls to get to the point they were at before they were spotted. It is worth noting at this point that on lower difficulties, shooting your way through levels is a valid option, but at higher difficulties, it becomes extremely challenging to clear a mission of enemies. Stealth is encouraged and the challenges available on each level reward this.
There are multiple challenges available on each mission, and most of these will require several playthroughs to achieve them all. Each completed challenge offers a score multiplier that then influences the score you acquire as you play through. Points toward your final level score are accumulated by completing tasks within each mission, and points are lost for being spotted, killing non-targets, with bonus points being awarded at the end for those true silent assassins who move through the levels without being seen, and either only take out their intended targets, or making anyone they do take out look like an accident.
You can see your points score on your screen as the game progresses and between the non-optional checkpoints so you can see how your overall score for that mission will play out. At the start of each mission, you are also presented with one of your friends’ scores and the current world average for that mission, just so you can judge how well you’re doing.
On the other side of the campaign, is Contracts mode. Contracts allows you to revisit levels, and set the parameters for taking out targets of your choosing, and then challenge people to complete your contract. This mode opens up a huge world of options and is closer to the original Hitman games than Absolutions campaign.
Graphically Absolution is fantastic. There are some amazing backdrops and some scenes within the gameplay that truly impress. 47’s movement and combat actions look slick and refined, as you would expect from one of the world’s top assassins. Control wise, Absolution is simple in its operation. Held weapons are chosen using the D-pad. Holstering weapons, ducking and snapping to cover are all a simple button press away as is using the new Instinct mode.
Instinct, a new addition in Absolution varies depending on what difficulty you are playing on. At higher difficulties, you start with less, it doesn’t regenerate and you have to build it up by completing tasks. Instinct allows you to see where other game characters will move to, allowing you to plan avoiding or setting up traps for them. It allows you to pass unopposed passed guards, where normally if you are wearing the same disguise you will be challenged. It also allows you to enter point shooting, a kind of bullet time where you can set up multiple shots to fire in quick succession. Point shooting freezes time and allows you to set your targets before restarting and executing the shots. All of these run down your instinct metre once engaged.
If you’re a fan of the Hitman franchise and a purist, then you might have issues with Absolution, but you will find lots to love and contracts mode will cover any issues you have with the story campaign. For those new to the Hitman franchise who play Absolution with the patience of a real assassin will find a rewarding challenge, as at higher difficulties, and with the aim of completing most of each mission’s challenges, requires a solid amount of hours in playing.
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360
4 out of 5 Nerds