6 years ago Agent 47 made his first appearance on current generation consoles with Hitman: Blood Money, becoming a memorable cult classic the bald headed assassin disappeared without a trace, until now. Hitman: Absolution brings back 47 in one of his greatest tales to date, iO Interactive using their latest Glacier 2 engine have been able to provide a cinematic style narrative with some of the best stealth gameplay I have encountered. Absolution oozes atmosphere, from the unique musical score, to the gorgeously delivered cut scenes. Hitman’s latest adventure provides hardcore fans with the freedom of choice that the franchise is known for, but also providing those new to the series with an excellent display of how gameplay and narrative should complement one another. Absolution is one of 2012’s best titles, so it is time to slip into that silk lined suit, adjust that red tie my friends and grab your trusty silver ballers. Agent 47 is back.
When the game begins we meet Agent 47 on his most personal contract yet, The Agency has sent him with the task of killing Dianna Allers, his former handler. Allers has double crossed The Agency and Benjamin Travis (Leader of ICA) wants her dealt with. Allers has been protecting a young girl named Veronica, who after years of medication and training was meant to be the next Hitman. It is your task to save this girl from the life you have to deal with and allow her to freedom of life. The main antagonist in Absolution is a man named Blake Dexter, his evil actions and great voice acting from Keith Carradine; make him a very memorable villain who you will love to hate.
The narrative with Absolution is done well, allowing the journey to take place within some memorable locales from infiltrating an underground testing facility, to causing a mess at an underground MMA fighting arena, these locations never feel forced and fit the story well. iO Interactive delivers a very mature story but they are able to provide some great comedic relief, during the 12 hour campaign. With such a tense atmosphere as you kill dozens of enemies and hunt down targets, Absolution livens up the mood with some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Want to see an MMA fighter throw a tantrum because his good luck teddy is gone? Or an awkward elevator ride where Agent 47 is annoyed by an obnoxious delivery man, until he is filled with bullets? These moments provide a great dark-comedy vibe that the series is known for and it is great to see iO keeping these grounded moments at such a high standard.
The most dynamic attribute of Absolution is the world itself, the Glacier 2 Engine allows hundreds of NPC’s to grace the screen at one time and this allows the world around 47 to feel alive. The game truly shines when you are sneaking through a huge crowd of people in search of your target, hearing the conversations between others in the world also brings a sense of realism, as shop attendants yell out the specials available, guards freak out that they have lost their key card. All these small elements make the world itself a character of its own.
Absolution looks gorgeous, each environment looks marvellous and the attention to detail provides a realistic touch. Never once did I feel like environments were rehashed or lacking detail, sneaking your way through an apartment as its inhabitants scramble to hide their massive marijuana crop and allowing 47 to pick up a bong to attack enemies, is classic Hitman. That is just in-game, the high production cut scenes look downright beautiful. They are so detailed and realistic, that you could easily be forgiven to mistake this for a movie. The cut scenes are enhanced by a very noire-like art style, the colour palette brings some vibrant colour to the scenes and they never feel like they take you out of the action for too long. Short, sweet and jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
The sound production in Absolution helps set an atmospheric vibe that complements the environments, your silenced silver ballers sound better than ever and the musical score itself provides a unique gospel/country sound that delivers. The gospel sounds highlights Agent 47’s background, while the dark country vibe portrays Blake Dexter’s persona brilliantly, these two styles come together to provide a unique combination, that sounds wonderful. The voice acting is also high standard; David Bateson does a great job at delivering Agent 47’s small array of dialogue with that intimidating sophistication the character posses. Along with a very strong line-up of voice acting throughout, making characters more believable and memorable.
No matter how good the audio and visual presentation can be, if the game doesn’t allow you to play like a well trained assassin then it has failed, I am pleased to say this is not the case. The smooth stealth gameplay allows you to feel like the ultimate predator, you may come un-stuck sometimes, but the ultimate assassin can handle any situation. The fact that detection doesn’t mean an ultimate mission failure is a nice touch, the game will still brutalise the player if they go in all guns blazing, but if you make a mistake Absolution gives you the abilities to fix the situation. 47 can fake his surrender giving him the jump on enemies, use cover to attack enemies that happen to walk past his location and use dumpsters and wardrobes to outwit his pursuers. Overall this provides a realistic approach to stealth, throw an object in a certain direction and the AI will go investigate, clearing paths or allowing you to attack from behind.
The main ability in 47’s arsenal is his Instinct Mode; this meter allows 47 to enter a detective-mode of sorts. Showing enemy paths through the environment, the ability to see through walls, spot targets of interest or even cover his face when his disguise is under suspicion. Instinct Mode is limited and will only refill by completing assassin like tasks, such as silent kills or hiding a body, so using Instinct Mode must be well thought out. For the veteran Hitman player, these can be turned off on harder difficulties. Though gameplay is not all sunshine and roses, when enemies become hostile shooting becomes very loose, 47 is an assassin always under pressure and the decline in his abilities when under fire is quite noticeable. Cover can also work too well sometimes, I was definitely discovered a handful of times because 47 would not exit cover. The sticky cover can work brilliantly, but sometimes would lose its fluidity when it came to a quick exit.
The main campaign will last about 12 hours on a normal playthrough, of course expect that to increase if you dare attempt the Professional Difficulty settings. The campaign itself warrants multiple level attempts, with every action you take within a level ultimately making your end assassin score for the level. Completing level challenges will increase you overall score, sadly there is no way to compare your level scores to other players or friends. This was one feature I constantly found myself wanting, I want to know if I did better on levels compared to my friends, and how I rank around the world. Though aiming to better your overall score is still a big incentive as I found myself doing it multiple times, the ability to compare to your friends would have been a nice addition.
One of the more confusing problems with Absolution is the disguise system, at some points during the game you are required to wear a disguise; if you don’t, approaching the situation will become almost impossible. The weird issue is at times I could sneak up in 47’s usual suit and tie without detection, until a certain point. But for instance if I was to grab a security outfit, I wouldn’t be able to reach the point without detection. Almost right away I will have guards suspicious of my disguise, even though me dressed in my usual attire rang no bells whatsoever. In later levels when there are enemies spread thick throughout, this can become quite frustrating since it just doesn’t make that much sense. Would security at a huge 5-star apartment building really all recognise each other so easily? Even with 47 in full security attire, sunglasses and hat all covering his identity? It is a system that works for the most part, but sometimes can be quite odd as you are not quite sure what the game expects you to do.
Hitman Absolution also offers an online element, the new Contracts Mode allows players to create their own contracts on levels throughout the main campaign. For example, I could choose to create a contract where the player must kill a certain character, with a bottle, whilst wearing a certain disguise, created contracts allow up to 3 targets and they may be killed in any way you see fit. The brilliant idea iO Interactive have incorporated is the Play to Create system, basically if you want to create a contract you must first prove that the contract is able to be completed. I was very impressed by this simple idea, being someone who has entered created levels before to find them fundamentally broken and unable to complete, this system means that these problems should be greatly avoided. Not only will this system provide an unlimited amount of replay value for fans, but Contracts Mode does what the campaign doesn’t, the ability to compare scores between friends. This system gives players incentive to perform the contract exactly how it has been set by the creator, to beat high scores and provide a bigger pay off when the contract is complete. This mode works well and will give the ability to provide some very challenging contracts.
iO Interactive has brought Agent 47 back in brilliant fashion, providing one of the stellar experiences of the year. Hitman: Absolution shows the competition how a modern day stealth game should play, giving player’s incentive to replay levels to experience the array of options available. With crisp visuals and some excellent environmental experiences, Absolution creates an atmospheric setting that captures the player’s full attention. Though the disguise system has issues, gameplay is mostly smooth and is a delight to play, offering players the all the abilities they need to be the deadly predator known as 47. Campaign lacks the ability to compare scores, but Contracts Mode offers players the ability to create their own contracts and aim for high scores between friends, which will give the game legs for months to come.
Hitman is back, providing a top echelon quality experience. iO Interactive has absolutely delivered on Hitman: Absolution, creating an adventure fitting of Agent 47.
+ Great Voice Acting
+ Cinema Quality Narrative
+ Gorgeous Environments
+ Excellent Audio
+ Fun Contracts Mode
– Campaign Lacks Leaderboards
– Confusing Disguise System
– Loose Shooting in Gunfights
Jamie Briggs manages Analog Addiction where you can find all his latest reviews, interviews and features and also like them on Facebook. Also follow his daily life on Twitter @AnalogAddiction and their videos on YouTube.