Agent 47 is back, and as the old cliché goes, it’s personal. You’re assigned to extinguish Agent 47’s long time contact at “The Agency”, Diana, as she’s turned rogue. She’s done kidnapped a teenage girl of some importance to The Agency. Before you get into the game though, you’ll find that every time you load the game, you’re met with the intro video and your choice of doing the story or contracts. Having to skip that video every time is annoying enough but then you have the girl saying some sort of monologue when Story is highlighted and another voice over when Contracts is highlighted; every time. There doesn’t seem to be a way to skip this but if I’m missing something please someone tell me. It’s more of just a nitpick and annoyance than anything, but just let me access the Main Menu without being assaulted by voice overs, already.
Anyway, after getting into the actual first mission of the game, You find Diana in her fancy home or hideout taking a shower. After shooting her and before completing your assignment; a dying Diana, wrapped in a shower curtain, asks you to protect the girl. As it turns out, she is some kind of genetically engineered child destined to be a killer like 47. Somehow 47 grows a heart and escapes with the girl. Most of the levels after this just flow right into one another, no mission load-outs and no preparations for your next mission; you just finish a level, check your score and on with the story.
Speaking of story, it isn’t as bad as you’d expect. It’s not going to be the talk of the town or anything and it definitely wasn’t good by any means, but it was entertaining and kept the game going. Absolution introduces a variety of characters though, unfortunately most end up getting forgotten as the story progresses or just simply killed off immediately. Take the “sexy nuns” from the much talked about trailer, for example; you end up just smoking them all in one mission without a peep from them before or talked about after. Hell, the man who hired them doesn’t even acknowledge their death later on. This isn’t to say there aren’t any memorable villains as you have the likes of like Blake Dexter, who is just a big ole round ball of Texan Stereotype and Travis the desperate and seemingly down on his luck agency head, with a metal claw.
The game plays out like a, well, Hitman game. You’re placed in the middle of an environment and tasked with disposing of your targets; the goal being to do so with little to no civilian casualties and aiming for the highest score possible. The levels I found to be the least enjoyable were when you found yourself just trying to escape without being detected. I come to a game about an assassin to, you know, be an assassin. I want to know my target, be stealthy reaching my target, and then finally pulling off the kill. So the level like Chinatown where there are tons of people and you’re essentially hiding in plain sight was a blast to go through. Looking around the environment looking for different and creative ways to finish off the target had me glued to the screen whereas trying to escape the library by just sneaking around guards was dull and obnoxious.
IO has given the player much choice over how difficult they want their game to be. You have the option of 5 different difficulties ranging from giving you all the assistance available like unlimited instinct, a new ability in the series, to having just about no HUD or notifications at all. Instinct lets you see enemies through walls and give you clues on what objects in the world can be used. It also helps you blend into the environment by making 47 hide his face around those who might see through his disguise. Instinct also is the gauge used for the point shooting mechanic. Essentially you’re just tagging enemies to kill in a slow-mo mode. Once done, you activate the shots and 47 pops each target in a satisfying slow kill-cam shot.
Checkpoints are not done well in this game; they are hidden throughout the levels and activating them is the only way to store your progress for that play through. Exit the game and you’re back at the start of the chapter. The checkpoints end up not really being a checkpoint anyway as restarting from a check point causes the scripting of the AI to just start over from the beginning. So in essence your just picking a new place to start the level when activating the checkpoint. The only thing the checkpoints seem to do is save you from having to kill a target you’ve already killed. Sometimes you may go through a level and not find a checkpoint marker making restarting that level a pain in the ass. My play through wrapped up in around 16 hours and from other people’s sessions I’ve seen, that seems to the about the average. By doing missions over again and trying to find all the hidden objects around the environments you can easily double or triple the amount of time played in this game. In fact you’ll want to do multiple play troughs if you want to get creative in contracts mode.
Contracts is the multiplayer component in Absolution and it felt like something that you might get a kick out of only a few times; unless you have a group of friends who like to one up each other. Players compete against one another ‘s scores in missions designed by the players themselves; you pick the targets, the conditions, and the levels then tell your friends to beat your high score based on those conditions. Completing Contracts gives you more in-game money to spend on unlocks, and bragging rights over your friends. Additionally, any weapons and disguises unlocked from the Story can be used in Contracts mode. Yes, even the chicken suit.
All this talk and I haven’t gotten into how good this game looks. Even on the aging Xbox 360 the game looks stunning. A bald man’s wet head looks like a wet bald head and the lighting is beautifully done in each of the environments. Overall, Hitman: Absolution was fun to play, and it gave me the tools to make some creative kills. After a long day at work, sometimes head shots are not enough; you got to poison a sushi roll or fry a man while urinating from time to time.
The Xbox 360 version of the game was provided by Square Enix for review purposes