- Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: IO Interactive
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Release Date: November 20, 2012
- Price: $59.99
- Official: Hitman
“IO should be the real target”
Agent 47 is a cold silent killer. A professional who is relentless in his pursuit of his target, one that has a black sense of humor and one that hides directly in front of his victims, disguised as an innocent civilian. Agent 47 used to be someone to fear; oh what a few years does to you! 47 is now a wannabe, he has forgotten his training, he now runs more than he plans, and the feared Hitman has become nothing but a less intimidating version of Sam Fisher. Absolution? Please, you have only started your true sins 47.
I used to love the Hitman series. IO Interactive had crafted something entirely unique in the videogame realm with this series. Most games are about action and assaulting your senses, but Hitman was about subtlety, about planning and keeping your slow steady pace as you close in on your target. Killing everyone, quick time events, fleeing from enemies: these things do not belong in a Hitman game. But apparently they do now.
It has been almost seven years since the fantastic Blood Money, and if Kane and Lynch was not evidence enough that IO Interactive has lost its way, they wanted to pummel you with that thought with Absolution.
The game begins with the player and 47 being given an assignment that tests 47’s allegiance, and its not long before 47 is out on his own and protecting a special asset as he avoids three groups who are actively seeking him out. From then on its up to the player to take out people who may know more about the asset and find who is behind all of this mess.
The game starts off strong enough, but within moments you begin to sense a pattern and the games fundamentally broken systems will begin to drive you mad. IO front loaded this game with some teases of brilliance, but halfway through you realize the missions you enjoyed are gone, and then towards the end of the game you realize any semblance of what was left of Hitman in Absolution was tossed into a fire. This latest entry in the series is heavily focused on story, which would be fine if it didn’t take over the game. The open ended nature of past titles has been tossed aside in favor of very linear stages broken up into sections, and heavily littered with canned set pieces and cut scenes. The story starts off strong but quickly spirals into nonsense and is cluttered with too many useless characters and events.
Besides the linearity cutting into the fun sandbox nature of original entries, the entire system of disguising yourself as anyone in a level has been smashed in the knees with a baseball bat. The disguise system is completely and absolutely broken! No longer can 47 blend into the environment because anyone who wears a similar outfit can see through the disguise. This idea makes sense in theory, but is handled about as badly as it could have been.
If you don a chefs outfit, every chef in the stage will see through you. If you choose a police officer’s clothing, every officer will see through you. Guard? Every time. Scientist? Every one. No matter what disguise or level, anyone in similar clothing will very quickly become suspicious of you and come at you then alert security. To make matters worse, these people are able to spot you at ridiculous lengths, so you will consistently have items on your HUD letting you know how close a person is to discovering who you are. This system makes traveling through levels an absolute chore, forcing you to move through the environment hiding behind every piece of cover you can. No longer will you walk through a stage feeling like an intelligent stealth assassin, no, now you roll between furniture and hide behind any box to avoid detection, as if everyone is an enemy and you’re in Splinter Cell.
To help with this system IO has implemented “Instinct Mode” which is similar to “Detective Mode” from Arkham Asylum. This system allows 47 to see through walls, items of interest, and even mark targets for take down a la Red Dead or Splinter Cell’s Mark and Execute. This system also feeds into a system IO stupidly thought would help with their broken disguise mechanic. Using Instinct, 47 is allowed to help hide himself by putting his hand in front of his face and walking past a guard. Let me repeat that, putting your hand in front of your face uses INSTINCT! Somehow that act uses willpower 47 just can’t muster otherwise. To make matters worse the only way to refill this gauge is to take down enemies throughout the environment. Overall this system too doesn’t improve the game, only hinders it, and the level at which Instinct depletes, especially on harder difficulties, is insane.
So not only are most levels in Absolution extremely linear, the way in which IO handles Saving is also poorly done. In past games you could save anywhere, not anymore. Now there are various checkpoints scattered about a level that you must find before saving, and this is poor for two reasons. If you take a certain path through a level, you may miss a checkpoint altogether, and two, if you need to leave and shut down the console, you may lose twenty minutes of work. Frustrating choices like these do nothing but harm the experience. The manner in which you played Hitman in the past is gone, and you must learn to roll between cover and sneak past enemies, even if you are in their own clothing. I don’t know about you, but I would be far more suspicious of a man wearing my security outfit rolling and hiding as he snuck past me than I would a person who just walks past looking confident.
Another odd decision is to have half of the stages in Absolution focus on 47 avoiding and escaping from police. Several times throughout the campaign your leaving of a crime will involve a rather huge amount of police scouting every building in the area, and you must avoid detection and sneak past to an exit point; only to do it again in the next area. If it’s not police, its other enemies sent to take you down. No longer are you in control of the situation, you are a fleeing weak man trying to survive.
Now these mechanics and story ideas may not seem bad to you, and they could be done properly, even in a Hitman game, they just aren’t in this one. Besides, these are the opposite ideas that made this series so unique and wonderful! I don’t want linear progression and tiny stages; I want huge levels with dozens of ways of completion. I want to patiently walk among my victims and take them out in insanely creative means. And for all this focus on story and cutscenes, the story is seriously lame and convoluted. The only decent part of this tale is Keith Carradine’s portrayal of Blake Dexter, as he seems to have real fun with it and his character is as ridiculous as the rest are boring.
Uninteresting story, lame stages, extremely linear, broken disguises, dumb Instinct mode, dumb enemy AI besides their insane perfect vision, wasted potential for Contracts mode…there’s not much I like about this game. The graphics do warrant being mentioned however; they are good. This is a good looking game with nice lighting effects and solid texture work, particularly on PC. The sound is the element of the presentation that takes the cake though. The amount of audio in the levels is impressive, particularly the China Town stage. Whether its civilians speaking on their phones, orders being spoken by merchants, or security guards having long conversations with one another, it’s all well done. The music too is decent, with the main theme a standout.
Those who helped create Hitman must be long gone at IO, and now they have delivered three stinkers in a row. Those critics who favor this game must not be very familiar with the series or are very forgiving; or they played on easy difficulty. 2012 has been my “Year of Disappointment” and this absolutely continues that trend, I was very much looking forward to this game but there is nothing redeeming here for me. If you want another Splinter Cell and can’t wait for the next entry, perhaps you’ll enjoy Absolution, but if you’re a true Hitman fan and have been dying for a title as lofty as Blood Money, just play that game again and be sad for what could have been. –Chuck
- + Great presentation
- + Good audio mix
- – Boring story
- – Extremely linear
- – Too many levels involve hiding and escaping
- – Lots of broken systems