Hitman Absolution (Xbox 360)
Developed by IO Interactive
Published by Square Enix
Released November 20, 2012
Review Written July 6, 2013
I’ve been somewhat of a fan of the Hitman series over the years. Though I’ve never played the first game, Codename 47, I’ve played through the others within the series. My favorite being a tie between the first moments I experienced with Silent Assassin and the RPG elements used in Blood Money. Every game was better than the last, and so as time went by I had high hopes for the latest rendition of the Hitman series. In short, my expectations were met but through a different kind of light.
Before I delve deeper into my review, first I must list some differences between this current adaption of Hitman and its predecessors. Hitman Absolution has many differences from the others and the first major difference you notice right when you start up the game is the lack of weapon loadouts. Although this makes sense in conjunction with Absolution’s plotline, it was a bit of a surprise to see a Hitman game lacking weapon loadouts in the single player campaign. To make up for this, the online Contracts mode does take advantage of the weapon loadouts where the single player campaign passes up on it. This occurs also with the RPG elements that were previously in Blood Money. The single player campaign has abilities that you gain when you level up with experience points but you never get a sense that you have the customization choices that you had in Blood Money. Again the online Contracts mode carries this ability as you can customize your weapons with a multitude of upgrades as well as your character’s costume for the different contracts you sign up for.
Another big difference from the previous Hitman games is the removal of the level map. In previous games they allowed you to view a map of the entire level to see mission hints and also location markers of enemies & civilians. Hitman Absolution completely removes this and replaces it with a GTA-esque map blip in the corner. As to see the hints the level map used to show you, the blip map doesn’t display them but you can use a new ability implemented in Absolution known as the “instinct mode” to view level hints as well as avoid nearby enemies and see their destined pathways. This “instinct mode” is very similar to Arkham Asylum’s Batman vision but appears as an unnecessary extra element to the Hitman series. In addition to this new ability Agent 47 also has the ability to plan his execution shots which is also similar to Splinter Cell Conviction’s “mark & execute” feature. This ability is also nifty when in a tight spot but again it just adds an unnecessary extra element to the Hitman series. The last handfuls of differences from the previous games are listed as follows: inability to pickup Agent 47’s suit if you change disguises, smaller somewhat linear level design, more injection of stealth into the campaign, quicktime events for fighting, save system overhauled, the lack of Agent Smith, the new annoying score bar in the top left corner of your screen, the inability to garrote people who are sitting, ability to fake surrender, cover system, and an actual plotline.
Now as we move on I’m sure you’re wondering that of all the changes, there must be something that would spoil the enjoyment for a Hitman fan, and in this case there are three. For this entire game I only have three negatives that truly bothered me through my two playthroughs. The first is a major one and it’s one that caused me to lose all of my progress and start my save file all the way over; the save system overhaul. Now for previous Hitman games you were allowed seven saves per level (if I’m recalling this correctly) and any kills in the level or explosions were saved in that save file. With the overhaul of the save system for Hitman Absolution your only save for your file is through an auto-save and through checkpoints throughout the levels. A problem with the auto-save is that it being automatic, my copy of Absolution glitched during a cutscene and cost me my progress as it corrupted my save file. With no backup I was left to the mercy of the auto-save. This left me a little anxious to play through the campaign if I was just going to lose my files again. The checkpoints aren’t much better as when you restart a checkpoint you sometimes will start out with a different disguise (which will cost you if you’re trying to achieve a suit only playthrough) or most often all of the people that you killed off will have returned to the land of the living. Again this wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t have guards standing near the checkpoints, and when you restart with said checkpoint you get spotted and instantly have to change your play style from stealthy to ‘I don’t give a shit anymore’ while going guns blazing.
Throughout my time spent with Hitman Absolution, the second aspect of the game I had issues with was the removal of the level map and only being allotted a tiny blip map to use along with the “instinct mode”. At first I didn’t realize I was having issues with this aspect but I kept finding myself becoming annoyed when I’d see a hint marker and walk towards it to later find that the “instinct mode” makes it appear closer but it’s on the other side of the map, behind a set of buildings that I have to make my way through. If they would have kept the level map this would have never been really an issue. Walking with the “instinct mode” to find useable items for assassinations and hints would have been less frustrating as you’d be able to clearly tell where on the map they are located while referencing your location as well. There were even times where hint items wouldn’t be highlighted during “instinct mode” even though they had the ability to aide you in gaining a Silent Assassin Rating; I’m looking at you chandeliers.
The last negative aspect that really became noticeable to me as I was preparing to write this review was the absolute lack of appeal of the quicktime events used during brawls. There are only two button patterns that popup and they switch back and forth for every fist fight you pick with enemies, not civilians. I could see how it would appear useful during an instance where there’s a cutscene fight needing a quicktime event for some sort of immersion, but the honeymoon period wears off really fast with the way IO Interactive implemented this function. I later tried to avoid fist fighting guards just so that I wouldn’t have to see the same button pattern that I had seen so many times earlier. Again, it might be the least negative of the three listed but still very annoying for anyone playing the game.
With all that said so far, I still truly enjoyed this game. Many of the positives completely overshadowed the three negatives that bothered me and created this hypnosis that allowed me to just enjoy the game for what it’s worth. And this game is just damn good fun. Not often do I go back for a second playthough so soon after finishing a game and this game had me wanting more either through repeating the main campaign or competing with the online Contracts mode. Throughout those two modes there were aspects of the game that just expressed greatness and left me in awe as I played. To start, the visuals and the music are very great. I’d even say at moments I was left picking my jaw off of the ground as you see the environments and the people that inhabit them. Very stylized with a touch of grittiness and realism, the environments are how I imagine the other Hitman games would be like if they were rendered with today’s graphics and gaming engines.
The campaign and the plot also helped me want to keep pushing on to see what happens next. Not being a painfully boring plot, I never had a moment of forcing myself to finish the game just to finish it. Although many that I’ve talked to said the plot seemed very cliché or just bad, I have to disagree. The Hitman plots, what little there were, were usually pretty over the top. How I view the plot for Hitman Absolution is the same way I view a Tarantino film or even a ‘80s Schwarzenegger movie; there’s going to be crazy parts to the story but you just enjoy the ride as it goes along and take it for what it is. This plotline was not only enjoyable but also fairly lengthy as it took me about twenty hours to finish my first playthrough.
In addition to the main campaign, you also have the option to play the Contracts mode and try your hand at creating hitman challenges or beating someone’s contract time. Very addicting and competitive, the Contracts mode really added an extra factor that kept me playing Hitman Absolution longer than I would have. Both modes have that something that really made the time spent with this game truly enjoyable, and that’s the ability to play with whatever style you want while having fun as well. The game is straight up fun, at least in my opinion and that’s why I believe Hitman Absolution deserves the rating of 5/5. So with that said, go out there and rent it or buy it because you won’t regret it. Hitman fan or not, Hitman Absolution is worth taking time to play through a few times.
Review Written by John of The Time Heist