Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Hitman: Absolution

“Agent 47 once again emerges from the shadows to provide more than a blunt murdering frenzy – rather this cleverly crafted adventure will have you thinking out loud and constantly on the edge of your seat as you plan even the most subtle of steps as you move closer to your target.”

With a cult-like following the Hitman series has been patiently biding its time for Absolution, the next instalment in Agent 47’s adventure. What a time to come out as well amidst what can only be described as wave after wave of generic first-person shooter content with no real imagination of personality to speak of. Absolution is all about personality as this stealth ‘em up forces you to bide your time, learn from your mistakes and choose your path to your target. With a wide variety of content to try and plenty more to uncover, Hitman: Absolution will have you immersed in a dark and ominous experience that is every bit as brutal as Blood Money before it.

What becomes immediately apparent is Absolution is a rare breed of game that I class with such titles as Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls. While not the same genre, like these titles Absolution forces players into a gameplay style of experimentation. There is no clear path or way to tackle each of the missions set before you, nor is there a ‘right’ way to eliminate a target. In fact as you make certain decisions and progress through levels you will uncover possible variants that could have helped or changed your initial plan – these constant discoveries make Absolution’s world feel real and life-like, something that many games fail to replicate properly.

Absolution sees Agent 47 framed after killing the former boss of The Agency – the hunt for our protagonist leads to dramatic events throughout a well-paced and driven campaign across a variety of absolutely stunning and well thought out environments. Absolution is so impressive right the way through from story, narrative, visuals and especially sound. The world surrounding you is buzzing with life and wholly believable – with this being especially apparent as Agent 47 blends into crowds of civilians and gets lost in their daily lives.

Absolution introduces a whole new host of features that make Agent 47’s move-set more deadly and fluid to perform. Those of you who played Blood Money will be familiar with the core concept of Absolution’s gameplay, but will be very pleased with the alterations and additions present. Not only is the world around you more believable, but so is how Agent 47 interacts with it. Moving through groups of people, scampering across balconies and engaging enemies has all been smoothed over for a more practical approach. Agent 47 now has a host of close-quarter as well combat skills that can be used to quietly dispatch foes be it with lethal or non-lethal force.

Absolution also introduces a modern cover system that gives you a much better chance of fending away attackers should things not go as planned. However, this cover mechanic is best used when intertwined with your stealth skills – moving silently and efficiently from cover-to-cover, dispatching foes quickly when required and moving on gracefully. Agent 47 feels fluid not only when interacting with humans, but the surroundings as well and this plays a big part in drawing you into this believable world.

Of course there will be times when you will simply have to pull out some firearms and do lethal damage. A new addition in this department called Point Shooting (similar to Mark & Execute in Splinter Cell: Conviction) that allows players to target a group of enemies in slow motion and dispatch them ruthlessly. This mechanic is a fail-safe to get out of trouble but takes away from the Hitman experience and as a result, will be nothing more than a last resort measure for fans looking to play this efficiently. Try and avoid getting yourself in a position where Point Shooting is your only option out.

Hitman continues to take modern elements from other games and implementing them cleverly into its dynamics with Instinct Mode. Those of you who played the Batman Arkham games and used Detective Mode will understand exactly what this is, a heightened sense and understanding of your surroundings. Instinct Mode allows Agent 47 to see subtle things including nearby patrols, movements and objects of potential interest. Once again a game that really attempts to engulf you with realism loses something when Instinct Mode is activated, but on harder difficulty settings omit the ability and players can use it as they see fit depending on how they want their experience to unfold.

Speaking of difficulty, Hitman offers five different options for you to choose from, each carrying its own distinctive weight. The easy game modes are an absolute breeze and should really be avoided while the hardest option is brutal. Sitting in the middle or opting for one higher is perhaps the best possible first play through of Absolution, giving you a tough and consequentially rewarding experience through this game.

If you’re looking for an extra bang for your buck then Absolution does provide some content besides the campaign mode. Contracts mode allows you to create scenarios in the game’s levels and challenge your friends to see if they can find and eliminate the target. Likewise you can participate in these custom missions should you find yourself a little bored with the main story. However, with the fantastic implementation of leaderboards and a score system for campaign mode, it’s absolutely clear that Absolution is predominately campaign focused and rightly so because there’s plenty of content there to keep you entertained for a while to come.

From a technical perspective Absolution impresses on multiple levels. The audio creates and engulfs you into a powerful atmosphere that Hitman games are known for while the dark and gritty visuals go side-by-side with the horrendous characters you meet throughout your journey. Not everything is brilliant though, with some inconsistencies popping up along the way. For example Absolution’s disguise system, while great in theory, can play out awkwardly sometimes and fails to recognize logic. What I mean by this is if Agent 47 disguises himself as 1 of a group of 4 or 5 workers, it makes sense that another member of that team will spot that you’re not one of them. It’s illogical however that a random police officer would be able to spot that you in particular are not a member of a precinct made up of hundreds of cops. This is a frustrating element to Absolution and at times makes you think a little bit more logic could have been implemented in the game design. The same goes with simply obscuring your face with your hand, if someone did that in front of you in real life you’d be suspicious immediately. Nevertheless, for the most part Hitman: Absolution is a well-crafted game that impresses both in presentation and gameplay.

Ultimately it’s difficult to fault a game that so clearly aspires to be out of the modern-day loop. In a month clearly leaning towards Call of Duty: Black Ops II, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a game provide something so different to the current trend. Hitman: Absolution is a fantastic instalment in what has become a truly iconic franchise in the video game industry. Those of you looking for a challenging, menacing and thrilling adventure game need not look any further than this.

9.0 | Gameplay |
Hitman: Absolution provides a unique gaming experience that is moulded along while you play. Your decisions on how to approach your target can directly effect how you play each and every mission, making it an exciting and intense affair. All gameplay mechanics have been tweaked and smoothed over to provide for the most part, a more streamlined Hitman experience. Unfortunately, not all elements, the disguise system in particular, work that well. It’s also a shame to see some elements have been added like the Point Shooting and Instinct Mode that actually take away from the experience if used excessively.

8.5 | Presentation |
Hitman: Absolution is a beautiful looking game from start to finish. You are engulfed in a dark, ominous and thoroughly gritty world that’s inhabited with folks that mimic this danger. The audio and narration intertwine beautifully with an already beautiful visual display making this a fantastic show for the senses.

8.5 | Replay Value |
Each level rewards you with a completion score that all of your friends and indeed the world can see. As a result you’ll be dying to get the best possible score and beat all your opposition. If the campaign becomes a bit dry then Contracts is the perfect solution, offering you the opportunity to customize hits across the games’ maps and watch as your friends attempt to take down your set up. There’s plenty to do here and lots of fun to be had.

8.5 | Final Thoughts |
Hitman: Absolution is another successful instalment in the Hitman series. It provides everything one could hope for in terms of gameplay, presentation and atmosphere. There’s lots to do and a whole load of ways to do it. Get ready for a challenging and thought provoking experience that breaks the mould and is welcomed back with open arms into the gaming industry.

CeX recommends similar games: Hitman: Blood Money & Manhunt 2

Igor Kharin.

Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl