Amidst the Xmas-list certainties of titles such as Halo 4, Black Ops 2 and Assassin’s Creed 3, Hitman: Absolution has its work cut-out to make this long time coming sequel a hit, man…
And that’s where the problems start.
I’ve played the aforementioned games and enjoyed them: whilst all have flaws they are for the most part, excellent games, they also succeed at delivering to their target market. Hitman however, suffers from a failure to achieve coherence in its primary goal of stealth.
Of course, stealth is what the game is and always has been, it just feels that here, it is both cumbersome and restrictive. The idea that you can form your strategy around a location is nice in theory, but often you’ll find a linear route to your destination, which is often a door opened by pressing x, and it’s all helped immeasurably by the henchmen’s stupidity. Planning your route on the back of a guard’s has also been present, but the reactionary times of these idiots is what surprises – if you find yourself in a less than hidden situation and a gunfight or scrap is your only way out, never fear, the goons in the other room won’t hear a thing. Admittedly this become less of an issue on the harder difficulty settings as your bullet-threshold is diminished and you won’t stand a chance.
Utilising Agent 47′s ‘instinct mode’ highlights the presence of henchmen and items of note, a system reminiscent of Arkham’s Detective mode. It does its job, but Arkham did it better three years ago making me question whether this was just an afterthought.
The instinct mode is visually uninspiring, which is a shame considering how the rest of the game looks: the environments are really quite something, it actually looks like the concept art has been lifted from the page and dropped right in. The lighting is uncomfortably bright, the darkness pitch black, the visuals are perfect for a game in this mould as it is Neon Noir at its finest. It feels sinister and dirty and that’s the life he leads. I could argue it is this that keeps the game moving along, kneeling behind things in this uncompromising world is thrilling as you watch the world go by. Bodyguards argue amongst themselves, you’ll even find one receive his prostate cancer results (Spoiler Alert: he gets the all clear). The hustle and bustle of city-life is a stand-out when stood back and viewed, ignore the fact that Chicago’s population seems to be entirely male, and you’re in for a treat, but leaving the confines of standing still and the game struggles to maintain the overall feel.
Hitman: Absolution does repeat a particular highlight of its predecessors as it has a pitch-perfect soundtrack. Fluctuating levels of intensity with orchestral hints are of the highest quality, whilst the FX department has equally done their job.
The levels are incredibly short with Day-Glo save points along the way, it’s a pace unusual to the franchise and one which doesn’t suit. Getting a feel for the environment is not necessary as you won’t be there long enough to find all the dumpsters to hide your victims in. Yes, the world of Hitman has a dumpster on every corner – For all your pacified victim needs. The choices you make in whether to kill or put to sleep villains makes no difference, your’e told as much at the start that they’ll be asleep for a long time. The only outcome of your decision is a lowering of points on your level score. If that’s not jarring in removing you from the game world, I don’t know what is.
Likewise the Instinct meter. Complete kills and the meter increases, thankfully so as this meter is used for such disguises, as covering your face with your hand. I’m exaggerating a bit, you see when in a disguise the developers have had the sense to realise that a new pair of pants does not an invisible man make. So activating your meter has you slowly but surely walking past guards, gardeners, police and janitors, they’re slightly unsure but the meter makes them question themselves. Run out of this and you’re toast. It’s necessary in a number of levels so any choice you made to not kill someone earlier, now has affected your current predicament. It’s an interesting idea but again it’s flawed.
Then there’s Contract mode, which is a multiplayer experience that could possibly do for Hitman what multiplayer does for Call of Duty. Not in terms of longevity or sales figures, but in distracting from the flaws in the single player campaign. That might sound harsh but the freedom afforded in Contracts is something the single player lacks. By allowing for complete control over a scenario of your creation down to weapons, target, environment and time you can challenge your friends to commit your hit. It works well, as the points system in the single player detracts from the choices you make, it is a must here as you try to out kill your friends. Going forward this is a must-have feature, though it may only appeal to those willing to dedicate time into the game.
I’m loathe to be so down on Hitman: Absolution as the six year wait since Blood Money has been a long one, but with other excellent games available I can’t see how it can compete. It will appeal to die-hard fans of the series, but outside of that it feels like the changes made, are too subtle, and too poorly executed.
Hitman: Absolution is out now.
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