The Hitman series has been a part of our gaming lives for almost thirteen years. Since his humble beginnings in the year 2000, our unconventional hero, Agent 47, has been assassinating his way into our hearts. He won us over with his fondness of fiber wire, his trademark custom .45 ACP Silver Ballers, and who can forget his love of a good costume change. It’s been six years since the release of the last Hitman title, Hitman: Blood Money, and it’s safe to say that gamers have been hotly awaiting Agent 47’s return. Well, the day has finally come with IO Interactive’s release of Hitman: Absolution. It’s safe to say that the wait was more than worth it.
Hitman: Absolution offers a different take on the classic first-person shooter. The popularity of the Call of Duty and Battlefield game series seem to have convinced gamers that an FPS should be all action, all the time. But why should that be so? Absolution gives you the option of silently picking off your targets. It gives you a selection of different weapons, from double pistols to high powered rifles, and scores of different ways to take out the bad guy.
IO has kept the characteristic ‘Hitman kills’ that gamers have grown to love. You can take the simple route; a quick shot to the back of the head or a brief struggle with the fiber wire will see your target dispatched in a matter of seconds. Then again, you could have some fun with your hits. Attach a live wire to a lump of metal and wait for your target to void his bladder onto it, and you’ve got yourself an inventive, if a little morbid, light show. Every kill will be totted up in the point system, and the more inventive your kill, the more points you’ll get. It’s pretty simple, really. Don’t get spotted and avoid killing civilians, and you’ll be topping the score boards in true Hitman style.
IO has added quite a bit since Blood Money, additions which feel more suited to novice Hitman players rather than their hardcore 47 fanatics. The new cover system allows players to exchange gunfire with the enemy from the safety of a concrete pillar or car bonnet. The Point Shooting power-up gives you the option of picking off targets with a slow-mo click and hit system. This is designed for those times when you’ve been less sneaky than you originally planned, and 47’s pinned down with little option but to fight his way out. But hardcore fans won’t find much use for the Point Shooting system, and they won’t be blind firing from cover, because, let’s face it, they’re Agent 47, and Agent 47 doesn’t get caught.
Getting caught was much harder in the earlier Hitman titles. A single disguise could easily last you an entire level when no one was prepared to question the gardener carrying a Desert Eagle. Absolution has raised the stakes when it comes to getting caught. Sure, dressing up as a chef in China Town would be convincing to the cops, but not to other chefs. Now, players must plan their costumes like a girl going to her first prom: every detail must match. If you’re trying to slip past the cops, then plan ahead; they would remember the guy who has a massive barcode plastered across the back of his head. It would probably be the talk of the precinct; you can understand why they’d be suspicious of 47 in a uniform.
The new disguise system could become the bane of your life as Agent 47 when it comes to how Absolution’s levels are broken up. Each mission is divided into chapters, and each chapter flows from the last. This means that, even though you may have completed your hit, Agent 47 still needs to escape. So, your crafty gardener disguise might have gotten you into the compound to assassinate your target, but it will soon shoot you in the foot as you attempt to escape via the gardens. These are unforeseen challenges that keep the player on their toes. It’s no longer just about the kill, allowing the player to tackle the game as they see fit. Silently take out your targets or strut around the level, double ballers in hand, taking out your enemies like the terminator. It’s really your choice, and, other than through the points system, you won’t be penalized for bad-assing it now and then.
The main story will keep you entertained for hours with the various levels and settings being well rendered and visually impressive. The story itself is slightly different from other Hitman games: 47 has fallen out with the agency, and twisting events have found him on the run for a good chunk of the game. Of course, 47’s version of ‘on the run’ is very different from everyone else’s idea of fleeing. You’ll still find time to take out your targets, despite his growing desire to escape, but, once all is said and done, Absolution will still bring you back for more. The game offers you a new mode that injects a bit of life into what could have been a very short title. Contracts is Hitman’s newest game mode where you can create your own contracts, choosing what NPCs, weapons, and costumes you so desire for the level. It even gives you the option of challenging others to beat your high score on your own contract, as well as taking up the challenge of beating your friends.
Bugs are few and far between, bar the occasional body stuck in the graphics. Overall, Absolution is well-polished and well-rounded, with an engrossing story line and extras that are worth more than just a single replay. Yet, the game does feel like it has the potential to be slightly better. The biggest problem arises when players attempt to disguise themselves from the enemy. It is true that Agent 47 could be picked out as an imposter, but the new system often makes it less frustrating to kill everyone in sight rather than spend the extra ten or twenty minutes painstakingly finding the safest route through. This is a minor fault at best, but it often breaks up game play, causing multiple restarts in a vain attempt to complete the level undetected.
But, unlike the other best selling FPS hits of 2012, such as Call of Duty: Black Op’s 2 and Battlefield 3, Absolution injects a welcome twist on the classic gun game. Its biggest achievement is its ability to grant the player choice. The choice to silently take out NPCs or storm around the level like a man possessed. The choice to knock off your targets with grand style or quiet efficiency. It’s the choice that makes Absolution seem like a breath of fresh air, and after waiting six years for this hit of Agent 47, hopefully it won’t be another six before he resurfaces once more.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Hitman: Absolution by IO Interactive, published by Square Enix.