The second game of the AMD “Never Settle” bundle should need little introduction when considering what its purpose is. Hitman: Absolution is the fifth game in a series now spanning more than a decade, with novels and a film adaptation also making up the franchise. Again, you take on the role of Agent 47, an elite assassin-for-hire who rather unsurprisingly excels at killing people for large amounts of money. Although this may only sound like a concept which is fun for a bit and then gets boring, the series has changed things up enough throughout to make them all interesting and enjoyable. With many paths to and from your target you are open to plan and execute (excuse the pun) the hit in one of a multitude of ways. Methods vary from silent assassinations where no-one else sees you or the death of the target looks like an accident to going all out and shooting everyone in the area or blowing the target to kingdom come.
A common part of the series has been for you to pick what equipment you wish to take with you on certain hits. In keeping with Absolution’s story where 47 does not have the aid of the Agency this is not possible. Instead, 47 just has to put up with what he has and make use of weapons – be they shotguns, SMGs or bottles and bricks – that he can appropriate from others. This can be annoying and a disappointment but it can be great too. Much more thought is required for hits because silenced weapons aren’t always available and if you wish to remain in the shadows then it promotes the exploration of the areas and discovery of secrets and further methods with which you can distract or kill others.
Getting to where you need to go is clearly a big part of the game and not all areas are open to the public. Guards, staff and police will all notice if you are somewhere you shouldn’t be so the use of disguises and/or cover is a great way to fit in or just get past. Disguises have always been a part of the series but in Absolution they have been tweaked. Others wearing the same uniform as you – let’s say you are dressed in a police uniform and are trying to get past another police officer – will easily become suspicious which sounds great as it would be expected for you to know, or want to interact with, someone dressed in the same uniform as you. However, the slight let down here is consistency. Some of the distances people begin to become suspicious at are questionable and what’s worse is that others don’t seem to mind that you’ve appeared from nowhere. Although this could be the beginnings of a terrible AI and where the game falls down, there are many games which fail to address this properly and other than that the AI is fairly solid.
Also added in Absolution is “Instinct” mode. This is only present on the lower difficulties with higher up ones having lower effects until you don’t have it at all. You can use Instinct to give hints as to what you can do, where enemies (and the final target) are as well as their expected path. Hardcore fans won’t be keen on this but as they’re likely to be playing on the higher difficulties they won’t see it, plus the game never makes you use it. For settling into the game or being a newcomer to the series it can be a great addition for when it’s needed and in my opinion it’s nice for a long running series to remain accessible without watering down the vital gameplay the long-term fans want so much.
The only real other downside with Hitman: Absolution is how the levels have been broken up. Previous games just gave you a rather large level and you then had free reign. This still exists to an extent but what would previously have been one level has been split into sections. With less room to manoeuvre and explore you can feel penned in. There can also be a loss of continuity between the sections with World War III and silent areas where no-one knows of your existence only being a door apart.
Each section of the game gives you a score with various actions either increasing or decreasing the score. This is also new and gives a competitive edge against friends but can also feel arcade. The score can steer you and show you what you should/shouldn’t do but don’t let it rule you or limit how you play the game. There are times where it can be an indication of how you are doing (e.g. you don’t want to do too many negative actions) but sometimes a negative action can help you attain large positive scores. It’s not a deal breaker either way and can be completely ignored but as a little addition and indicator it’s quite good. Fear not, the ratings at the end of the levels (in case of Absolution the groups of levels) still exist and the overall score is broken down for you.
You might be expecting a negative conclusion given how I’ve largely talked about the downsides and things which people may not like but that’s not how I view the game. Like every other Hitman game in the series, Absolution is still greatly enjoyable and although there are bits which can let it down slightly the gameplay is still solid. Longevity is given by challenges to do hits in certain ways – which with there being multiple ways of doing things you probably want to anyway – as well as a brand-new mode called Contracts. Contracts allows you to challenge friends, and the world, to complete hits in certain ways – dressed in a certain disguise, using a certain weapon and so on. The game is beautiful to look at, really working your GPU for good reason. Audio has always been a strong asset for the series and Absolution doesn’t disappoint here either. Music sets the scene well and the voice acting is brilliant – especially with David Bateson remaining as 47’s voice actor. The game is well worth playing and the story is enough to keep you wanting to continue.
Should you be unsure on whether the Hitman series is something you want to bother with then Hitman: Blood Money, the game preceding Absolution, can be played for free here: http://beta.coreonline.com/hitman-blood-money/
The service initially gives you some free time to play the game, with more time gained by watching the odd advert – generally a minute or two for roughly an hour’s gameplay.