It’s been a while since we’ve seen Agent 47 in the field. Last time he was around, he was decked out in an all white suit and crashing his own funeral(with bullets of course). Crashing this funeral effectively wiped out all the remaining competition for the International Contract Agency, 47’s employer. This was a satisfying ending to a solid game and it seemed that 47 would continue his work for the ICA; all would be well. But then, something miraculous happened. The guys over at IO Interactive decided that all wasn’t right in the Hitman universe and that they needed to bring back the worlds best killer-clone to clean it up. And thankfully, Agent 47 is up to the task.
*Story Spoilers* Agent 47’s handler, Diana Burnwood, has destroyed the ICA from the inside-out and has gone into hiding. The agency, now rebuilt by Benjamin Travis, has a kill order out for Diana, and who better to fulfill this hit than Agent 47. Conflicted at first, 47 comes to the conclusion that this is just another contract and he needs to do what he does best, deliver flawless results. After infiltrating Diana’s high-security vista and making his way to her quarters, he completes the contract. Before her death, she asks 47 to promise her that a girl named Victoria will be safe from the hands of the ICA. He agrees to his handlers dying wish, deserts the agency, and begins to search for answers as to who Victoria is and why she is so important to the agency. *End Spoilers*
The look and feel of this game are pretty swell. The new in-game engine can accomplish some fantastic sights. Being based primarily in Chicago and the fact that this is a Hitman game, the atmosphere is dark. Aside from the occasional weird stuff like cops that have nothing in their hands looking around as if they were holding flashlights, each level looks amazing and feels completely separate from the last. Within many of these levels there are truly impressive crowds. Honestly, the crowds are quite large, and the game never breaks a sweat in producing them. The crowds give the illusion that the player is exploring a thriving part of an actual world and moving through them is quite an experience. Every character in Absolution is detailed pretty nicely and many are dressed to the extreme. 47 has the most variety considering that he has many disguises to wear and each one looks unique from the last.
Primarily, Absolution is a stealth game. This comes as no surprise, being that all previous Hitman games were brutally hard stealth challenges. The same is true for Absolution, depending on the difficulty that the player chose to tackle. There are five different difficulties: easy, normal, hard, expert, and purist. Clearing a level without being caught can be terrifically hard, especially on difficulties hard and up. 47 is much more smooth this time around however. Players will make their way around by walking and crouching mostly, the option to run is there, but really only necessary if things get out of hand. Shooting is definitely more fluid this time and the selection of weapons is quite impressive. More often than not, 47’s signature Silverballers will get the job done just the same. The true star is the multitude of melee objects in the world. Whether bashing someone in the head with a bong, or a fierce stabbing with a fire poker, 47 has never had so many murderous choices. Of course 47 has his trusty fiber-wire, which kills targets swiftly and instantly starts to drag them, allowing for quick body disposal. A cover system has been implemented that is easy to use and very effective.
The biggest, smallest change to the series is the new Instinct mode. I say this because Instinct mode basically replaces the menu map from previous titles. By holding a button, the world around 47 goes into a haze. Targets are highlighted in a red glow, while interactive objects and NPC’s are highlighted in yellow. If 47 is near a target or NPC while viewing them with Instinct, a flame will be projected on the ground of their future path. Another use for Instinct is a feature called Point-Shooting. At the cost of Instinct, the player can mark up multiple targets, press a button, and a cinematic view of all of them being shot commences. Point-Shooting is a useful tool, but it isn’t necessary and it’s much more fun to just sneak around foes rather than mow them down. Instinct is not an infinite resource; a bar on the left of the screen, encompassing which weapon the player has either holstered or visible, shows how much Instinct remains. And on the most difficult mode, Purist, Instinct and the HUD are completely gone. This mode is unbelievably hard and require immense knowledge of each level to succeed. Hitman: Absolution handles extremely well and sets the standard of what Hitman games should feel like.
Each level is a sort of sandbox area in which the player has many paths to take out his target. Once the targets are dealt with, a designated exit appears that 47 must get reach to complete the level. The levels this time around are a bit more linear than say, Blood Money, but they are no less fun. Trial and error has always been a part of Hitman and it still is. But instead of restarting and entire level, which is what was usually done in previous games, the player will activate checkpoints throughout the level as they play. The feature comes in handy, as restarting entire levels is very frustrating.
Absolution boasts a pretty impressive and ambient soundtrack. A soft score is heard when sneaking about, absent of enemies. When the enemies are near; however, the music becomes much more tense, and based on the state the AI is in, whether it be cautious or fully alerted, the music adapts to that as well. The guns sound like guns, which is a good thing. Snapping necks are vicious and smashing objects over goons is always satisfying. Voice acting is no slouch either, with every character having a very unique and often over-the-top personality. The main villain, Blake Dexter, is especially evil, with dialogue of the utmost maliciousness.
Games seem to have a notion that if some form of multiplayer is absent, it isn’t a game worth buying. This leads to awful, half done deathmatch modes that never fit with the games singleplayer. Absolution’s solution to this is so simple that it’s brilliant. Contracts mode. Contracts takes on the idea of play to create. The player selects one of the games many levels and plays through it like normal, but instead of attempting to take out the story target, the player marks their own kills up to a max of three targets. As they kill their selected marks, the game registers which weapons were used, which disguises 47 was wearing, if they hid the bodies after, if they were spotted, if they changed disguises throughout the contract, and which exit was taken to escape. After the contract is complete, the player can upload it to the Hitman servers and challenge their friends to complete it with a better score. It’s an absolute joy creating a contract that completely dumbfounds friends. Likewise, it’s great fun trying to decipher other contracts made by the community. Money is rewarded for completing contracts which can be spent on disguises and weapons that can be used in creating future contracts. And as a bonus, IO will be selecting community made contracts every week to be featured as the best. Contracts is probably the best iteration of multiplayer to a completely singleplayer game that I have seen recently, and I can’t wait to see what great contracts the community will inevitably make.
Hitman: Absolution is a fantastic addition to the series. What used to be a very hardcore game that was extremely unforgiving, is now much more accessible due to the smoother controls and lower difficulties. Yet it still retains that unforgiving relentlessness on the harder settings. Absolution’s world is gorgeously detailed, dark and twisted with an over-the-top cast of characters that really drive the now much more story driven experience. Absolution achieves all of this, a fantastic and engrossing singleplayer experience, while adding a multiplayer that captures the competitive nature of the Hitman games. Agent 47 is definitely back and it’s quite possible that he’s better than ever.