Agent 47, the world's most notorious assassin, has returned to our screens once again. After a six year hiatus we are finally gifted with IO Interactive's fifth addition to the Hitman franchise - Absolution. Released on the 47th week of the year by Square Enix Hitman; Absolution has had a lot of hype and even more anticipation.
The story of Hitman is a long trail of blood, and money- centered around tales of violence, death, vengeance and betrayal. But this time, the true legend behind 'the man who is a myth' may very well be morality and truth, perhaps with a dash of redemption.
Previously we've had a shortage of storyline in the series, especially in Hitman Contracts where not only were the cutscenes short and unrelated, but they didn't even make any sense. IO Interactive promised us a deeper and more intimate journey into the man behind the red tie and they have delivered with overkill.
You are given control of the most dangerous and cold-hearted man alive and this time 47 has a lot of new tricks to play with. You dive head first into a mission integrated tutorial showing you the basics of control and the new features offered by Absolution. Utilising the all new 'Glacier 2' game engine, Absolution showcases great advances in player/environment interaction with a highly refined set of controls. These controls are definitely a massive improvement on its predecessor Blood Money, and it's a relief to say they are smooth and easy to learn and quick to master. You are in total command of your environment, now able to hug and vault cover to avoid detection, climb ladders, walls, railings, ledges etc, and dispose of bodies in the most highly imaginable places.Environment
To those familiar with the life of Agent 47 so far; the first mission will drop an intense and nostalgic bombshell. Subsequently you'll be taken into uncharted territory when 47 is forced to go rogue from the Agency to find some answers. We travel across the vastness of North America, the heights of the cliffs of Colorado, to the depths of the sewers of Chicago, we visit intricate environments where the only things that outnumber the interactive NPC's are the possibilities of how to kill them. From a sexy strip club, a biker bar, the low gang ridden streets of Chinatown to the high halls of a prominent courthouse, a secret underground military facility and a buzzing wrestling arena.
The array of places and faces are overwhelming, the story pushes us through each one offering countless ways to infiltrate to secured areas, and assassinate our targets.
New characters and old are well made and well voice acted with the new voice of Hitman himself being reassuringly suitable, a cold hard and yet familiar tone aptly speaks out too little to offer any real recognition. The tale is heavy and flowing and extremely colourful often even amusing with Hitman's old black humour turning up the sides of your mouth when things get too dark (pulling a man out of a cliffside window just after overhearing his doctor tell him he hasn't got cancer adds to this effect). Characters you will never forget, namely 'The Saints'- skin-tight black PVC-clad gun-wielding psychopathic nun's with a taste for assassination, truly a match for Agent 47. You'll encounter many wonderful and dangerous things on your story through the old US of A, but nothing so wondrous and powerful as a man's search for truth, for in 47's eyes, everywhere is an opportunity and everyone is a target.Instinct Mode
The active map you previously relied upon is no longer sufficient and now even seems primitive, as you are upgraded with 'Hitman Instinct Mode'- the ability to predict your enemies' movements showing their exact locations and predicted paths in real time on your HUD:
Alike to Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
's 'Detective Mode' and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
's 'Detect Life', this gives you an excellent, useful and uninterrupted view of your current situation without pausing or accessing any menu. However, to increase the notorious difficulty of Hitman, this feature is disabled on harder settings, allowing you to rely on your own instincts.Settings
The new settings are very specific and offer an exact and rewarding style of gameplay. If you're just starting out, or you are a casual gamer, then the easy and normal modes will give you full access to all of Hitman's abilities and instincts and although you will receive a lower score, the gameplay still feels rewarding. On higher modes you are faced with more enemies with sharper reaction times and greater intelligence, your HUD is reduced and your ability to stay hidden is dramatically compromised. Completing hits on more professional settings however, will net you a greater score for use on the leaderboards.Play Style
You are constantly scored for everything you do, not killing civilians, hiding bodies, and killing your target in creative ways will reward you with ever greater scores. The mark of the true 'Silent Assassin' is to pass through the area and kill your target without anything else being disturbed. This scoring system is at first a little daunting especially since at the beginning of every chapter of every mission you are displayed the best and average scores of your friends and the entire world. But if you embrace this you will be highly motivated to play Absolution the way it was intended. This scoring feature is actually quite genius, without it in previous titles, many new Hitman players would simply run into every mission guns-blazing and ultimately be disappointed by the gameplay. This system gives you reason to test your abilities; remaining undetected with elite performance and it discourages lazy run 'n' gun tactics. Instead expand your mind and try all the various combinations to eliminate your targets without anyone even knowing you were there.
Plunging into Absolution is not a good idea, as it is a game of extreme patience and playability. The subtle approach is always the way to go and the missions are designed quite ingeniously and in utter respect of this. Typically you're given a target or multiple targets and a living, breathing, timed sandbox of possibilities to eliminate them in. Unlike former Hitman titles Absolution has really stepped up the challenge, most poignantly by specific mini-challenges available during missions. These Challenges are much like in-game mini-achievements and I don't need to express how appealing that is to all of us here on TrueAchievements.
Completing Challenges will give you 'point multipliers' which increase your score in that specific mission, with the intention of, not only gaining extra payouts, but also to directly compete with your friends and everyone else on Xbox Live in the leaderboards. These challenges also build towards actual achievements, either individually or cumulatively. A typical challenge is completing the mission without being spotted, and once completed will permanently increase your score by 5% for every successive completion of that mission. So, as you play, you should try to complete as many challenges as possible each time you complete a mission, and completing all of the challenges in any mission is only possible with multiple playthroughs. Once every challenge is complete and you have the maximum multiplier (sometimes 100%) you can repeat the mission on a harder difficulty in the most efficient way possible to gain the greatest possible score in the world. The highest scores are forever changing in the leaderboards. With so many possibilities to complete each mission you could be the next top gun of the leaderboards . . . for a while anyway.Graphics
Graphically we can see vast improvements on Blood Money, more precise detail and decent sharp draw distances, excellent shadow and reflection effects, in game anyway. However the graphics in some of the cutscenes are unconventionally not as detailed as in the gameplay itself. The graphics are apparently increased in value by the attention to detail and obvious respect to the design of the environments, which I have to say are spectacular.Sound
Sound is very important in the hitman world. Use it to distract guards with odd noises and avoid drawing attention by watching your backgrounds because if you mistakenly shoot a window or metal door etc when executing a target you may as well ring an alarm. The sound systems that have been incorporated are different from previous titles and all the better for it. Focusing in on distant sounds like a conversation, a TV, a radio etc will give a sharp distinction from background noise. Gun fire will temporarily suppress the background music as more important sounds are given priority. The true sophistication of the sound engine however is found in the action. Hitting any one of over 12,000 various surfaces with your gunfire will trigger a different sound and the majority of these will alert the enemy. Silencers are obviously important to a Hitman and if you don't have the right upgrades equipped you better be careful where and when you shoot.Achievements
The achievements, alike to 47 himself, are very secretive- but many are story related and contain spoilers, in fact, don't even look at the achievement list if you haven't completed the campaign through at least once
. The basics offer an incentive to carry on, ones like 'Hide A Body' and 'Subdue' someone:
Some of the better ones encourage you to play stealthily or creatively and seek out interesting and often humorous objects, situations and characters:
They've definitely added an enjoyable hint of black humour which does not compromise the serious adult nature of the game itself. The remaining achievements are either; incentives to complete tutorials and test out the new modes, or they are cumulative; such as 'complete 100 challenges' and aptly 'Execute 47 precision headshots with a sniper rifle':
The one collectible achievement is not annoying and will contribute to your campaign score. The hardest is probably the completion of the campaign on one of the three upper Professional difficulties, a decent challenge but personally I would have made it 'Complete Campaign on the very highest difficulty: 'Purist mode' specifically, as you can do it on Hard difficulty and it's no real challenge:Combat & Physics
One side of Absolution, which in former Hitman titles I was indifferent to explore, is the combat. In previous Hitman games when we were discovered during a mission and everything went 'all guns blazing' we often considered the mission to be over and very rarely continued to fight through with SMG's and Shotties blasting. This was often due to our intention of gaining a Silent Assassin rating on the mission. However in my experiments (mainly for the purposes of this review) into action-combat I have to admit I'm deeply impressed, and even moved to the point of considering completing some missions after going loud, just for the sheer fun of it. The new physics engine combined with the new cover system and the new weapons makes for very special gameplay indeed. This could even pass for a third-person shooter if one was inclined to play that way. To really sell the combat we have a new action feature called 'Point Shooting'. Completing objectives and performing stealthy actions fills your Instinct Meter which you can then use to slow down time and carefully 'tag' exactly where you wish your bullets to land. If you've ever played Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood
or Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
you'll recognize the same idea. Once your shots are designated pressing the 'X' button will unleash 47's hellish firepower in a fantastic cinematic display. Point Shooting is a great way to dispatch multiple enemies when outnumbered or in close-quarters and is an exhilarating addition to the action world.Contracts Mode
Lastly I wanted to mention the brand new mode called 'Contracts'. This innovative new feature means you can create your own missions inside the world of Absolution and compete with your friends and the whole of Xbox Live for the highest scores. Completing contracts will earn you cash to be used to purchase new weapons, weapon upgrades and new disguises. The higher the difficulty, the bigger the payout. This clever new idea adds indefinite playability to an already elongated title. Choose any mission from the campaign as a template, then pick up to three targets from almost anyone in the environment to assassinate. Offer bonuses by specifying the disguises, weapons, or exits to be used and open online competitions for the whole world to compete in. Contracts mode allows you to become a Hitman game designer and dissolves all limitations to your imagination.
On a personal note, I have eagerly awaited the release of a Hitman sequel for a long time, but I am not biased and all I've said is entirely true. I am genuinely very impressed with this game, it has exceeded my every expectation and I struggled to find a single valid flaw in its exceptional and very well-thought-out design. Square Enix have certainly taken their time and it shows in every corner of this excellent title.
Someone once asked me if I could consider any video games to be 'art', I simply replied "No". But after fully experiencing Hitman Absolution and following much afterthought I'd have to change that answer to: "Yes, I think some could be called masterpieces".
Storyline = 8.9
Controls = 9.7
Environments = 9.8
Physics And Technology = 8.5
Graphics And Effects = 8.2
Sound = 9.1
Stealth = 9.5
Combat = 9.5
Achievements = 8.9
Replayability = 10.0Overall = 92.1