Hitman: Absolution is an incredibly intelligent, darkly enjoyable video game that is as generous to gamers as its protagonist is merciless to its victims. You stab, strangle and shoot your way through level by level, sometimes grimacing, sometimes scowling, sometimes laughing. When all is said and done, you probably need a shower.
Playing absolution means looking at the world through the eyes of a psychopath, a ruthless murderer who extinguishes life with the efficiency, precision and emotion of a good German automobile. Almost everyone in this grotesque place needs a good murder, and the hawk-faced murder machine Agent 47 is the man for the job.
Absolution picks up on the Hitman story where the last game in the series, Blood Money 2006, left off. Before we get into the story, let's pause: yes, the last Hitman game was released more than half a decade ago. That's a long time between sequels, even in the relatively slow video game world. But that length of development is likely to make up much of what makes Hitman such a big and interesting game.
The absolution corresponds to the general structure of past Hitman games: at the beginning of a level 47 is given a target and he has to move through the level in any number of possible paths in order to finally corner and eliminate his target. If you think about it, this isn't that fundamentally different from most games – there is a boss and you have to move through a level to defeat it.
So the main difference lies in the many ways Hitman allows players to succeed. Each level is a mini sandbox that begins in a default state where enemy characters are unaware of the presence of 47 and he is free to sneak around (or just wander around) and explore the land. A city courthouse, vibrant fireworks display in Chinatown, or a rundown, flooded hotel – each presents a unique set of obstacles between the player and their target.
WHY: Hitman: Absolution is a large, satisfying game that opens up dozens of malicious possibilities with each new scenario.
developer: IO Interactive
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Rated)
Release date: 20th November
Type of game: Violent meaty stealth game about secretly murdering a lot of very bad people.
What i played: Finished the single player in about 21 hours, played a few hours of single player on a higher difficulty, and a few hours of contract mode.
My two favorite things
- Create a wondrous escape thanks to panicked improvisation.
- Contract mode is a smart achievement, a clever way to make the most of the game's great levels.
My two least favorite things
- Cheap gay jokes and lazy misogyny make an otherwise entertaining script.
- The game's only real "boss" experience is a strange Quicktime event that should have been cut off.
Back-of-box offers made to order
- "You will never see me coming in that chicken suit."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
- "Somebody farted and Hitman smells it. He'll take care of anyone who did it."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
- "I killed a guy with a bong. No, I killed him with the bong."
-Kirk Hamilton, Kotaku.com
The thrill of Hitman is that it offers so much freedom. There are up to a dozen ways to assassinate a target, and few things are more satisfying than getting away with an invisible assassination, especially when it comes to luck and improvisation. (They often are.) Hitman Diehards, a sadistic coalition of which I consider myself a member, have nothing to fear from absolution. The game embraces the tough, open-ended aspects of the series – Blood Money in particular – with an anachronistic serenity.
After several years of ever shorter AAA game lengths, Absolution feels massive, almost humorous, generous. The story begins in Chicago (please play more games in Chicago!) And leaps from a posh mansion on the lake to a shabby hotel to a breathless refugee-style police chase in every nook and cranny of the city. Then it hops to rural South Dakota, where the levels get even wilder – a pig-killing gun testing lab, a crowded city courthouse, small town streets, a mob BBQ, and more. Some chapters of the story are in fully realized areas, which may have 10 minutes of action going on – they just serve to improve the atmosphere and move the plot forward. In times of streamlined game design, Hitman: Absolution often feels like a treat. It's welcome.
The story is pure B-movie hogwash where 47 attack their employers to protect a young girl who may be a genetically engineered super soldier like him, capable of great and terrible power. (She might even be bald like him: it looks like a wig anyway.) The story is never more than an excuse to force our antihero through exotic places, one hidden body after another.
The world of Hitman: Absolution is a pretty nasty world, and often it feels like the game is trying too hard. This is a dark place where men are pigs with the eyes of sex offenders and women are either scantily dressed jerking fantasies, psycho killers, nuns, prostitutes, or a combination of the four. 47 is his usual fart-smelling face, but the young girl he's protecting could easily have been so cool – part hit girl, part Mitsuko Souma, a killer machine in a schoolgirl dress. And yet she has descended into the role of the helpless MacGuffin for all but a short, stilted cutscene. It feels like a waste.
Aspects of absolution channel the Instagram-filtered funk of HBO's filthy vampire series True Blood, but the game has little of the show's hedonistic delight. Once you look past the blood and tits, absolution often feels cold, calculated, and vaguely creepy. The suffocation with leather gloves, the S&M fixation and the slight protest against too much homophobia evoke more European torture porn than Mediterranean fried fruit pulp. As I was playing, I couldn't get rid of the feeling that behind the incredible killings and brazen sexualized violence there was a heavy-capped clinical observer who, having designed this funhouse, finds it pleasant in a different, darker way than I do.
It also seems appropriate that much of Absolution's story involves a man named Dexter. Agent 47, with his sociopathic tendencies and effortless ability to do a body count, stands right next to the secretly psychotic protagonist of Showtime's long-running serial killer. Both Dexter Morgan and Agent 47 are given a pass for the terrible things they do, mostly because they do those things to bad, bad people. But while Dexter cleverly plays with the moral of the matter and teases the humanity of his monster to a main character, Hitman cheerfully embraces the darkness with almost no subtext or ambiguity.
That doesn't mean the writing is bad, just inconsistent. In fact, the dialogue is often spirited and well conducted. Most of all, Absolution feels like a gritty modern western, with 47 redefined as a tacit antihero: a man in black walking towards a church with a gun. TV fans are likely to pick out the voices of Deadwood alums Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine, Boothe purrs his way through an otherwise over-the-top role, and Carradine gives a ridiculous cornpone killer a sinister glow.
Many of the levels are packed shoulder to shoulder with civilians, and Hitman: Absolution features some of the most compelling and entertaining crowds I have come across in a game. Those crowds are greatly amplified by a wonderfully written ambient dialogue – these writers know exactly how to capture the rhythm of a one-way cell phone call until I stopped dodging the cops in a crowded Chicago train station only to sit back and listen. Playing Absolution so soon after Assassin's Creed III is a lesson in how crowd stealth should feel and how to believably reproduce the chaos of a dense urban scene.
If you can get around the trickier edges of the story (as I could) you'll have a hell of a good time. This game takes everything that worked in Blood Money and improves the way it works. At the same time, it adds more complex artificial intelligence, easier-to-use tools, and new mechanics that have been intelligently adopted from other stealth games.
Absolution feels like a gritty modern western, with 47 redefined as a tacit antihero: a man in black walking towards a church with a gun in his hand.
Absolution gives players a lot of appreciation and you can approach any situation as you wish. In one level you have to kill three doctors in a research wing. You could go ahead with blazing weapons and take them out (in theory, of course – face-to-face combat is improved over previous Hitman games, but remains looser and less satisfying than stealth). You could also lure them into a dark area, kill them, and stow their bodies. Or, best of all, you could use the environment to set a series of unique traps for them, making any death look like an accident before you leave home safe.
The deadliest tool in 47's arsenal isn't its trademark Silverballer pistols, but rather its outfits. Hitman games are all about dressing up: choke or kill a security guard or a scientist, and you can quickly put on their outfit and fool anyone who is not wearing the same outfit. (For example: Put on a guard's outfit and other guards will see through it, but construction workers won't. Conversely, if you put on a construction worker outfit. This makes rare and unique outfits more valuable.) The costume makes the game much more reactive and fun than it would have been a pure stealth game. It also appeals to my inner collector – almost every level has at least one bizarre unique costume that, when unlocked, makes 47 difficult to spot AND look funny.
Absolution is very much a "video game" if that makes sense. It takes a lot of breaking down unbelief, but in this case it's a good, often great, thing. Artificial intelligence is flexible and good fun, but it's obviously still artificial. The systems are all transparent and the game goes to great lengths to make sure you understand each one. That means that on normal difficulty levels you can kill a guy, get spotted, and then hide for a minute and everyone will get back to their normal day-to-day business without being freaked out about their colleague lying dead right there. The costumes never feel that believable either: yes, a 6 & # 39; 3 "bald man with a sliced barcode on the back of his head tramples hawk-eyed through a group of men who are believed to be working next to the guy whose clothes He's wearing No, nobody notices. But it makes the game work and it's great fun, so who cares?
As I mentioned earlier, Hitman: Absolution cleverly borrows from several other great stealth games. The biggest lift is 47's "Instinct" ability, accessed via the right shoulder button. It works similarly to Batman's detective mode in Arkham City, and is perhaps even closer to Adam Jensen's expansion of the see-through walls in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Enemy characters instinctively shine gold, even through walls, and players are therefore able to plan strategies on the fly with a much greater chance of success. Fortunately, instinct doesn't make the game too easy – it's just more fun. And if you're a true purist, you can turn it off on the highest difficulty level.
When instinct is activated, trails of fire appear in front of the enemies to indicate the path they will follow. I was stuck on one level, crouching just outside the line of sight of a guard, when suddenly a path of flames lit up right next to me. I could see the other guard coming up the stairs to enter the room and he would be walking towards me in seconds. I had to act quickly, so I got up quickly, ducked past the closer guard and into a crowded lobby before blindly choosing a door and barely getting it to safety. It was a real thrill.
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Hitman: Absolution is another game that inspires stories in which you will discuss with your friends how they achieved different goals and what wild things happened along the way. Each area is assigned a series of "challenges" that include an image or name and a cryptic clue as to what to do. It's a clever, subtle way to encourage you to probe the depths of each level without revealing too much of what you're supposed to be doing (e.g., there's a "Master Poisoner" challenge that lets you know poisoning is possible without telling you what to do). Completing challenges will unlock new, improved skills. To be honest, I never really felt the effects of these upgrades in the game. As in previous games, having a perfect Silent Assassin score is a reward for yourself, and dedicated players will have hours of fun analyzing the many areas and figuring out how to best take advantage of their nooks and crannies.
Absolution, while not being offered versus multiplayer, does have a very smart asynchronous online component that is likely to extend its lifespan significantly. The mode known as "Contracts" allows players to use the existing levels to develop their own assassination challenges, objectives, and limitations, and see if other players can pull them off. It's a great idea and it's done well. After all, the magic of absolution resides in the malleable AI and sprawling, tiered levels. As I played through the story campaign, I couldn't help but feel like I was missing a huge part of every level over time. The contract mode alleviates this feeling considerably.
Creating a contract is also great fun – you can only get a contract out if you can do it yourself. This means that you start the level with all the AIs set in motion, and then kill each non-civilian character in any way you see fit. The game then records what you did, how you did it, and what you wore. For example, if you kill a cook, hide his body and spot him undetected, the contract you created uses those circumstances to award bonus points. You can also directly challenge your friends to beat your contracts, which will no doubt lead to many Hitman players returning well after their first playthrough.
When it comes to boiling, Hitman: Absolution evokes the feeling of a deadly, measured dance. It's a constant tango between you and the computer, with each party taking turns taking the lead through arenas that keep changing, resetting and angry expectations. It's oversized and ambitious, drunk with freedom; vulgar, insulting, but smart and respectful.
A world so lazy, so far beyond salvation, could kill a little. Who could do better than you?
Republished with permission. Kirk Hamilton is an editor at Kotaku.