Hitman absolution could very well be one of the best marketed titles of 2012. Square Enix kept a constant stream of videos, screenshots and developer diaries going for many months, and even released the Hitman: Sniper Challenge minigame to help build anticipation. One thing that Square Enix did very well in their campaign was to keep the game on people’s minds – so much so that I forgot that its predecessor (Blood Money) is more than six years old already. Now that Absolution has been released, how does it stack up against all that hype? We checked out the Xbox 360 version to find out more – read on to find out how we walked away from Agent 47’s latest outing.
It’s easy to see how the series has evolved since the launch of the original game back in 2000. Agent 47, the main protagonist of all five hitman games, has seen the environment around him go through subtle changes to match his own sleek and stylish presentation. From the main menu right down to the atmospheric visuals and top-notch voiceover work, Absolution sports amazing production values and is a joy to behold even for those not actually playing. It’s no wonder Square managed to enthrall audiences for so many months, and it’s good to see that the game lives up to its promise in that regard. Hitman paints a living, breathing world where characters seemingly go about their own way without paying you much heed, and it’s easy to immerse yourself in the game just listening in on conversations. But how does it play?
Not surprisingly, the gameplay revolves around various missions that require you to eliminate designated targets in a variety of ways. It’s all remarkably close to the format employed by the previous games, but of course there’s only so many directions you can go in with a title like Hitman. Absolution’s strenght lies in the sheer variety in which you can take out most of your targets. We saw this as a core strength for potential game of the year Dishonored, and Agent 47 provides similar joys. You can choose to keep your distance and snipe your targets and/or guards, but from that same spot you can also lure them away by creating nearby noise or even setting off alarms. Once they’re out of position, you can either sneak by or surprise them by confronting them before they return to their original position. To add even more tension to the mix, you can also don a disguise and attempt to walk by them without anyone noticing who you really are. Whatever option you choose, you’ll find yourself pausing for a moment thinking of the other ways in which you could have accomplished your goal the second you complete a mission- awesome stuff.
The dynamic doesn’t always work, as some missions feel much more linear than what I’m describing above, but Absolution definitely doesn’t disappoint the wannabe assassin. The cinematic way in which some of the kills are presented contribute to this feeling and helps make finding alternate solutions rewarding. Not everything shines like Agent 47’s bald head though. At times, the ability that NPCs have to spot you seems almost uncanny, even when wearing a disguise. How frequently are these cops having get-togethers if they apparrently know each other so well that they can instantly tell I’m not one of them?! At other times, an NPC will just run straight past you since he’s misjudging where you fired from… by a mile.
Still, Hitman: Absolution hits its target in far more places than it misses. It’s atmospheric, tense, and even exhilarating in places. It’s a shame that there’s a few niggles here and there that keep it from greatness, but developer Io has a solid base to work from when it starts development on a sequel. For fans of the genre and/or series, this is a must get. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait six years again!