It’s been a good six years since Agent 47 last graced our screens with Hitman: Blood Money. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that Eidos and IO Interactive are now part of Square Enix. Would this transition affect the development of the new title, Hitman: Absolution?
It’s fair to say that Hitman video-games are well known for their surreal story lines. It’s no different in Absolution, where Agent 47 finds himself tasked with one of the hardest assignment of his life. This is just the beginning of a series of bizarre events. There are many twists to keep players hooked. However, at times it feels like it’s so preoccupied with being stylish, that some parts of the story are not so easily understood.
Not that it matters, since one of the highlights in the story is the fantastic cast and all their unique quirks. Even the leather clad Saints assassin nuns, that caused an outrage months ago, fit in this crazy world. Forty seven’s ability to remain straight faced when meeting some of these deranged characters is remarkable
For those new to Hitman, it consists of sneaking around and taking out targets. The most basic of tools available to Agent 47 are the various guns at his disposal. He starts off with silencer equipped weapons but can also make use of those held by incapacitated enemies or found in areas. It’s fairly easy to take out targets with a weapon, but not so much trying to do it without alerting others. Some guns work better if the firing trigger is pressed gently. It’s not exactly a technique that is used often though.
There are also less conventional ways to take out targets. One of the trademark assassin tools is the Fiber Wire. This makes it possible for Agent 47 to effectively take out a target up close. Such tool involves knowing when a target is alone. It’s a thrill to successfully stalk a target, and either snap his neck or put him unconscious, without anyone else seeing it.
Each level is filled with many other tools that are used to distract enemies or even kill them. It certainly never gets old to throw a proximity mine at an enemy, and see the enemy’s terrified expression, seconds before it is detonated.
Another key element in Absolution is the use of disguises to blend in. Disguises are taken from enemies that have been eliminated/knocked unconscious or found in certain levels. These are an invaluable resource for getting through some sections in levels. However, at times it feels far too easy to just walk by enemies, when wearing the appropriate disguise.
IO Interactive cleverly introduced a feature it has named Instinct to prevent abuse of the disguises. Being disguised will allow Agent 47 to freely walk around in areas where he is authorised to do so. The catch is if he is disguised as a police officer, then other police officers won’t recognise him and blow his cover. Activating the Instinct ability will make it possible to deceive them, but this only works whilst the meter is still filled.
Earning Instinct is only possible by performing certain actions. This ability has other handy uses, such as being able to increase reaction speed and efficiently shoot one or more targets. It is also used to highlight areas of interest. This is beneficial for those who aren’t interested in spending a long time trying to figure out where to go next. Targets and key personnel are also highlighted. Agent 47 can even predict their walking route. The Instinct ability is an valuable resource for anyone who just wants to get through the story, since it is so efficient.
It might seem like the only way to complete certain objectives is by resorting to an all out assault, However, this is the complete opposite. Those that spend time carefully analysing enemy movements and the environment will always find different ways to complete these objectives.
The developers have certainly spent a lot of time coming up with clever ways to make deaths look like accidents. Simply exposing a wire can lead to an enemy getting electrocuted to death whilst peeing near it. It’s but one of the many reasons that makes Hitman Absolution so compelling. Activating Instinct will provide players with hints, but it’s the player’s imagination that is the key to working out how to set up each of these accidental deaths.
Accidents are but one of the many ways that a player can go about completing an objective. Less skilled or patient players can attempt to go all out and eliminate every hostile. Others can go around silently eliminating each hostile in the way, without raising alarm, and then take out the target. It’s all down to the situation and how the player perceives it. It’s honestly up to the player how each objective is completed, since all that matters is that targets are eliminated.
Not every assignment revolves around eliminating targets. Some require Agent 47 to exit certain locations. This might sound tedious but the use of stealth is essential and makes for some tense moments.
Each level within a chapter has its own leader board. The various ways to go about each level ensures that there is always room for improving scores.
The ability to activate a checkpoint halfway through levels is handy for inexperienced players. In fact, playing in the easier difficulty settings ensures that new players can also enjoy Absolution. In contrast, die hard fans can stick to the Professional difficulty settings, where only the most basic of abilities are available. It’s an excellent way to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable experience.
There’s a lot of collectibles and content that is unlocked by completing level specific challenges. The later is a good way to ensure players will want to replay levels. Specially since it will help players get higher scores.
Agent 47 spends a lot of time moving about, which means that the player gets to see some breathtaking views. There are many locations to see from the idyllic town of Hope to the towering buildings of the big city.
The minimal use of colour fits in with the theme of the game. Level design is intricate and the areas to explore are impressive. There are times when a staggering number of people is seen on screen. What is impressive though is that each of them has a different objective and behaves differently. It’s all down to the use of the Glacier 2 engine
Soundtrack is minimal too, but it’s so that the player can make use of sound effects to know when they are in cover or to snoop in on conversation – to get mission related information. However, fans should recognise some of the music tracks played later in the story.
Hitman: Absolution attempts to further innovate the franchise by introducing Contracts mode. This allows players to create and send each other contract challenges. It works by allowing a player to pick up to three targets, eliminating them and then exiting the level. This ensures that it’s possible to complete any contract submitted.
The twist is that each wannabe hitman must stick to player set criteria, such as the weapon used to kill a target. Meeting all the contract criteria is the main goal, but only those that seek to bend the rules will succeed in obtaining top scores. Money earned from completing contracts is wired to an off-shore account(nice touch) and is then used to purchase weapon upgrades.
There is a lot of potential for this mode to garner a thriving community of eager assassins. It’s certainly interesting to think of what devilish contracts players come up with. Specially considering the robust set of tools that IO Interactive has provided them with. Hopefully further content will also make an appearance as downloadable content.
Hitman: Absolution requires imagination to make the most of what it has to offer. The use of disguises does make the stealth factor less important. However, it’s more than often possible to complete each objective in various ways. The Contracts mode is a really good addition and it should prove popular with fans. This is probably the first Hitman title that both skilled and inexperienced players can finish.
Hitman: Absolution offers a thrilling experience that proves Square Enix is taking good care of Agent 47.