Stylish, sophisticated and instantly recognizable, after all who could forget such an iconic character complete with trademark barcode on the back of their head. Having said that, does the latest in the series of “Hitman” games really live up to expectation, or have IO interactive misplaced their aim?
From a series which has produced nothing short of fun, challenging and at times a sort of moral empathy not found in other games, the answer seems to be a resounding no. IO have, if anything, moved the series forward without destroying the most important things cherished with the previous games.
News then of a latest instalment for the franchise was surprisingly not met with immediate approval from fans. Not only because of the main voice over being rendered by a completely different actor, however there was a sigh of relief when original actor, David Bateson, reprised the role. The main point of contention surrounding this particular instalment however, centred around the mechanics of the game being changed, or shall we say, being improved upon.
First impressions give an almost batman Arkham asylum crossed with Uncharted’s Nathan Drake feel. Just imagine a Nathan drake game featuring Batman’s x-ray mode and you’re pretty much there. The game is developed by the same studio as previous instalments giving balance to pessimistic claims regarding the game’s new direction. Fortunately the result of IO changing some of the core game-play managed to produce a different but also familiar and a richer experience.
From a purely aesthetic perspective your first observation will be that the game is beautiful. Going from sparsely lit levels with plenty of shadow and grunge, to beautiful vibrant landscapes, giving it more of a movie-feel at times, especially with the games minimalistic approach to HUD overlays.
Essentially the main ingredients from the Hitman series are still present, with new features such as the new stealth mode called instinct added, although, if you prefer to use your own instinct and go for a higher level of difficulty (more realism) this is removed. Instinct enables you to view enemies and objects in the game through walls and so forth, and observe their movements which is actually quite beneficial when planning a perfect kill or sneaking past them. As with previous instalments you can reach an objective however you choose. This gives so much power to the player in regards of how the each mission pans out, vastly expanding potential re-playability for a stand-alone, single player game.
Relative to previous instalments, the game offers a much more impacting moral conflict in regards to your assassinations. Although, more so with certain characters, you are presented with thoughts, regret or sorrow for those you find yourself being required to kill. This is much more akin to how any balanced human being should feel being put in the situation where they’re required to take someone’s life, and it’s a credit to Hitman Absolution that its an immersible enough experience to bring out those emotional responses from the player. True the game is not overly long in terms of game-play hours, however, each level can be extensive, offering a lot more decision-making and thinking on the part of the player which should make up for a slightly shorter game.
One innovation for the series though, is the implementation of online multiplayer capabilities. That is not to say you’re a lone Hitman in some cookie cutter-death match mode; instead the game features what’s known as “contracts” which offers a nice, fresh take on what could have been sorely disappointing. The game mode allows players to challenge one another while not actually being present in the same game. Creating so called challenges can be both interesting and ingenious. The chance to challenge not only others, but also a chance to try to complete it yourself.
The play style is quite indicative of how a Hitman game should feel. The slow time placement of lining up perfect shots using instinct mode is both elegant and satisfying. The game starts with a surprising, if not interesting, story which fuels your motivation for the rest of the game. If you can forgive the short levels in exchange for a variety of play-style and challenges as well as the revamped mechanics and an ending that makes you think, then this is a great game for the collection.
It’s great to see that the classic games of yesterday can be brought up to date without seeming unrecognisable. What other games have latex wearing nuns with semi autos? Unfortunately this brings me to the one of the games weaker aspects, you can grab a ton of weaponry and blast through each level in a short time. That’s not particularly rewarding or challenging though. Take take the level with aforementioned nuns sent to kill you, it’s easy to kill everyone in sight with machine guns etc., but there’s not much joy to be found in this style of game-play, even if it remains the easier option.
Absolution is not merely a sit down and complete game. If you want to get the most out of feeling like a Hitman then you need to put time into each level trying different things, even challenging just yourself becomes compelling. If you run out of ideas, each level has its own unique kills which you need to discover.
Hitman Absolution manages to keep to its roots but expands upon what it’s predecessors established to make the game more appealing, and relevant to our current generation; enough is intact that if you’re an avid Hitman fan you are sure to love the game and its new approach. As a newcomer to the series, sit back take your time, you should come to see see why this title deserves the Hitman “Agent 47” branding.