Have you ever dreamt you were a bar-coded, bald killing machine with a classic sense of style? If you have, I have great news for you! Soon you’ll be able to return to the grimy world of assassin-for-hire, Agent 47 in the newest installment from the series, Hitman: Absolution. And we got a copy IN ADVANCE of the November 20th release to review!
If you’ve ever played a stealth video game, you know it can be either the most tedious and frustrating or the most exhilarating experience depending on a key set of circumstances. First and foremost is the AI or artificial intelligence. If the enemy’s AI is too advanced, it will make the game so challenging that it won’t be fun. Make it too dumb, though, and you feel like Ken Jennings schooling a bunch of toddlers in trivial pursuit.
When I first saw the trailer for the new Hitman game I thought it was gimmicky and pandering to casual gamers. It featured leather-clad nuns with heavy weapons and claimed I could play it anyway I wanted. In the previous installments, you either played it stealthy and got boatloads of rewards, or you played it fast and loose and got financially screwed. That’s difficult enough but when you factor in the enemies totally unfair AI. It made the game feel like the game had a thousand ways to complete each mission but only a single correct one.
In Hitman: Absolution, the creators fixed this by giving the player tons of ways to complete a hit and rewards them based on how they play. Did you only use your dual suppressed 1911’s the entire mission? Mowing down all who dare stand in your way? Cool, you’re now more proficient with dual wielding handguns. Did you pick up a kitchen knife and fling it into the brain of that drowsy sentry? Awesome, you can now throw further and more accurately.
This was a refreshing change of pace from previous entries especially when coupled with the new “Contracts” mode. The game makers have a very long winded explanation for this mode, but let me put it in a way that even someone who’s never played a videogame can understand. — Imagine playing HORSE with firearms.
You choose the weapon and disguise for your character, then the level, and finally the target. So in that introductory level where you snuck by the landscaping crew to infiltrate the compound for example. Now you can mark the head landscaper as your primary target. Take him out by launching a single bullet from a Sig 226 into the water-soaked fuse box next to him. Without being spotted and not let anyone find the badly charred body. You then save your creation and upload it to the net where your friends can try to beat your score by performing it faster.
One of the things I really liked about this mode so much was that it finally let you put all of Agent 47’s tools of the trade to good use. In previous games you’d unlock a huge arsenal that maybe 5% were useful if you wanted to achieve a perfect rating in a particular map. I mean, I think coach-guns are awesome. But if I had to sneak into Kim Jung-Un’s palace, take him out and escape unseen to Seoul, it would not be my first choice.
Hitman: Absolution features significantly less firearms than its predecessors. This isn’t a bad thing though. It feels like the game made the weapons available have a specific focus. For example, there are only two sniper rifles in the game. One is suppressed and has a long range scope while the other is a standard hunting rifle with an oddly disproportionately small short range scope. Each obviously has their purpose.
And while I’m on the topic of firearms-related features in the game, one little thing they included that I really enjoyed was the ability to ease the trigger back for more accurate shots. If you, as Agent 47 slam the trigger of your 1911 as fast as you can you will pull your shots wide of the target. However, if you slowly ease the gamepad triggers you will tighten up your crosshairs and pull of a more precise shot. It’s a minor feature but one that I found to be pretty damn cool.
While I thought the ridiculous “Saints” group of leather-clad S&M nun assassins would ruin the game’s atmosphere, it actually enhanced it. I started playing this game expecting the same old (which isn’t bad BTW) Hitman of yesteryear with it’s dark bizarre but plausible story with just a sprinkle of sci-fi. But I ended up with what felt like I was in the middle of a Kill-Bill / Jason Bourne crossover movie.Once you see an S&M nun fire an RPG at you, any small inconsistencies in the game (like the fact that the gun shop only carries Mossberg 590 shotguns, full auto M4’s and H&K UMP’s) seem insignificant.
Overall Rating * * * *
The game is an improvement on the Hitman formula in nearly every way conceivable. It has a ton more optional replayability than previous titles and the inclusion of the Contracts mode pushes this even further. I didn’t like how a previously emotionless character (Agent 47) all of the sudden grew a conscience, but it didn’t detract from the overall story too much. The shooting controls are good with a gamepad but great with a mouse and keyboard. (I played this on PC). While some might be easily offended by the caricatures of Americana featured in the game, I find that they fit the grim dark humor of the title perfectly.