STAFF REVIEW of Hitman: Absolution (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012.
by Brent Roberts

Hitman: Absolution Box art Blessings my child, please come in. Here in this Sanctuary you will find peace and solace, and you look like you could use both. You have the look of a man who has walked a dark path for many years and has seen how black the night can be. Let me ask you a few questions. How far must one go to save a life? Would you sacrifice all that you hold dear to fulfill the dying wishes of a traitor you once called friend? How do you absolve a soul of so much agonizing pain? Let me tell you a tale, and maybe through this story, you will learn how to not only rejoice in the wonderful, but also confront the demons that haunt you head on. This is the story of a man. A man whose past is filled with darkness and death. This man is called not by a name, but by a number. 47. His life though, like yours, is not without hope of salvation but to do this, one must overcome their demons and only through this will they find their Absolution. It is time my child to hear the tale of Hitman: Absolution

What we see on the surface is but a mask worn by those in the shadows, who seek the success of their own agenda, but they have a problem, they pissed off 47. A byproduct of genetic science and a need for the ultimate weapon, you could say that 47 became a global problem solver under control from the Agency. Oh how things are about to change. Betrayed by those who he called friend, 47 uncovers some questions behind the motives of his employers and when no one wants to talk, 47 gets the answer. As silent as a shadow passing through the night, the Hitman series has seen a long and devoted following by bringing to life a character that fills our gaming desire for brutal action, suave one liners, and the most stain resistant suit ever seen in a video game. Being the 5th Hitman game on consoles, I/O Interactive and Square Enix have gone to great lengths to bring about new innovations to Hitman: Absolution.

The premise of Hitman: Absolution is fairly straight forward. 47 will navigate various enclosed levels and attempts to find his target and determine the best way to fulfill the contract. These levels offer gamers multiple styles of play which in conjunction with the level challenges equate to a very high replay value. One of the new innovations that you will find in Hitman: Absolution is the inclusion of a new instinct meter that allows you to, highlight targets and places of interest, foresee enemy movement, and blend in amongst enemies while in disguise and more. There are multiple things you can do to replenish instinct, such as: completing objectives, silently or creatively take down opponents, hiding bodies and more. While some of the devoted following the Hitman series may see this as a negative, I/O and Square have gone to great lengths to make sure that the core gameplay stays as close to the center as we have come to expect from games in the past. Being efficient, not dramatic is the name of the game and being quiet and stealthy will prove more beneficial to you than choosing to be loud and the center of attention.

The gameplay mechanics of Hitman: Absolution allows you to showcase some incredibly brutal forms of problem solving. Small QuickTime events allow you to watch 47 beat the ever loving crap out of someone, then with a push of a button, hide the evidence. When you have decided that someone is worth a bullet, you can call upon your instinct to allow you to go into Point Shooting mode and tag your enemy(ies) and with the press of a button, unleash a swift, but deadly barrage of bullets. This will undoubtedly announce your presence, but if you must kill everyone to remain silent, then so be it.

Showcasing for the first time in Hitman: Absolution is the brand new Contracts mode. In this mode you pick your level, target, method of death, clothes you must wear and more. Think of this like a game of HORSE where you get rewarded more for challenging contracts and extravagant deaths. Contracts mode also allows your friends to create contracts to send to you. This new version of multiplayer does allow you some variant of current mission maps, but in the end does very little to actually engage multiple people on a map at the same time and that’s a shame because other games have managed to do this well and this mode seems to be missing out on even greater potential.

To say that Hitman: Absolution is a beautiful game is an insult. I/O Interactive has worked harder than ever to bring 47's world to life like we have never seen before. Beautiful lighting effects abound through the 20 levels and the character modeling and interactions have catapulted into levels never before seen on any Hitman game period. While you are taking in the beauty visually, you will be surprised by the high quality audio of Hitman: Absolution. While the voice over acting is good at times, the real beauty is when you get into the busy crowds and you hear all the commotion going on around you. Having subtitles turned on is a plus as you may miss hearing information about some secret in the area, or information on your next target. This is exactly what Hitman fans have been waiting patiently for and thankfully I/O Interactive and Square Enix have done a job beyond any we could hope for as gamers.

So far Hitman: Absolution seems to have the makings of a fantastic game, but there are a few things though that ties 47's hands behind his back. The first thing that stands out is the story itself. As you progress through the various stages you'll find the story try very hard to become many different things. It's like the old saying goes: "A jack of all trades is a master of none." This is a great way to sum up the story quality of Hitman: Absolution. The plot tries very hard in multiple areas but ultimately in the end we are left with some pretty good attempts, instead of one amazing story. You read earlier about the new instinct system and that too is something that purists of the series may not take to so nicely. By allowing you to "blend in" with a push of a button, it takes away some of the challenge and the decisive actions that had to be made in the previous games. Another small gripe is the placement of checkpoints. Out of place is a good description for most while some would seem obscenely pointless as they are surrounded by many enemies. These checkpoints though can make the difference between a slight frustration and full on fury inspiring gameplay because if they are not activated and you have to restart, it's going to be from the beginning of the level.

Hitman: Absolution does deliver a solid experience despite a few setbacks and fans of the previous games should look beyond the faults and changes to find a quality gameplay experience that is truly entertaining. So there you have it my child, the story of a man and his life. While there were demons that he had to fight, he did fight and through his success we have Hitman: Absolution. Go now my child. You know what path you must walk and you know what you must overcome along the way. It is time for your own soul to have its own Absolution.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 8.8 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.4 / 10


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