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Hitman: Absolution – welcome to the city of sin

Saturday, 24 November 2012 01:48 GMT By Stace Harman

Stace Harman accompanies Agent 47 on his journey of personal torment and professional betrayal to find out what new tricks the old dog has up his impeccably tailored sleeve.

Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution marks the fifth title in the Hitman series since 2000 and the first since 2006’s Hitman: Blood Money.

Creativity is the name of the game with multiple ways to take out a mark; some levels feature over a dozen ways to eliminate the target and entice replay with rewards for achieving each method.

IO’s new Glacier 2 engine makes it hard to believe that both Hitman: Blood Money and Hitman: Absolution belong to the same console generation.

Long known for its dark humour, IO Interactive has gone out of its way to include numerous Easter Eggs based on previous Hitman titles, as well as many of Sqaure Enix’s other titles. Of particular note is the appearance of a hard-bitten, dysfunctional duo that shows up in South Dakota.

Patience is a virtue. Veteran Hitman players will be familiar with this sentiment. Watching, waiting, planning; for the majority of Hitman: Absolution’s score of levels, patience is the most powerful tool in an assassin’s arsenal. Over the course its 20-hour campaign, patience is a necessity.

If you want to avoid every level turning into a bloodbath, I can offer no better advice for your first play through of Hitman: Absolution than to take your time. Take a few moments to walk around each level and note the locations and behaviour of NPCs, be aware of off-limits areas and pay particular attention to accidents waiting to happen. Then, and only then, begin to plan your approach, comfortable in the knowledge that should it all go wrong, 47 can, for the most part, handle himself in a shoot-out.

In Hitman: Absolution, exercising such patience nets rewards. Some of these are tangible, such as the passive perks that Agent 47 receives for a job well done, but the greatest reward is the intangible sense of satisfaction when everything plays out just the way you planned it. There’s a great degree of sadistic glee to be gleaned from engineering Hitman’s trademark and often humorous signature kills. The cogs turn, the dominoes tumble and some poor schmuck falls foul of meticulous planning, masterful execution and a firework-fuelled fatality. Moreover, exercising patience is sometimes the only way to avoid frustration, especially if you’re to tackle 47’s story on anything higher than normal difficulty.

Mad world
IO has built a sumptuous world that reaches from the grimy lows of skulking through Chicago’s sewer system to the dizzy highs of being perched precariously on a window ledge in sun-baked South Dakota. It is a world built on IO’s powerful Glacier 2 engine and is based on a set of strict rules; it’s these rules that provide the basis for Absolution’s triumphs and frustrations.

For the most part, Hitman’s rules are consistent: the din of gunshots or a head-on melee assault will be investigated by NPCs in the local area, while thrown objects will prompt a search for the source of the noise. Don a disguise and you’ll gain access to areas through which 47’s iconic, tailor-made suit would mark him as a trespasser. Stray too close to those with whom you are trying to blend in and they’ll become suspicious and challenge your right to be there.

Using these rules to 47’s advantage you can engineer the memorable hits of an assortment of colourful characters, some of which don’t necessarily deserve their grisly end, but business is business and collateral damage is often inevitable. A note of caution is necessary, however: it’s these same rules that can run counter to logical assumptions and result in multiple retries.

Despite a more localised approach to inquisitive AI than that seen in previous Hitman games, there are some levels where creating a disturbance effectively results in having to start over. With some imbalanced, hard to find check-points, this can lead to frustration. If just one or two isolated people perceive your actions to be nefarious, they can be dealt with discreetly and disposed of efficiently. However, if you get rumbled in one of Absolution’s impressively busy crowd scenes then civilians will panic, armed NPCs will flock to your position and back-up will likely arrive before you can silence every aggressive red-dot on your mini-map.

This would much more palatable were it not for the fact that, right from the off, Absolution drills into you the importance of being mindful of your surroundings but can be guilty of failing to do the same. Thus, you can be spotted by eagle-eyed chefs during bustling Chinese New Year celebrations or heard throwing a punch over thumping night club music. Consistency is important in video games, but sometimes its rigid enforcement needs to make way for narrative-directed logic lest it leave you feeling that you’re fighting against the game’s own mechanics.

Here’s Sam trying for a Silent Assassin
rating on the first three levels of the game.

The answer to these frustrations can sometimes be found in one of Hitman’s most controversial features: Instinct mode. As with Assassin’s Creed and the Arkham titles, Agent 47 is gifted the ability to see through walls, highlight objects that can be interacted with and identify aggressors, targets and NPCs of note. Using Instinct mode, it’s less likely that you’ll be spotted by unseen nosey-parkers, but in some instances it feels like Instinct mode has been used as a design crutch, rather than an optional tool. However, it’s preferable to having to dip in and out of a map screen every few minutes, as has been the requirement in previous Hitman titles. For Hitman purists, Instinct mode can be largely ignored. Case in point: end-of-game stats reveal that 26 minutes of my 21-hour play through were spent using Instinct mode.

What Instinct does facilitate is sufficiently impressive gun fights. Should the best laid plans go to pot or you simply decide to give the grey matter a rest and plump for a brute force approach, the Instinct-powered Point-Shooting allows the swift dispatch of a handful of adversaries. It cannot be used indefinitely, but can be a satisfying way of extricating oneself from a bind.

Contractual obligations
When IO announced that Hitman: Absolution would ship with a multiplayer component I was doubtful that it could feel anything other than tacked-on. However, Contracts multiplayer mode is an absolute triumph and a smart example of how to create a social component that’s entirely in keeping with the single-player experience. Creating custom assignments by playing a level to set targets, conditions and score multipliers is much more intuitive than fiddling with a map editor. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the community comes up with when the servers go live on Tuesday and Contracts will undoubtedly keep me dipping back into Absolution long after I’ve completed all of its single-player challenges.

And here’s Sam doing the opposite:
kicking up a ruckus in a bar room brawl.

Overall, Hitman: Absolution is an empowering and satisfying experience. Despite the adrenaline-fuelled game play trailers, its biggest rewards come as a result of quiet contemplation and a degree of trial and error. Many of its individual levels stand out as some of the best of the series, with multiple paths, emergent game play and the trademark Hitman design of dynamic-action wrapped around a fiendish puzzle.

The individual character performances don’t quite convey the intended impact of its overarching narrative but while 47’s personal turmoil isn’t fully explored, the script is both funny and dour. Hitman: Absolution will reward fans of the series and new players alike but most of all it will reward patience. Bear this in mind as you welcome back Agent 47 and you’ll truly revel in IO’s dark tale of redemptive violence.

Hitman: Absolution is out now on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

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9 Comments

  1. XaosWolf

    Great game marred by a few things:
    - Finicky-but-essential Disguise/Instinct systems.
    - Silent Assassin rating often dependent on challenges/score multipliers.
    - This particular storyline keeps it from being a more “traditional” Hitman game.

    The Disguise system can be ironed out by the next one though, no doubt.

    Glacier 2 and Contracts Mode can stay for sure. =)

    #1 2 years ago
  2. YoungZer0

    They ruined the game for me, with the checkpoint system. This keeps it from being the best in the series.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Sini

    I’m on mission 3, awesome game, edged out dishonored which I kinda got bored at mission 7 it’s still installed but meh.
    Expert/Purist or GTFO

    #3 2 years ago
  4. K-V-C

    yea i got yesterday love it but what were they thinking with the checkpoint system lol !!! but its still a must get if anyone loves stealth :)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Moonwalker1982

    I don’t mind the checkpoint system, cause i like to experiment in these games. But that enemies respawn when you reload checkpoints is a bit stupid. What i don’t like is how the levels aren’t as open as they used to be. You enter a certain door in some levels and you can’t go back. So i gotta get used to that.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    @5: Yeah, the missions are cut into parts. Whatever you do, no matter how much you screwed up, do not reload the level. It will literally reload the whole level. So when you screw up between the checkpoints, you’re done.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Stace Harman

    Sounds like you folks are having much the same experience that I’ve had. For the most part, I really enoyed it and am now on a second play through, which always suggets good things.

    Love Contracts, any PC players hit me up on Steam in order to share levels; just search for Stace Harman (handle: game over) and send me your custom hits.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Moonwalker1982

    @6

    You mean because all the enemies are back? Well i can see myself having to restart over plenty. But since levels are cut into parts, it shouldn’t matter that much right? I’m going for Silent Assassin mostly anyway, not gonna knock down people when its it nessecary etc.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. YoungZer0

    @8: But the missions that do allow to save via checkpoints respawn enemies. The orphanage level for example. Cleared the 2nd floor, walked down, used the checkpoint, got back up all of them respawned.

    #9 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video gives you a look at the game’s wildlife

    A new video shown by Final Fantasy 15 director Hajime Tabata during the latest Active Time Report, contains a look at the game’s wildlife and ecology. You can watch the full stream two hour stream through here, or a smaller clip courtesy of GamesHQMedia below.

  • Lionhead ventures into the free-to-play space with Fable Legends

    Fable Legends will be free-to-play when it launches on PC and Xbox One. According to Lionhead, the one versus four cross-platform title borrows from MOBA games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends as it will contain free, rotating heroes which will be added to a roster for a two week period. Once the […]

  • Win! 5 pairs of tickets to the Call of Duty European Championships

    We have five pairs of tickets to giveaway for the Call of Duty European Championships, taking place in London this weekend. The event takes place this Saturday February 28 and Sunday March 1 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Winners can watch teams will go head to head for a $10,000 prize pot […]

  • Republique Remastered has released on Mac and PC

    Republique Remastered, which was announced earlier this month, is now available for Mac and PC. The game is 20% off through Steam, GOG and the Humble Store for $19.99 until March 4. Thereafter, it will run you $24.99. The Remastered edition contains all five episodes of the game, with 1-3 available now and the remaining […]

  • LA Cops coming to Xbox One in March

    Isometric shooter LA Cops is coming to Xbox One on March 13. Already on Steam Early Access, the game looks like it’s been heavily inspired by Hotline Miami. Walk into a room, open fire, leave bloody puddles in your wake. It’s being published by Team 17. Check out the video below for some 70s cop […]

  • We have $500 of Steam Wallet funds to giveaway!

    We’re giving away 10 Steam Wallet prizes worth $50 each to VG247 readers, courtesy of Bundle Stars. All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning $50 Steam credit is to enter your details below. Join the Bundle Stars Steam group for entry in the sweepstake, and gain extra entries for […]

  • Lapsed Final Fantasy 14 players tempted back with 10 day freebie

    Square is offering lapsed FF 14: A Realm Reborn players a chance to come back to the game for 10 days worth of free adventuring. Provided you’ve already bought and registered an account you’ll be able to play free of charge from Feb 27 to March 9. Square wants you to sample the new content […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Sledgehammer looking at “opportunities” to recreate classic Call of Duty maps

    Sledgehammer Games has told VG247 it’s looking at opportunities to recreate classic Call of Duty maps in Advanced Warfare. According to co-founder Michael Condrey, players of the latest Havoc DLC are asking how Exo abilities and verticality can be added to classic franchise maps. “We’re taking a look at some opportunities to really highlight the […]

  • GTA Online reader playlist week 7: and the winner is…

    Stuff was shot. But only one player emerged victorious. GTA Online player e031271 won last night’s VG247 reader playlist, beating myself, Matt and regulars solidorwot and Revolting. Congratulations, Mr e031271. A deserved victory. We play a GTA Online playlist in an open session every Wednesday on PS4, because it’s both funny and fun. Anyone’s welcome […]

  • Leaked screens reveal The Reef as Destiny’s new “social space”

    A handful of leaked Destiny screens seem to confirm that The Reef location will be the new social space in Destiny. The new addition is likely to be revealed as part of the upcoming House of Wolves expansion. Reddit user Megamanexe4 dropped the screens on the site earlier this morning, along with grabs that reveal […]

  • Darksiders creator teases Battle Chasers game

    Joe Madureira, creator of Darksiders, has released art that strongly suggests a Battle Chasers game is in the works. Battle Chasers was a comic book from the late 1990s that suffered notorious production problems between issues and was never finished. Madureira formed Airship Syndicate after the collapse of THQ, where he co-created Darksiders. His latest […]

  • Infamous video nasty Axe recreated in GTA 5

    The trailer for notorious horror movie Axe has been recreated in GTA 5. The shot for shot remake is the work of gigerbrick who has previously recreated exploitation flicks like Machete and Hostel using Lego. The original Axe movie was banned in 1984 in the UK but passed with cuts in the late 1990s. Movie […]

  • Payday 2 for PS4 and Xbox One includes “a year’s worth of paid DLC” for free

    Payday 2: Crimewave Edition will include a year’s worth of paid DLC from the PC version of the game for free. The new-gen version of the game will be available June 2015, and includes almost all of the paid and free DLC released so far for Overkill’s popular first-person shooter. That DLC includes The Big […]

  • Yes, Mortal Kombat X will require Xbox Live Gold or PS Plus

    Mortal Kombat X won’t bypass Microsoft and Sony’s premium online play requirements. Reports that Mortal Kombat X wouldn’t require PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold started circling earlier this week thanks to a communications error. Answering fan questions on Twitter, producer Shaun Himmerick accidentally gave the impression that premium console subs would not be required […]

  • This is what Destiny players most want next

    Destiny patch 1.1.1 has resolved or at least addressed a number of complaints voiced by the community, but there are plenty more. des Destiny community manage David “Deej” Dague has put out a call for Guardians to share their concerns – or rather, what they think the community is most concerned about. “Set aside your […]

  • Google AI can play games now, so we’re probably all going to die

    Google has brought us one step closer to our inevitable slaughter or enslavement by machine overlords. Google has developed an AI that can learn to play video games and devise brand new strategies. Let me just rephrase that: Google has created an AI that can teach itself new skills, including how to play video games. […]

  • First footage of Renowned Explorers: International Society surfaces

    Renowned Explorers: International Society is a turn-based strategy game from the team behind Reus, and it looks great. Renowned Explorers was announced almost a full year ago, but has been pretty quiet since then. Developer Abbey games has now announced that the game has hit alpha, and will be open to select testers soon. You […]

  • Cities: Skylines developer commits to mod support

    Cities: Skylines will fully support the modding community. Hailing from famously mod-friendly publisher Paradox, Cities: Skylines is a no-brainer for mod support – especially as a lack of mod support is one of the things SimCity was so heavily criticised for when it firts launched. In the developer diary below, Paradox’s Jakob Munthe is joined […]

  • Nosgoth update adds Vanguard, many fixes

    Nosgoth, the free-to-play multiplayer brawler set in the Legacy of Kain universe, has been given a significant makeover. The major feature of the latest Nosogth game update is a new playable human character called the Vanguard. “Equipped with mighty throwing axes and a shield, the Vanguard can take more punishment than any human class that […]

  • Xbox Live Gold 12 month sub $40 on Microsoft store

    Microsoft is offering $20 off 12 month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions at the moment. An Xbox Live Gold 12 month subscription will normally set you back $60, but a Microsoft Store promotion has it on offer for $40. The offer is restricted to the US store. Although you can opt to grab your sub as […]

  • Tomb Raider movie script to be penned by TMNT writer

    Tomb Raider will be Evan Daugherty’s second reboot of an established universe. The Tomb Raider movie reboot has signed on a writer and a distributor. Deadline reports Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Divergent, Snow White And The Huntsman and G.I. Joe 3 writer Daugherty will write the film. Additionally, Warner Bros. has signed on to distribute, […]

  • Shelter 2 pre-orders open, launch trailer debuts early

    Shelter 2 is a game in which you are a mother lynx and must protect a den of kittens. Yes, it’s delightful. Shelter 2 is coming to Mac and PC on March 9. Pre-orders are now available on Steam at 10% off or on GOG.com with a free skin and soundtrack, or 20% off if […]

  • That Batman: Arkham Knight trailer is full of codes

    Batman: Arkham Knight’s trailer is like a Transformer – there’s more than meets the eye. The new Batman: Arkham Knight trailer contains a number of codes. Eagle-eyed users have spotted four so far, and work on cracking their meaning is progressing. According to an /r/games thread rounding up results so far, the codes pertain to […]

  • Assassin’s Creed haystacks won’t save you from a fall

    Assassin’s Creed fans, don’t try this at home. Assassin’s Creed characters can survive falls of almost any distance as long as they aim for the haystacks scattered handily throughout the environment. As you probably deduced from your familiarity with common sense, this isn’t a real thing: falling from heights kills you, the same way a […]

  • Why are people buying PS4 and not Xbox One?

    PS4 is outselling Xbox One – but why? A new report may have the answer. Last month, the PS4 outsold the Xbox One in the US again, returning it to the top of the charts after just two months away. Why? What has caused this reversal in fortunes in Microsoft’s home territory? According to a […]