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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

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    A Battletoads remake must be on the horizon. Right? Right?? The Battletoads will appear in the upcoming Xbox One version of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games revealed today. The Battletoads drop in for a fight! Shovel Knight is headed to Xbox One and meets up with @RareLtd brawling trio! pic.twitter.com/OCQIuWbH3W — Yacht Club Games (@YachtClubGames) […]

  • The Division pre-alpha footage leaks, Ubisoft says it’s well out of date

    The Division fans finally got a look at Ubisoft’s MMO this week, but the publisher has said the footage is not in any way representative. Pre-alpha footage of the The Division was leaked this week, but has since been thoroughly smacked down by takedown notices. All that remains are a few screenshots and a GIF: […]

  • Microsoft HoloLens designer killed in hit and run accident

    Very sad news out of Redmond this week, as Mike Ey was killed in a tragic accident. Ey, 30, was one of the key project designers on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. He was killed on Saturday morning in a rear-end collision. The driver of the second vehicle fled the scene but was tracked down by […]

  • AMD throws support behind VR with new low-latency anti-nausea tech

    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]

  • Microsoft offers up more details on Spencer’s GDC 2015 talk

    Microsoft has provided more details on Cross-Buy functionality between Windows 10 and Xbox One as well as the Xbox Live SKU and other announcements made during Phil Spencer’s talk today. During the session, the head of Xbox shared “the next step” in the company’s plans for a unified platform across all Windows 10 devices which […]

  • Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 this summer

    Wasteland 2 is coming to PlayStation 4 as a Game of the Year Edition. inXile Entertainment announced the news on the PS Blog, noting the edition contains enhancements and improvements. The game has been ported to Unity 5, which was announced over the weekend, providing upgraded visual effects, “improved character models, upgraded environments, and Unity […]

  • Cross-Buy detailed for Windows 10 and Xbox One; Elite: Dangerous coming to Xbox One

    During Xbox boss Phil Spencer’s session at GDC 2015 today, it was announced Elite: Dangerous would release on Xbox One. Spencer also outlined cross-buy functionality across Windows 10 and Xbox One. Spencer’s talk started off with Frontier Developments announcing Elite: Dangerous for release this summer as a console debut on Xbox One, suggesting the Elite: […]

  • Longbeards Culture Pack available now for Total War: Attila

    The Longbeards Culture Pack is now available for Total War: Attila and it comes with three new playable factions. The Langobards, the Burgundians and the Alamans can be played in both single and multiplayer campaign modes as well as custom and multiplayer battles. A new feature called The Lay of Ybor is also included. It […]

  • Nvidia unveils Titan X as world’s “most advanced GPU” – video

    Nvidia revealed Titan X as “the world’s most advanced GPU” during Epic founder Tim Sweeney’s State of Unreal session a t GDC 2015 today. Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang took the stage during the panel stating it contains “8 billion transistors,” and has 12GB of RAM. Pricing wasn’t announced, but it was rumored back in January […]

  • Steam sale discounts titles announced for SteamOS

    With many of the year’s most popular games heading to SteamOS, Valve has decided to host sale in celebration. Here’s a short list of titles on sale. The full list of PC, Linux, Mac and SteamOS discounts can be found through the link. The Banner Saga Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Batman: Arkham […]

  • PayDay 2 announced for SteamOS, celebrating with franchise sale

    PayDay 2 is coming to SteamOS, Overkill has announced. Still under development, a release date will be announced at a later date. “Making sure PAYDAY 2 is available on SteamOS felt like a no-brainer,” said Bo Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze in the press release. “With PAYDAY 2: Crimewave Edition coming to the next generation […]

  • Magicka 2 has a release date and a crazy new trailer

    Magicka 2 has a release date for PC and the PlayStation 4, and Paradox Interactive has released a trailer featuring “Vlad’s latest lyrical triumph,” which is his rendition of the Game of Thrones theme. Magicka arrived on PC and PS4 May 26 and the game can be pre-ordered on PC beginning today, with PS4 pre-orders […]

  • Nintendo eShop schedule: Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone, others

    Nintendo has sent over a list of titles heading to the eShop in 2015. The schedule contains titles such as Affordable Space Adventures, Runbow, Swords & Soldiers 2, Don’t Starve: Giant Edition, Never Alone and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. Below a preliminary list of games scheduled to launch in the Nintendo eShop on […]

  • Week 8: Can you win the weekly VG247 GTA Online playlist? Play tonight at 8pm UK time!

    We’re hotdogging tonight. I don’t even know what that means. Eight weeks of ridiculous death. Such a brave, true milestone. We’re going to celebrate two entire months of playing weekly GTA Online playlists with VG247 readers with Hotdogging, a set of six jobs I named completely at random. This one ends with a straight-up border […]

  • Puzzle platformer Four Sided Fantasy coming to PC, consoles in early 2016

    Curve Digital and developer Logan Fieth’s studio Ludo Land are bringing puzzle platformer, Four Sided Fantasy, to PC all major consoles in early 2016. Ludo Land are developing the PC version, with Curve Digital handling the console and Vita versions. Four Sided Fantasy tasks players with venturing across “dreamlike levels” by controlling and manipulating the […]

  • Tropico 5 arrives on PS4 in April – video

    A release date for Tropico 5 on PlayStation 4 has been announced. This is the franchise’s first foray onto PlayStation consoles. It arrived in Europe on April 24 and in North America on April 28. A Limited Edition has also been announced, and it includes The Big Cheese DLC and the Bayo Del Olfato sandbox […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain Limited Edition PS4 releasing in Asia

    A limited edition Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain PlayStation 4 system will be released in Asia. The system and its DualShock controller were designed in collaboration with Konami Digital Entertainment and targeted for the Asia region, per Gematsu. It will be released as part of PS4 Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain […]

  • This video shows Sid Meier’s Starships being played on iPad

    Sid Meier’s Starships will be released on iPad alongside Mac and PC, and to give you an idea on how it plays on the tablet, a new video has been released. Watch below as Pete Murray and lead producer Stuart Zissu show off the iPad version. The 4X space-strategy releases on March 12.

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood announced as standalone prequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order

    Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, a standalone prequel to The New Order, will release May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The game takes pace in 1946, and and players take on the role of B.J. Blazkowicz as he embarks on a two-part mission in Bavaria. Part one, Rudi Jäger and the Den of Wolves, […]

  • Observer Mode coming soon to Evolve as a free update

    Observer Mode will be released for Evolve as a free update for all platforms, 2K and Turtle Rock have announced. The community feature was designed to give Evolve players the ability to observe and add commentary as well as livestream, allowing a sixth user to “passively enter a custom game” with the ability to switch […]

  • Dragon Quest Heroes and PS4 top Media Create charts in Japan

    The PlayStation 3 and PS4 skus for Dragon Quest Heroes were the top sellers on the Media Create charts in Japan, moving a combined 594,749 units. Elsewhere on the chart, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D was in third place with 39,751 units moved, and last week’s top seller, God Eater 2: Rage Burst, […]

  • Watch Hideo Kojima answer lots of your burning Phantom Pain questions

    What’s better than learning the official release date of MGS5: The Phantom pain? Hideo Kojima talking more about it, of course! Hideo Kojima has decided to answer a few fan questions about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, to help boost everyone’s hype to insane levels. He talks about the game’s story, his relief […]

  • MGS5: The Phantom Pain Day 1 and Collector’s Edition revealed

    Konami has officially revealed the release date of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain alongside the game’s Day 1 and Collector’s Edition. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will release September 1, worldwide, as previously leaked. It will be available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. The PC Steam […]

  • EU Club Nintendo: Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack back in stock

    Club Nintendo members in Europe can once again pick up The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds soundtrack. For 3000 Stars, members of the program will receive the double-CD soundtrack which features 89 tracks with liner notes from Ryo Nagamatsu and 12 sheet music excerpts. It also comes with 16 Milk Bar Musician pieces. […]