Hitman: Absolution Review
Various apt descriptive terms could be applied to Hitman: Absolution : Gritty, atmospheric, visceral, edgy, and intense, just to name a few. The mechanics and AI are flawed to a certain extent but in general, you find the adventure drawing you in, keeping you riveted, and rewarding your effort with a palpable feeling of satisfaction and even triumph. The story is a little off and sometimes the grittiness trips over the line into just plain disgusting but in general, the new Hitman succeeds on the strength of its vivacity and punch.
The developers have clearly worked very hard to implement a series of hard-hitting locales and areas, because you’re typically glancing around, drinking in your surroundings and choking on the accumulated crud in your throat. That’s the point, of course. From drug dens to bars to mine shafts and just about everything in between, we dive into a nasty yet memorable underworld. The detailing isn’t too spectacular – there’s a starkness and blandness that I find disconcerting – and some of the effects are a little drab, but the muck, murk, and slime of humanity make for a fitting and oddly alluring visual presentation. Just so dark on a number of levels.
Thanks to a fantastic voice cast and a great set of audio effects, Absolution understands the necessity of effective sound. In addition to the aforementioned immersive environment, a well put-together soundtrack and a horde of ambient effects gives each area its very own – and palpable – feel. There’s some balancing issues between the music, effects and voices but that’s minor, and the combined impact on the player is more than satisfactory. It’s not technically perfect but much like the graphics, the audio does the job. We are in a very unpleasant universe and yet, we’re sorta lovin’ it, you know? It's just so captivating.
From the start, one senses the obvious stark contrast between Agent 47’s button-down slickness and style, and the horrendous filth with which he must deal. It’s not just his targets that are slimy and terribly repulsive in every possible way; just about everyone that is against Agent 47 is some sort of horrible creature. That right there is what makes for an interesting clash: The well-dressed, almost dapper assassin versus the lurching, drooling hordes of humans that barely classify as such. As time goes on, you begin to accept that the protagonist is simply a superior being.
And that’s precisely the kind of hero I want to see in my fantastical interactive games. I’m tired of the anti-hero, the conflicted guy with a dark past, the heroic or the virtuous or the charismatically boastful; Agent 47 doesn’t apologize for anything and when he’s branded as a traitor, he goes about the process of survival and revenge with the same cold, business-like attitude. The main bad dude, a depraved, amoral pig of a man named Blake Dexter, surrounded by his minions of sh**, is almost too over-the-top, to the point where they sometimes become caricatures of themselves.
But I like that. If you’re going to go all the way, do so and don’t hold back. Yeah, those Saints are here (the sexy nuns in that controversial trailer) and they want you dead because a lot of people want you dead. But if you think scantily clad women with very large guns are all you have to worry about, think again. And the best part is that fans of previous entries will indeed feel right at home, which is the second most important thing next to that compelling atmosphere. You start a mission with a particular objective and there are various ways of going about achieving that objective. This sort of freedom encourages you to experiment…
There are items and objects all over the place that could prove useful. If you have no interest in hiding and sneaking, there are gas tanks that go boom. If you’d rather embrace the role of a true shadowy assassin, there are bricks to throw to create distractions and even uniforms to wear to walk about without fear of exposure. Looking around for useful tools is part of the fun, and it’s usually beneficial to hang back and scope things out before proceeding. Depending on the size and design of the level in question, you often have to approach different objectives in different ways, and I appreciate that. I'm sure others will as well.
The control is mostly stable and reliable, although there are times when I wished it was a touch more responsive. I also wish the game wasn’t quite as forgiving as it is; in a stealth-oriented game, I’d want mistakes to be punished. In other words, if I’m discovered I want to be faced with a particularly hairy situation, one from which I may not emerge alive. But Agent 47 is a pretty big bad-ass and he doesn’t die easily. Besides, you can haul around a significant arsenal and as such, the game can be played as a third-person shooter if you so desire. The good news, however, is that this really isn’t advisable.
On the downside, your enemies simply aren’t very bright and sometimes you feel as if things are just totally unfair. These dudes are all brain-dead and I’m this super-skilled super-cool, super assassin…hence, I have no fear. That’s great and all and as I said above, I love me a really awesome hero, but AI that easily loses track of you detracts from the fun. It’s a little funny to see your freaked-out foes unloading on your previous position, even though it must’ve been painfully obvious that you’ve moved. However, if things get down and dirty, you can always resort to melee or point shots; the latter gives us some slo-mo goodness that’s just too appealing.
I’m not the biggest fan of the melee system and collision detection appeared to be an issue during some hectic gunfights but overall, this is a well-designed and mostly accessible set of mechanics. Sneaking, taking cover, aiming and firing; it all works quite nicely throughout, with only a few minor hiccups. As for the campaign length, you can expect 8-10 hours depending on your gameplay preference, and there are a few extras to enjoy. But perhaps the best way of elongating your Hitman experience is to participate in the Contract creation. This adds a twist on standard multiplayer or co-op styles and encourages imagination.
Hitman: Absolution may err too often on the side of extra gritty, and the lackluster AI and merely average story make the adventure less stimulating than it could’ve been. But the stealth is here; you are rewarded for being patient, timely and tactful. The set pieces are fantastic, the audio features some of the best highlights you’ll hear this year, and there’s plenty of player choice/freedom available in most missions. The difficulty is just about right (even though Agent 47 is a little too resilient, in my opinion) and fans of the series should be happy. Making and sharing Contracts is another big bonus, so you might want to add this to your holiday wish list.
The Good: Excellent in-your-face atmosphere. Great effects and voices. The stealthy will be rewarded. Agent 47 is a bona fide bad-ass. Solid control. Contracts add unique longevity.
The Bad: AI is definitely lacking. Story isn’t all that impressive. Not as punishing as some stealth-based titles.
The Ugly: “Dude…what are you shooting at?”
what difficulty did you play on Ben? easy/ normal is pretty forgiving, but throw it on the last two difficulties, its a different game. that's why I haven't played for long on them, lol... I like to play through the first time on easy then go back on a harder level.
I mostly agree with your review but one thing is the score you gave for graphics, there's times where the graphical tones blew me away, from NYE to the weapons plant, there were some amazing moments.
There is something to be said for being dressed as a 6ft Chipmonk armed with piano wire and a sniper rifle 🙂
We're having a great time on contracts, just so easy to create and such fun to play. For anyone having an issue with it not being blood money, this is where they should be spending their time!
Anyway, good review for a great game...
I'm curious what difficulty level you played on as well, Ben. I generally play games on the hardest difficulty available the first go-round, and I was excited to go at this in Purist mode, but I ended up lowering it to Expert, which was only barely enough for me to make it thru without seemingly constantly screwing up. One could obviously chalk this up to my lack of skill, but I usually excel at stealth games, and especially 'Hitman' titles at that.
I'm also glad that you didn't come down hard on the more over-the-top elements of the story like some other reviewers have. It's actually kind of ironic, because I distinctly recall some people complaining that 'Blood Money' was missing some of those totally over-the-top moments from previous 'Hitman' games. And I found 'Absolution' to be mostly dark and serious, just with those bordering-on-totally-comical moments liberally sprinkled throughout.
Overall, I'm really pleased with your review (even though the majority of reviews so far have been positive to very positive, a few have given 'Absolution' rather terrible scores). I will say that I've only encountered one instance of particularly bad AI in my playthru (throwing things over and over again to get somebody's attention, and continually failing until I've practically thrown the item AT the person I'm trying to distract), but I've seen the various problems on videos of other people's playthrus, so it's not like I don't believe the problems are there.
Also, I wish there was more in-depth information about Contracts mode, which I don't intend to start until I think I'm properly familiarized with virtually every aspect of the main game, but it sounds rather interesting and I'm keen to design my own hits.
Anyway, great review (especially of the game's atmosphere).
Well that's a better score than I expected. I had high hopes for the game so this is good news. In all honesty I was expecting a high 7 to a solid 8.
But I have to wait before purchasing anymore games for awhile. My next purchase will probably be DS3, mainly because my backlog has grown recently with black Friday and other deals I took advantage of. But this may be a purchase down the road.
It also sounds like those who bought it are enjoying it, so that's a huge plus. I take consumer advice (those I trust) more than anything so...
Black Friday was great!
Picked up the following
PS3 Holiday Bundle - $199 (For kids Christmas gift)
XCOM - $25
Darksiders - $10
Max Payne 3 - $20
Happy with my purchases just have to find time for the backlog. I will be relieved when I prestige on BOII. I am at level 45 so 11 more levels to go and I can move on to Far Cry 3!
I like the idea of a super-gritty atmosphere for a game like this. Seems like IO adapted the idea from Kane and Lynch, yeah? Sounds like a pretty good game, and I'm sure that I'll be able to get past the flaws you mention, but there's one thing that takes me by surprise: the length. For some reason, I was expecting it to be considerably longer. 8-10 hours is fine, and I'm sure that it'll be bumped up if you really want to experiment and take your time to get the absolute most out of the game, but it still seems... kinda short. I was expecting like... 15 hours, minimum. *shrugs*
I think that the story aspects, as listed above, are just more appealing to me than those of Dishonored, so yeah, I'll spring for this one when I'm able.
This isn't a dig at Ben's review but I give it a 9. I really enjoyed it and started a second playthrough as soon as I finished my first.
The AI is definitely less forgiving in harder difficulties so if you enjoy the challenge then play on expert during your first go.
This review is pretty much on the mark but don't think that it makes it a bargain bin wait.
Last edited by FxTales on 11/24/2012 10:34:26 PM
Please tell me that I'm reading you wrong, but are you implying that a score of 8.4 is deserving of waiting for the bargain bin? o.0
I mean, the wording of the review certainly disregards such an idea, as it makes clear that this is, for the most part, a high quality game.
Every true 8.4 game is worth the full price if you got the cash and it is within your preferred genres. End of story.
That said, no game sours by waiting a few months and get it even cheaper. 🙂