Hitman Absolution (Xbox 360 Review)
The Hitman series has always been a thing of beauty. It was a dark yet suave adventure into a rather grey area of assassination. You were never a hero or anti-hero, instead you were a hardened killing machine working under the instruction of a faceless organisation. As the story progressed everything was not quite what it seemed and Hitman eventually became disillusioned with his handlers.
Although the story has always been present in Hitman, the new title Hitman: Absolution has a much stronger narrative focus than ever before in the series. They even put a face to a name by revealing Diana’s face and identity. From there the story goes downhill, fast. But this isn’t the only controversial situation Hitman has found itself in for the past year. If you cast your mind back to the “nuns” incident you will soon realise that the series just wants a bit of attention, be it from the naysayers or those offended by it’s actions and advertisements. I was one to defend the series; it had always had a load of risqu? quirks within the missions, whether it was finding your enemy in a BDSM club where porn films were probably shot, Let us look at the most popular hdpornvideo XXX vids for examples to fill in any blanks or similar odd situations that can be seen as controversial. So naturally I was the first to run to Agent 47’s aid. Now I am not so sure.
After more than a day worth of playtime logged in to the game I can’t stand to look it in the eye. Hitman Absolution is plagued by glitches and ludicrously dim AI. There is a well known glitch that both crashes your xbox and corrupts your save. Square Enix assure everyone that a bug fix update is due in mid December but for me the game has already been ruined. Three attempts later and I am still no further in the story than I was the first time around. This game is clearly a lot more sexually charged than previous iterations. Personally, I don’t understand why people like having sexual elements in their video games. Yes, the virtual reality sex machines I have seen from various websites look amazing but that is a completely different ball game to Hitman.
Hitman Absolution does a lot to change the gameplay of it’s predecessors while trying to maintain a classic difficulty and a familiar feel. The Silent Assassin rankings still remain but there is very little to them. Even if you don’t succeed the first time the challenges you completed the first time round add a score multiplier to your mission. Even that small percentile can boost the most average of gamers in the scoreboard and give them the Silent Assassin rank they hoped for. There was also the addition of “Instinct” mode, which for me is a game breaking and unneeded addition to the series. Instinct plays out like a poor man’s Batvision, but encapsulates a lot more information than needed. While in instinct mode everything is exposed to you in yellow if it is worth your time. That means character movement patterns, weapons, hiding places and even body disposal areas. It defeats the purpose of everything the game stands for. Hitman was about recognising patterns and exploiting them. A major part of that experience is lost when you are handed some kick ass shades that let you see everything. Levels in turn feel a lot smaller as you don’t spend as much time exploring every facet to ensure you’ve found the best possible route through the level to avoid detection. Now you know. The challenge is gone.
Even while trying to refrain from using the instincts mode the game puts you in situations where it is needed. There is no way you can walk past specifically placed groups of enemies without it. The only sense of challenge left in the game is the challenges themselves. These so called challenges are boringly generic and play out like a weak scavenger hunt. Find this weapon, find this evidence and find that outfit. That’s it for the most part. The other challenges are a laundry list of different ways to kill a guy. The issue with the challenges are, for the most part, that they are there. I always set myself a challenge in the Hitman games. Getting a silent assassin rank was something special if you didn’t know how. But with a list of ways to kill the marks and a score multiplier there is no challenges. By simply looking at the list it is pretty obvious which method is the most concise and effective. There a few hidden kills that only give you slight hints but after completing a mission 12 times in a slightly different way you want to just get it over and done with. There is even a point where an in game character addresses the challenge list during a mission and makes a point to say how much fun you will have completing these missions 12 times. No. Just no. It broke the immersion completely.
The large focus on replay value is glaringly obvious. Assets are re-used frequently and even the contracts mode is geared towards making use of what is already there. From what I played I even got to run through the same dreadfully short level at two different points. At first the 5 minute escapade stood as a single mission and the second time I returned not much had changed aside from it being strapped on to the side of another mission. There is only so much you can take and after having to play through the missions a good 12 times already I don’t see contracts mode being a great draw to go back and play again.
The level of difficulty has been dropped significantly for Absolution and it is obvious. There is a momentum change and a new focus for the series. It now panders for a more gun crazed crowd. The level design highlights great parts to sit and shoot people by placing a glowing green neon health cabinet on every corner and a bin to hide in is never further than a stones throw away. It is all a bit too easy. Even if you do choose to play on harder modes or even work your way up to them each time you complete a mission you are rewarded with a new permanent perk for your character. These bonuses once again tone down the difficulty. The only way to experience the game at it’s most difficult possible level is to jump right in at the hardest difficulty, but in doing so it just doesn’t feel fun. Even after completing the missions on a harder difficulty you are once again rewarded with even better perks and score multipliers. There is no way to escape the downwards spiralling difficulty curve. It’s unbelievable how much is laid right out in front of you. It could stand alone as a new series because it’s not the Hitman game we remember. It should have been a new series. Then again “Wandering Murderous Psychopath: Killing on a Whim” just doesn’t make the best game title, does it?
In short there is far too much emphasis on the shooty-bang-bang and just not enough stealth, or at least anything above brain-dead stealth. I did have a bit of fun and I do think maybe my playthrough is tarnished by such a game ruining bug, but I know I am not the only one. For me, the new Hitman is a grievous let down. I never wanted to see it drawn out and bludgeoned in front of an oblivious crowd. I wanted to blend in with the masses and rejoice in the fact that they got away with it. A new Hitman for the new generation. But that isn’t what I really wanted, only what I thought I wanted. In hindsight I would have preferred the HD collection and god knows when that will appear. There is still hope for the series in the blatantly obvious nod at a sequel I pieced together from online videos. But maybe leave it a while or take on board the huge criticisms that have surfaced over the new instalment. Hell I didn’t even get to beat up any sexy nuns.