I started this game with a lot of hope, considering my previous problems with Hitman: Blood Money and the horribly uncomfortable controls and while the graphics for Blood Money weren’t bad, they also could have been much better. So, as I loaded Absolution into my console, I held my breath and hoped.
Absolution is to Blood Money what the sun is to the moon. The graphics are spectacularly improved, the controls are both intuitive and easy to learn and the gameplay is superb as well. Add to that a fantastic story and you have to color me impressed as well as blown away.
The story brings us in some time after Blood Money and the first mission is both essential to the story as well as the tutorial of how the new interface and controls work, so I’ll try to be vague on storyline. A male voice is your handler for this mission, you are sent to infiltrate a high-security residence and kill the occupant and appropriate something quite precious while you’re there. Once this precious thing is in your possession, you find yourself in the predicament of having to keep it safe from everyone, including your handler. As a result, our Agent 47 goes rogue and needs to watch his back as well as assure the safety of what he has stolen, which isn’t easy, and you need to somehow find a way to resolve this once and for all.
While Blood Money had issues with looking too dated Absolution, in comparison, is very detailed. The movie sequences are fluid and the environments very nicely done. While not quite as detailed as some other games out this year, this huge improvement overall is the thing I love to see: good games getting better.
The difference in gameplay is so improved; I quickly lost all my trepidation. Just in the first level, you learn how to change clothes to disguise yourself, the limit of said disguises and the different things you can now do in the world around you. For instance, if you find sleeping pills, you can take them and spike someone’s drink. If there’s a radio, you can turn it on as a distraction. There are literally 20 different ways to do things depending on your own playing style, though sneakier is usually the best way. Along with disguises, you can pick up weapons and random items to use to distract or kill enemies. They threw everything but the kitchen sink in there to use, including an Iron. You can also, if you’re patient and attentive, find places to set up “accidents” for people to stumble upon, thereby casting no suspicion on yourself.
The music in the background sets the tone so perfectly, keeping you in a dark, melancholy place where appropriate and keeping you in sneak or action mode when the need arises. I do believe I heard the signature “Ave Maria” in one or two key places.
The game is not only fun to play and leaves you wanting more, it has challenges to be done for each level, which seems to be part of the side-quest extravaganza for this year’s games. Not all challenges can be done in one play through, so if you’re a completion-ist or perfectionist you will have to play each level at least twice. For instance, one challenge calls for finding and wearing all the different disguises in the level, while another challenges you to go the entire level without using a single disguise. Some are simpler, like finding all the weapon types in the level or more intricate like secret signature ways of killing certain people that you need to figure out.
I usually stay away from online multiplayer games, mostly because I don’t have Xbox Live and I don’t have many friends who do either. On the other hand, Hitman: Absolution did something new and very cool: it allows you to compare scores on the Campaign with your friends, as well as giving you the country and global average scores, so you know how well or badly you’re doing compared to others. I found this slightly annoying at first, because I only have one person on my friends’ list who owns Absolution, but I quickly found myself competing with the scores there, making me feel like I needed to be better and better, which is what competition is all about. This was a good, creative way of helping campaign players feel like they’re part of a community.
Another plus to this game is a separate section called “Contracts.” This is their version of online play, but not against others in the strictest sense. This, like the friends score at the beginning of each level, is a competition for who is the better assassin. Anyone can create a contract, with limitations and conditions of how it must be carried out and challenge their friends or the world in general to see who can do it the best. This, again, is a way to be able to multiplayer without anyone being able to camp; to be able to test actual skill instead of luck; and, best of all, it doesn’t require a paying Xbox Live account, so even I will no doubt be finding my way through the different contracts and throwing my hat in for who is the best Agent 47. My only regret is that there is no cooperative play mode, so that you could play alongside someone to do more complex missions and to share the glory and gore with.
Story: 9/10Graphics: 8/10Gameplay: 9/10Music: 9/10Replayability: 9/10Multiplayer: 9/10