07 March 2013

Hitman: Absolution (PC game review)

Last week I finally got so bored that I took my gift vouchers that I had received for Christmas and went into town to visit the local game store. Usually I buy all my stuff online since it is cheaper, but since I had the vouchers there was no choice.

In any case, I ended up buying 4 games, 3 of them dirt cheap and part of a "take 3 pay for 2" campaign. I'll be posting a review of each one as I finish them or have played enough to form an opinion. First out is Hitman: Absolution, the latest in the series of Hitman games.

I grew up on the old games and have played every single one since the series started. Hitman: Absolution is rather different from its predecessors in a couple of ways, some good and less so.

First of all the game picks up where Blood Money ended, and your first mission (the tutorial level) is the assassination of Diana, your former handler at the Agency. The end of this mission sees agent 47 take care of a girl that Diana had stolen away from the agency and been hiding ever since. There is little doubt that this girl, just like agent 47 had been bred in a lab and tailored to become a killing machine. Not keen on giving back the girl to the agency due to personal reasons agent 47 goes off the grid and becomes hunted by the agency.

And for a Hitman game the biggest change here is that you no longer take contracts on random people in disjointed scenarios. Instead the whole single player campaign is one long story where each scenario is connected to the next, agent 47 also no longer has access to the equipment of the agency so you no longer begin each mission with picking your weapons. Instead you are left with the bare bones of agent 47's own arsenal and will have to rely on things that you find in each level. This is a fresh approach for the series, though the transition may not be smooth for those who have grown accustomed to the luxury of equipping the assassin.

The story with agent 47 being on the run and seeking revenge at the same time has been used in other games like Splinter Cell but I found it to be a nice change of pace. The missions, especially during the first half of the game are set in rather small areas, players of the old games will notice that levels have been chopped up into smaller segments and you can only progress to the next one once you have finished your task. This serves as a checkpoint system during the early levels that take place in larger but chopped up areas.

In later levels that are a bit more open, and some are as large as the levels in Blood Money and previous Hitman games, there is instead a checkpoint system that appear as a shiny symbol on the map which has to be activated. This is where one of the problems with Absolution appear, for some reason the game designers have made so that all enemies re-spawn upon reloading a checkpoint. Even those enemies that you had taken out prior to activating it. This naturally causes some cramped situations if you reload and find yourself surrounded and unable to proceed with stealth.

The other thing that many gamers will find hard to get used to, or even frustrating, is the new disguise system. In previous games you knocked someone over - took their clothes - and blended in perfectly.


In Blood Money this was altered so that some disguises could be blown if you went too close to other people. In Absolution however the system now involves something called "Instinct meter". People of the same profession will recognize agent 47 not being one of them at medium range and their suspicions will rapidly grow until they ask you to stop or surrender. In these cases agent 47 spends his Instinct on blending in and cooling down the suspicions. The instinct meter is burning down fast as hell though, and on hard level (which is difficulty step 4 out of 6) it is consumed so fast that you may be able to get past 1 or 2 people before not having any instinct left. Instinct is replenished by agent 47 doing sneaky stuff like distracting enemies, hiding bodies, killing his targets and so on.

In the end I learned to live with it, and it does indeed provide a lot more challenge than being able to stroll around in your stolen outfit completely unnoticed. The other thing that may bother people is that hand to hand combat with bare hands against aware enemies is done by quick time events. This does not bother me as agent 47 always sucked when it came to fisticuffs and it feels a lot more brutal punching someone in the face and have them knocked out in a second than wrestle about. I might add that there are tons of items to hit or throw at your enemies. Throwing knives, swords, axes and whatnot is very satisfying and allows for a silent (but messy) kill.

The really good things about the game outweigh the bad already mentioned. The gunplay has been much improved and fells really awesome. Sounds and physics are great. A cover system has been introduced, at last. This is more often used to sneak around corners more efficiently than during gunfights but still very nice to have. The level design and graphics are fantastic, the missions with civilians walking about in large numbers look really damn good. The voice acting is also top notch. The story itself is not spectacular, but the characters are quite good. I also like the new choke grip that takes a while for victims to pass out.

The missions also include a ton of challenges for you to attempt, making the replay value immense. You won't be able to perform all challenges in one play through as they often differ in character. The rewards are some unlockable abilities that gets added to agent 47's character traits in the background (you never tweak anything like in an RPG). These may range from being able to blend in better while using Instinct or have faster reaction shots. Some of the most fun challenges include trying to find all the disguises, or killing enemies in creative ways.

The single player game is around 20 hours depending on if you try to do your best or just go guns blazing. The level variety is excellent and many of the levels are really challenging.

There is also a "contracts" mode which can be played beside the regular campaign mode. The contracts mode works a lot more like classic Hitman games in that you are given targets to kill and guidelines, weapons and disguises to use. These are player made and you can make your own contracts and upload them on the internet for others to play. I would advise on playing through the single player campaign first since the contracts mode may spoil locations and characters.

There is also a multiplayer version where you can compete against other people more actively. I say actively because being connected to steam keeps you constantly updated at the end of each level where you can see the score result of other players as well as the global average score.

The version I bought was "Professional" edition, which is some kind of collectors light version that includes a rather pointless art book bound as a hardback - but also a nice 1 hour documentary. The only reason I bought this version was that the store where I went did not have the "cheap" version in stock. I don't see any of these extra thing really being worth shelling out extra cash for - so if you find a regular version of the game just go with that.

Overall I give Hitman: Absolution 8/10

3 comments:

  1. I have avoided writing a review myself of this game as I feel it was a complete fail and it irritates me so much.

    If this was the first in a new genre or game range then its acceptable as an okay, although obviously console designed game.

    As an example of a Hitman game it is, in my view, terrible. The maps have been by and large shrunk and cut up by checkpoints (obvious nod to the console market) why not just keep the save game feature, with a limited number of saves depending on your difficulty setting as in previous iterations.

    The new levels could have been fun if the developers had kept the tried and tested open world "plan it your way" levels. By and large the room to come up with your own way to complete the hits is removed entirely.

    Removing weapon choice makes no sense at all to me. I have played goodness knows how many hours on Blood Money because I wanted to collect all the weapons. Equally I have replayed the levels repeatedly just to see if I could complete them using a particular weapon, or set.

    I despise the new game because the gun play is great, and the graphics are lovely but the developers have completely squandered the great design of the previous game. Blood Money was close to perfect in terms of balance whilst for some weird reason the current developer has decided to ignore the formula that fans have enjoyed for years and do what ever they wanted.

    More annoyingly this completely different direction was not made obvious to fans before hand. Had it been I wouldn't have wasted 30 quid on this. Rant over.

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    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear that Smillie, I can understand your feelings about the changes. I played Blood Money to death and that is still a good game. Hopefully, and the end of Absolution would almost support this, the next game will be back to normal missions.

      I agree many of the new features being taken from, or put in place for, the console market and indeed the save system from previous games was good enough so it was perhaps the one change that made least sense.

      I actually didn't know there was a new developer behind this game - would explain a lot.

      Btw, never feel sorry or hesitant to speak your mind here ;-)

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  2. I was a bit worried after I had posted that I might have come of a bit rude (not intended)

    I think what annoys me is that if this was a standalone, completely new game I would probably enjoy it. But when ever I try to play all I think is, in blood money I could have done this, or could have done that. I'm kind of hopeful that someone might mode this to make it a bit more open, but I suspect its to fixed in its ways. Just the ability to pick my weapons would probably make me happier,

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