Available on 360, PS3 and PC l Published by SQUARE ENIX l Developed by IO Interactive l Classified MA15+ l Supports 1 player
REVIEW IN BRIEF > This is fifth instalment of the Hitman series starring the consummate assassin, Agent 47. Absolution has a blockbuster feel to it. Stunning visuals, great voice acting and polished gameplay all come together to deliver a package to kill for*. Only a handful of bugs and some very minor control issues detract from the otherwise excellent stealth gameplay.
*The Black Panel in no way endorses homicide as a means to obtain software
REVIEW IN FULL > This was my first ever outing as Agent 47, but I quickly became a fan, partly because the story pulled no punches. My first assignment was to kill my own handler, Diana, after she betrayed our common employer, the Agency. The tutorial basically put me on her doorstep, before introducing me to the various skills I would need to infiltrate environments and dispatch targets.
The graphics were beautiful and the story had a cinematic quality to it. Clever and funny sequences progressed the plot and fleshed out interesting enemies and allies. I wasn’t just a killing machine and some of the scenes were actually quite touching. There were a great many memorable characters in Absolution, which was a sterling effort given how many games barely manage to provide one or two interesting personalities.
There were a great many memorable characters in Absolution, which was a sterling effort given how many games barely manage to provide one or two interesting personalities.
The storytelling didn’t stop with the cinematics. As I moved through levels I also triggered conversations and events that provided further insight into the goings on in the game. I recently complained about the poorly written and delivered conversations in Of Orcs and Men. By contrast, the little conversations I overheard in Absolution were always worth listening to. Some had a direct bearing on the mission or related events, while others were plain silly (but just as awesome to eavesdrop on). Dialogue also served to fill the back story of targets who would otherwise feel like cardboard cut outs. One example was the evil scientist with a plastic leg and a desire to slaughter swine with explosives. After hearing the somewhat chilling story (as gossip between two other scientists) I almost felt sorry for him. Of course, I killed him anyway.
This was primarily a stealth game. As Agent 47, my goal was to execute targets before slipping away with no one the wiser. Remaining hidden was generally not too difficult. I could take cover behind objects, vault over low barriers and slip through windows and vents. A big part of the stealth element was the use of disguises, and I got to walk in the clothes of a fair number of different foes. It was a world of one-size-fits-all (mostly), but I wasn’t complaining!
Whenever I was about to be noticed by my enemies, a helpful indictor would show the direction and extent of their interest. Multiple adversaries produced multiple indicators, and it worked really well. If I managed to duck out of sight or use my instinct ability to blend in, the indicator would reduce or disappear. I could also use objects in the environment to distract people and separate individuals from groups so that I could offer them my… personal attention.
I was armed with my trademark Hardballer silenced pistols and I also had access to automatic rifles, axes, knives, poisons, golf clubs, and more. In certain situations, I was able to use elements in the environments, such as a rewired electrical box, to take people out. The game discouraged outright violence to all but my intended target and applied point penalties for other casualties. Occasionally, though, I couldn’t resist pulling guards out of windows or feeding them into farming machinery (cue evil laughter). Most of the time, I used a non-lethal choke hold to ‘pacify’ my victims, before dropping them off in a handy dumpster, ice chest or cupboard. I could also engage enemies in melee, although this would incur a penalty for being spotted.
I liked the fact that patrolling henchmen were generally quite alert. They would ask me what I was doing if I was crouching or moving into a restricted area. When engaged in fire fights, they would call for help and were pretty good at flanking me. I didn’t tend to last long at all under fire.
The game discouraged outright violence to all but my intended target and applied point penalties for other casualties.
As much as I enjoyed Absolution, it did have some flaws. While the controls were generally slick and responsive, I sometimes triggered an unintended action, such as punching a guard instead of choking him. At other times, certain items seemed to get in the way. For example I found that I could not use medicine cabinets if another object was nearby.
At a point just over halfway into the game, it froze and my save file was corrupted. That was highly annoying. A less enjoyable title would’ve ended up in the pile of shame. I experienced several more freezes, but luckily no more file corruptions. At another point, I dragged a body through some stairs where it became stuck, and I had to restore my checkpoint. I restarted levels often in an attempt to reach my goals unnoticed, or complete certain challenges for score modifiers. Absolution could be tough at times and the checkpoint system didn’t help matters. While it allowed me to save completed objectives, every time I had to be revived, all of my enemies respawned as well.
I also tried out the Contracts mode, which allowed me to define my own missions inside the existing levels. I could then make these custom tests available to others. I didn’t spend much time with Contracts, but it struck me as a good way to challenge my friends and show off my skills.
Absolution was one of my favourite games of 2012 (perhaps tied with Borderlands 2). Unless you can’t just stand stealth gameplay, this is a must have adventure. Just remember to back up your save to the cloud.