Hitman Absolution is the massive re-entry of the world's deadliest assassin. After a 7 year hiatus, Square Enix has managed to bring back a series with a unique modern approach to its core play. Longtime fans will be pleased with the scale and the scope of the game, while the modern take opens a nitch for newcomers to follow.
PRESENTATION: Excellent. Dark & Intense. The game is presented through the in-game engine, Glacier 2, which does a fantastic job of rendering the dark world in which Hitman revolves in. The mood of the game is well expressed even in the brighter or more colorful levels in the game. The pause menu has a small narration from the main character containing the current mission / story situation, while you browse your objectives and progression challenges. The user interface is simple, containing your health, instinct level, equipped / hidden weapon & markers of surrounding enemies & civilians.
GRAPHICS: Excellent. The rendering capacities of the graphics engine is of premiere quality. You can tell the emphasis placed on explosions & fire, the slow mo capture of certain deaths, plus the look and feel of the main character & his foes are quite gritty. Hitman Absolution is a game that immerses the player greatly and the graphics is just one of the elements that achieves this.
SOUND: Outstanding. This is another example of how the game immerses you into its world. The voicework in the game is incredible, and the sound effects are top notch. The soundtrack is very intense and intensifies certain key points during missions, like when you sneak into an area or complete an action that will result into a target kill. It really creates a certain sense of urgency to complete the level unspotted / unseen, creating a greater sense of satisfaction if achieved. Also none of the sounds interfere with each other, like the music overlapping conversation or sound effects, and vice versa. There is also a distance factor well implemented, adding quite a sense of realism to it.
GAMEPLAY: Very good. Hitman has always been a game of trial and error, and allowing the player different approaches to complete its goal. Absolution is no exception. The mechanics of the assassin have been simplified, some of it emulating other types of games, but achieving a greater familiarity to anyone that tries the game. Hitman can throw objects, cover, roll / change cover, hide just about anywhere even with a corpse beside him. Seeing that now Hitman has a vast number of objects he can use to create distractions or achieve a kill found in the level he is going through: There is an array of knives, vases, bricks, screwdrivers, bottles, axes, etc...( you get the picture ) that are scattered throughout a level, some cooler than others ( katana ) or funny ( toy robot ). You are set with the fiberwire by default, and unlike previous games you are NOT able to select your equipment prior to the missions. Within a mission the weapons you have carry over through the LEVELS in the mission, but do not carry over to the NEXT mission. Instinct is introduced in this game as somewhat of a sixth sense to the assassin, where you can actually see thru walls like Superman's X-Ray vision and know where your targets and foes are or will walk towards next. This skill is not infinite and depletes upon usage, and you recover it by making kills, hiding bodies or completing mission objectives. My opinion is that this trick was probably injected into the game first because of the incredibly large amount of bad guys in each level ( played on Professional - Hard ) and the shaky disguise system.
Yes, the disguises in the game do not work well and it is quite a chore to discover which disguise can give you the best freedom to roam in a level. At the same time the number of disguises in the game is incredibly large, and frankly some are quite fun to don since ALL of them are attached somewhere to a level or mission challenge. Another aspect of the game that enlarges the massive experience is all the in-game challenges spread throughout the 30+ hour game, most of them requiring a replay to achieve. One of my favorites was using the judge disguise to acquit a hippie in a courtroom, to name one. Luckily there is only one Trophy ( or Achievement ) attached to the challenges, when you complete 100 of them, which is about a third of the total. The Instinct skill is also useful for Point Shooting, which is a Slow Mo shooting of selected targets, somewhat similar to the one found in Red Dead Redemption.
LEVEL DESIGN: Fantastic. The world of Hitman Absolution is grand in scale and form and will take you to many different places, from a mansion to a strip club to a desert, to name a few. The level design in the Hitman series has always been somewhat exceptional, minus a few hiccups in the very first entry. Each level appears extracted from actual pieces and you can easily imagine them to exist, emphasizing the immersion sensation the game has with its graphics and sounds. This time around, however, the missions have been divided into levels, making each section a playground of sorts. This allowed the developers the freedom to explore the trial and error scheme of the game a lot deeper, and the scope & scale of the game turned from large to MASSIVE. I had so much fun with the last level of the first mission that I replayed it on every difficulty available...however, I'd understand if the scale and the size of some levels might seem overwhelming to some, specially on higher difficulty levels with the extra amount of bad guys and on higher alert.
Checkpoints exist in the levels and can only be activated when you are still in the clear & enemies aren't hunting for you...noteworthy is the fact that when you restart a checkpoint EVERY person killed minus the targets come back to life. So far an advantage I've found to this is in ammunition rounds, specially in checkpoints close to a sniper rifle. The game has strategically placed weapons and ammo to your disposal, but not too much as for you to overwhelm and outgun everyone like the Terminator. The subdivision of missions into level segments also helps the pacing of the game greatly, as well as the uninterrupting autosave feature, which lets you go in and out of the game without having to play the ENTIRE mission from scratch, specially for those of us who have played the Hitman series on Professional. One key note to add is that checkpoints only apply to the current game session, and are lost if restarting the level or quitting the game.
STORY: Very good. The story in Hitman games has only been strong in the first entry, because the games revolve on taking out targets in different places. In Absolution, there is more dialogue and less mystery involved than in previous games, and the story starts from Hitman being set out to eliminate his former handler, Diana Burnwood after she ( explained with more detail in the novel Hitman Damnation ) exposed the previously unknown International Contract Agency and vanished with an agency asset. The plot of the game is tricky but it does a good job of introducing some interesting characters to the mix. Overall it does add more depth to the main character, which had been known just as an excellent marksman up to this point.
DIFFICULTY: Terrific. Accurate & rewarding. I have been playing Hitman since the 1st one on PC, and on the highest difficulty since Silent Assassin. I expected the switch to a console version to make the game easier for my experience, so I played Absolution on Professional - Hard. This made the experience rewarding and not feel either easy nor too aggravating. I notice that on Normal there are less foes around & less alert, and I would recommend that for gamers less experienced in stealth games. On higher difficulties you can't see your foes on the map and they act differently ( aggressive ). Whatever difficulty you choose remember that the trick of the game is still figuring out the puzzle that each level presents to suit the style that you like to play ( accidental kill, hands on, explosion, poison, shooting )...and that is where the real difficulty lies. The alertness and amount of bad guys are just the added obstacles to it.
LASTING APPEAL: Impressive. Hitman Absolution is my favorite game of 2012. It contains all the things that I want in a modern game: it's long, fun and hard. The game is engaging, rewarding and challenging. Definitely feels like you get your moneys worth. Beating the story mode will take you upwards 30 hours in itself, and the challenges within each level are fun to complete and extend the experience greatly. The game also has an online Contracts mode, where you participate in contracts created by other players from levels in the game. The missions to kill the targets they assign come with certain requirements, such as weapons used, disguise worn and whether or not you can kill anyone else. You can create contracts as well ( which you can edit the description ) but to do so you must carry them out first. All contracts can be shared within friends and anyone playing the game ( even from other countries and in different languages! ). For example I've played contracts where the description has been in French, Portuguese and Spanish.
LAST THOUGHTS: Overall I highly recommend this game. The challenges are addictive and the different approaches to gameplay are staggering. You can come back for more any time well after beating the game, to complete challenges, discover disguises or weapons or to try a different approach to eliminating a target. This key feature separates this game greatly and rewards the player upon better handling of the ins and outs of the gameplay. You will discover there was more to an area than previously thought, including some heavy sound bites ( get Layla alone in Blackwater Park ). I rate it a 9.5 / 10.0