Review: Hitman Absolution is deadly, clean and precise
I can't tell you that I'm up to speed on all my Hitman lore. I've dabbled a bit with Blood Money, but outside of that, I found the Hitman series clunky and rather, not fun. Hitman: Absolution comes after a lengthy hiatus, with completely reworked mechanics, a brilliant take on replayability, and extreme amounts of polish.
Agent 47 is initially tasked to take down his main handler, after she's been accused of treason, as well as capture and deliver a young girl who is extremely important to the Agency. Things take a turn however and you'll find yourself protecting this young girl and turning on the Agency you once vowed to work for.
You'll get accustomed to the changes through the initial level, which expertly weaves a tutorial in the midst of your objectives. Agent 47 has some clever new tricks up his sleeve that will make assassinating his enemies that much satisfying. First and foremost, he has the ability to take cover behind objects, as well as move from cover to cover unseen. A cover system is far from anything original, however it is new to the Hitman series, and it does make that clunky sneaking around from past games seem rather seamless.
The unfortunate first target of your Silverballers
Another new and important feature is Instinct. Somewhat similar to Eagle vision in Assassin's Creed, various key items, weapons, and your mark are highlighted in yellow. It even allows you to see enemies behind walls, as well as their walk path, and allows you to slip past enemies when in disguise without arousing suspicion. New players will undoubtedly rely on Instinct as a crutch through many levels, although it's important to note it's not entirely necessary, and playing the game on higher difficulty levels limits the amount you can use it.
However the best feature of Hitman: Absolution has to be the way it handles level objectives. Much like Dishonored, which allowed you to dispose of your enemies in multiple, creative ways, Hitman strives to do the same thing, and on a large part succeeds. In past Hitman games, it was mostly up to the player to figure out creative ways to dispose of your mark, without much guidance. Absolution doesn't necessarily hold your hand, but it does give hints on how to proceed with multiple ways to eliminate your target. A quick glance at your checklist will show you the different ways you can accomplish your goal, however it doesn't exactly tell you how to go about it.
The best instance of this is in the King of Chinatown level, due to the fact it's one of the shortest levels in the game, and thus allows you to hop right back in and experiment with the different ways of disposing of your target. For instance, you come across your target, and you can immediately aim at his head and BAM, escape from the authorities and you've won the mission. However you can come right back and do it differently. Find the sniper rifle and assassinate him from a window, push him into a trash compactor, poison the Chinese food he orders, poison the heroin he orders from his drug dealer, hell even impersonate his drug dealer! There is so much variety in just this single level, and it all translates into each subsequent level after that.
It truly pays off to go back and replay levels to not only experience it in a different way, but improve your assassin score. This scoring mechanic is Absolution's way of ranking players of how well they do. Getting spotted and needlessly killing enemies who aren't your primary target will award you with negative points, but successfully sneaking past sentries, killing your mark without being seen, and using various disguises awards you with massive points. It's up to you to decide whether killing a guard, and losing a few hundred points is worth it, in order to fulfill your mission and get rewarded with tons of points.
Use any means necessary to dispose of your target
It's brilliantly designed in that if you don't care at all about score and rank, you can freely kill all enemies in the level until you reach your final target. Those looking for the competitive edge however will truly have to get creative in order to score the maximum amount of points. However there is incentive to get a good score. Attaining a certain score threshold will grant you various permanent perks that will make Agent 47 an even bigger force to reckoned with.
In addition, the completely genius Contracts mode gives players the ability to make up these goals, challenge themselves or even let the community try them out. You mark the targets, you define the goals, literally everything is up to you. This not only adds a true sandbox feature to the game, but extends its playtime drastically.
The last image your victim will ever see
Absolution also looks absolutely amazing. The amount of detail not just in the characters, but in the level design, truly shows the amount of dedication and love that went into creating the game. Levels are generally multi-tiered. For example, during the hotel mission, you'll first be tasked to get to the 8th floor unnoticed. After some events transpire, you'll find yourself on the rooftops escaping from the feds, eventually making your way into a very groovy marijuana plant. Once again, each of these segments has multiple ways of going about them, and its up to you to discover them all.
Hitman: Absolution marks a superb comeback for Agent 47. With polished controls and immense replayability, this is one hit job you're going to want to take on.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]