Fans of the series have had to wait over six years for their next ‘hit’ (sorry) of Agent 47 and now Hitman: Absolution is here, but was it worth the wait? The first Hitman game was released for PC in 2000 by Eidos, now Square Enix, and was followed by three more games which were also available for console and even a film. Hitman: Absolution, developed by Io Interactive and published by Square Enix, is the fifth game in this series and has taken the franchise on a slightly different route.
Absolution sees Agent 47 being tasked with taking out his old handler Diana Burnwood who has turned rogue. He kills her at the start of the game and, as she lies dying, asks him to look after a young girl, Victoria. 47 agrees to take care of her and in doing so become entwined in the dirty dealings of both criminals and the agency.
Hitman: Absolution runs on the new Glacier 2 engine and this creates a vivid and more detailed world than in previous games. The motion capture that has been used to give the characters movement has been done very well and is far less jerky and repetitive than in many other games. The crowd scenes best illustrate this with each person moving as you would expect rather than just bobbing up and down in the same way as five other NPCs around them. The light bloom on certain objects could do with toning down at certain points, though, as there’s no way you could be a stealthy hitman with such a shiny head!
This game has a couple of things, however, that really let it down: AI and storyline. The AI doesn’t seem to be balanced at all and sometimes you can be behind someone and they won’t see you, other times you will be spotted by someone 100 yards away. Whilst walking around in an animal mascot outfit I was recognised …how!? I can only assume it’s ESP or simply the shine from 47’s head glinting through. You are supposedly given an open choice of gameplay style, but the ninja skills of the AI can seriously reduce these options making certain sections limited. Bobbing from cover to cover or sliding through vents, much too small to ever fit a man that size, are your only options at times.
For the first time in the series you aren’t just working your way through assignments, this is a much more personal story for Agent 47. However, the plot is a little weak and doesn’t really reflect this, it could have been developed much further to create a more engaging game. The characters aren’t as detailed as they could be and it is hard to care about them. Many of the male characters are rather creepy and sexually deviant which, while this can add to the ‘dirty underworld’ feel, it is overused and becomes rather tacky. The women on the other hand are either nuns or are as far from nuns as you can get, with heaving bosoms threatening to escape their clothing. Skimpy outfits in the strip club sections are expected of course, but the shirt on the Agency assistant makes you long for a sweater.
Another first for the series is the new intuition system, allowing you to see would be dangers and helpful items alike. Various people pose a threat to you being ‘spotted’, such as police, vendors and bodyguards, and the intuition system highlights where these characters are and also the paths they are about to walk. This means that not only can you see through walls to check if a person is there, but you can also see if they are about to walk straight into you allowing you to adjust your cover accordingly. The yellow highlighting of intuition also extends to show you helpful items such as knives or bottles to throw, and also vents to crawl through or ledges to creep along. The magical shiny yellow outlines aren’t available all the time as the bar runs out with use and you have to do certain tasks such as killing folk or stuffing a body in a cupboard to fill it back up.
Along with the x-ray vision and pre-sight abilities our superhero 47-man also comes with the ability to slow time, a la Max Payne. You can enter point-shooting when using intuition and this slows time and lets you line up a few headshots in row before bursting into a splendid QTE. If, for a more traditional Hitman feel, you don’t want to use the intuition function you can play without it, though it does run out quickly anyway.
Contracts Mode is the game’s version of multiplayer in which you create your own contracts from the various levels in the game and challenge others to complete them. This section is a little fiddly at times and can take some getting used to, but once you know what you are doing there’s certainly the scope for some fun rivalry between friends and other players. Contracts was created in response to fans setting each other challenges online of a similar nature and it could very well prove popular with many. The game has its faults and it’s certainly not a bad game, but it’s not as good as it could have been. The skeleton of an excellent game is here, but it’s just not fleshed out quite right. Io have the makings of an incredible sequel.