Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hitman: Absolution review

Okay guys and gals, I think I let you poor souls wait long enough. It is time to review

Now, for those of you who follow my blog, you might have noticed that with each new game I review, I try to mix things up. I started with a top 10 list, tried to start a survey on another game, and made a quiz about yet another game. This time I am going to do something completely different. Cue dramatic music...

I am going to make... a normal review

That's right ladies and gentlemen, I am going to shelf the fancy stuff, get my head out of the clouds, and focus on the one thing that really matters in a game review; actually critiquing the frickin game! I do this not just to break from my usual routine (quid pro quot, lack thereof), but to establish something I desperately need as a writer and something that will hopefully prevent any more "bad news" articles from popping up; I plan to create workflow. If I can make a streamlined standard by which I review and critique each game I play, I might be able to deliver more content more quickly. I will still have my seven word synopsis, and use it in place of a regular 10 point system used by most game review sites. I do this not just to be unique and Twitter ready, but to give my reviews the objective perspective most game reviews severely lack. We all don't like playing checkers and/or Call of Duty, and putting an arbitrary number on video game reviews does not do that fact justice. Thusly, I will base my reviews on recommendations to those that the game are clearly targeting, and I will do so with a seven word verse. I hope that someday this kind of honest objectivity will become a standard in our medium. This kind of standard practice will make it possible come the 15th to review games old and new on a daily basis. And once I get my HD recorder hooked up, I will provide my own exclusive high quality screen shots and videos. Celebration.

But with that being said, I doubt you are even the least bit interested in my plans for this website. You are probably more interested in the actual game called Hitman: Absolution and wheather or not its worth retail price. With that firmly in place, lets begin our review.


 I will start this review with what has become a standard for game reviews across the media; I will start with a description of the game.

To be brief, Hitman is a very long winded franchise that has been around since it's inception as an innovative PC game. The premise is simple; you are an elite assassin hired by a mysterious conspiring organization known only as "The Agency". You have a set number of objectives,among which is the execution of people targeted by the Agency. These targets are usually holed up in big mansions, or secure building, and are almost always heavily guarded and have security measures out the wazoo. The game challenges you to find a way to sneak into the building, take the target out, and sneak back out in one piece. This was one of the first games to allow you to complete a level any way you want; you could poison the target, wade through every guard with guns blazing, take out a guard and wear his suit as a disguise, etc. The possible ways to kill a target are mind boggling, and the game is as much as puzzle as it is an action game. You get the best score if you can kill the main target(s) without causing any collateral damage whatsoever; dubbed "Silent Assassin", after the series' first sequel. Absolution is the fifth game running in the series, and revolves around the same kind of game, with notable changes in story and game play mechanics.

Hitman: Absolution stars the same character it always did; an anonymous assassin code named "47" who is sent with a contract to kill a target. In this game, the story starts with a rather conflicting twist as it reveals the first target in the game. It is 47's long running voice-over-the-radio handler and contact known only as "Diana". She was basically the woman who gave you your contracts and instructions in every previous Hitman game. Long running fans of the series should recognize the name and voice of their first target and feel the internal conflict of the main character when they play. Well done, Square Enix.

I won't reveal weather or not 47 goes through with killing his long running comrade, but the real premise of the story is the girl that was with Diana. To cut this short, she is the reason Diana defected from the Agency, and becomes the ward of 47 throughout the game. The story then is not simply about a contract killer, but a man on a mission to discover the truth, and who does so by killing key targets for his informant. That's the basics of both Hitman: Absolution and the series in general. Now lets move on to something most reviews for other mediums do that video games reviews tend to sink on; comparisons.

How it Compares

I wish I could say that Hitman: Absolution is a game that stood up on its own. But sadly, it borrows the stealth mechanic from Metal Gear and now shares it's stealth mechanics with games like Thief, Splinter Cell, Assassin's Creed, and my favorite, Dishonored. And yes, I was somewhat sarcastic with that last title; Dishonored was a disappointment, if not an abomination. That being said, Dishonored wasn't the only game that failed to live up to it's E3 showcase.

When I went to E3 last June, I was lucky enough to play the demo of this game. In fact, I am pretty sure that floating somewhere out there is a live recording of me giving my feedback to a camera crew reviewing E3. I will have to show it to you, if I can ever find it. Anyway, one of the brand new features of Hitman: Absolution  is a new viewing mode called "instinct". In the official unofficial tradition of recent stealth games, it gives the players the ability to perceive guard from behind walls and doors "x-ray vision" style, making predicting their movements less complicated and frustrating. It is similar to the "detective mode" in Batman: Arkham City and the "dark eye" power in Dishonored. This is a nice step up for Hitman, as it was always a challenge in previous games to figure out how to sneak past guards and not be caught doing something suspicious by accident. Quite convenient, albeit unrealistic. The game also lets you "mark" targets with the mode in place ala Splinter: Cell Conviction. For those of you in the dark, you basically mark a target with the cursor and your badass character shoots them with perfect accuracy before they knew what hit them. Essentially, you can execute multiple targets rapidly. 

When I played the game, however, I noticed that the instinct mode had a meter. Don't call me out on this; the demo might have had a meter that I wasn't paying attention to at the time. But I could swear upon my grandma's grave that the meter was added after the game was demonstrated. Now the instinct mode, when activated, slowly drains as you use it, and can also be used to prevent other people from recognizing your disguise (guards tend to recognize their own).  Smart move, since marking targets can make the game too easy and instinct mode in general can take away the thrill of the hunt. 

Another similarity this game has to Dishonored is it's almost repetitive use of dumpsters; you can hide in them, peek out from them, and of course hide bodies in them. Almost reeks of the same kind of "convenient hiding place" that most stealth games use. Makes it easier if somewhat over simplistic to dispose of guards and targets. Would be neat to find a more unique hiding spot and use your imagination.

In some levels, as I found in the E3 demo, you are no longer a man on foot infiltrating a compound. You instead get to play sniper, and view the whole scene through the lens of a high powered rifle targeting someone too far to even know where you are. That challenge here is to take out the target before he realizes a sniper is gunning for him and/or leaves. This becomes similar to an old arcade game called Silent Scope, where you pretty much did the same thing, but instead of placing a hit, you were taking out a terrorist with a hostage. Neat stuff, really. 


If you like the Hitman series, and get a kick out of coming up with creative solutions and fantasize about being a contract killer, this is and always will be your game. The options these games give you are something to treasure, and you cannot go wrong with this addition. 

Also, the story is something that appeals to fans well and is a great continuation of the story behind Agent 47s life. If you are the kind of geek who likes to keep track of his favorite video game character's exploits, you should get a kick out of this. If you never played a Hitman game, you might find the plot line corny and a little confusing.

These games challenge players to come up with the solution of their choice, but makes some of the most awesome challenges (undetected, Silent Assassin, Chameleon, etc.) have something of a barrier to entry. Scores are tallied in this game based off of micromanaged "achievement" style tasks. If you target certain tasks, you will either be challenged or frustrated. Maybe both.  Like a Rubix Magic Cube or a crossword puzzle, it is best appreciated by intellectuals with patience. More casual players might feel left out or underachieved. 

Thus the Seven Word Synopsis is thine;

New Features

Patience Required

Perfect for Fans

That's all I got; see you around the bend!

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