For someone with the skills and attributes of Agent 47, his job is an easy one, he gets given an assignment, he tracks the target, eliminates the target, leaves the scene undetected and gets paid. But this particular day started a little different for Agent 47, this time the target is someone close to Agent 47’s heart, someone that he loved as if they we’re blood. Though ‘Agent 47’ always remains professional, no matter whom the target maybe and this remained for case for his next target or so he thought. Upon reaching and eliminating target, he discovers that his mission was not as straight forward as it first seemed, something was not right about this seemingly ‘in and out’ mission. From an unexpected turn of events, ‘Agent 47’ finds himself to be the one that is being hunted by the very agency he swore to serve without question; he is now on a new mission, a mission of survival and to discover the dark truth that lies ahead.
As we know it’s been a while since the last ‘Hitman’ game graced our home consoles, over six years in fact. So during this time alot has changed, games have moved on (well most) and as the Xbox 360 is seemingly coming to the end of its life cycle, many games are reaching their visual peak. ‘Hitman Absolution’ has been one of those games that have come a long way and visually its one of the better looking games this year. The ‘Hitman’ games have always had a dark, ironic sense of humour and ‘Absolutions’ visuals complement its new found direction. It’s been a long time since I played the previous game ‘Blood Money’, so it’s difficult to remember exactly how good they we’re, but one thing I do know is that ‘Absolutions’ is a big improvement as its one of the best visual games of the year and with so many quality games being released in 2012, that’s certainly no easy task.
‘Hitman Absolution’ is dark, dingy and yet beautifully vibrant with character. ‘Agent 47’ isn’t getting any younger and it shows in the high attention to detail in the facial animation. If anything, he’s become more intimidating and bad ass as he’s gotten older, similar to ‘Sam Fisher’ in ‘Splinter Cell Conviction’. ‘Agent 47’ has a certain glare in his eye that would make anyone feel uncomfortable, it’s very ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin’ and this is very apparent from the games main menu; I don’t think I’ve ever been beaten in a staring contest by a main menu before! Hats must be tipped to ‘IO Interactive’ for making Agent 47’s character shine through in the way it has with ‘Absolution’, having a strong storyline is just one piece of the puzzle, but if you have a character that doesn’t look the part, then its audience will struggle to relate to the product and then the likelihood is that people will lose interest, this certainly is not the case with ‘Hitman Absolution’.
One of, if not the biggest selling point of ‘Hitman Absolution’ is its interactive environments, but I’ll go into that detail in the ‘Gameplay’ section, but what I can do is tell you how good ‘Absolutions’ environments look. A lot of the campaign is set during nightfall, but that all adds to the games personality. But despite it being such a moody game, there’s not many games that can stand up to the kind of character that ‘Hitman Absolution’ has, it’s difficult to think of a game that is so dark, but yet buzzing with character. ‘Hitman Absolution’ has reportedly been in development since May 2009 and if you’ve been watching any of the development trailers prior to the games release, you’ll have an idea of the commitment that has gone into ‘Absolution’ and the final product is a fitting testament.
I must have seen all the gameplay trailers from ‘Square Enix’ bigging up their game, letting us all know how great and interactive ‘Hitman Absolution’ is. In all fairness I took all their talk by a pinch of salt as I thought “of course their going to tell us how great Hitman Absolution is, they want us to buy it” and in all honesty I’m right, but so are they. It wasn’t until I began to play ‘Hitman Absolution’ that I realised all this talk wasn’t verbal diarrhea, their game is great and it’s as interactive as they promised it would be, in fact it’s probably more so on both accounts. Throughout the years the ‘Hitman’ franchise has been an acquired taste, it still is in many ways, but it has grown more accustom as it branches out to a wider market. How have they done this? They have done this by adding in a feature called ‘Instincts’.
What ‘Instincts’ does for you is to highlight key interactive elements within your environment, show the path in which the NPC’s will and have been taken and will even show your NPC’s from the other side of the wall. You can activate ‘Instincts’ by pressing ‘RB’ and to the right hand side of the screen you will have an ‘Instincts’ gauge that will eventually run out and then fill back up over a period of time. But the behaviour of the ‘Instincts’ gauge will depend on the difficulty setting that you have chosen. Pick higher difficulty settings and you will see the gauge deplete over a shorter period of time and it will only fill back up when you achieve certain in-mission challenges, for example finding some key evidence or taking out a victim in style. Ramping up the difficulty setting will not only effect features such as your ‘Instincts’ gauge, it will also make the enemy respond faster and you can die more quickly, meaning stealth is even more so important. If some of the ‘Hitman’ purists want to give themselves even more of a challenge, you can even remove tools such as the aim assist, which will have you relying heavily on the crosshair.
Another handy feature of ‘Instincts’ will come in the form of ‘tagging’ nearby enemies and I’m not talking about the tagging that you will find on Facebook. If you are familiar with ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ or even ‘Red Dead Redemption, you will quickly grow accustom to this feature. Once you go into ‘Instincts’ mode the game will go into slow motion, this will then give you the opportunity to ‘tag’ enemies. When your chosen victims have been tagged, it’s time to unleash Agent 47’s fury as you take down the enemies in quick sequence, pop…pop…brapp…brapp! But if you get caught out by any guards and you are all out of your instincts gauge, you can fake surrender and lure the guards into a false sense of security and then when their guard is down, it’s time to go all Jack Bauer on their asses as you unleash some hand to hand combat and even use the unlucky victim as a human shield. In most cases taking down the enemy in this scenario will feature a very short QTE, but you must be quick off the mark.
We all know that ‘Agent 47’ is very lethal and extremely versatile as he goes about this day to day killing spree’s, he may want to use his trusty cheese wire, a brick, throwing knife or perhaps be extra cool and set someone on fire (if he’s in a good mood). But with a vast array of potential weapons at your disposal within ‘Absolutions’, ‘Agent 47’ will rely on the trusty firearm on more than one occasion. Now this could be via his signature ‘Silverballers’ or perhaps the precession on a sniper rifle, when it comes to using the trusty firearm, ‘IO Interactive’ have added a very handy gameplay feature that I think developers from other companies should take note. In most cases when using a sniper rifle to steady your aim, you will normally have to click in the right analog stick; but in ‘Hitman Absolution’, instead of clicking in the analog stick, the ‘RT’ is used as not only the fire button, but also to precision aim. This is done by pressing ‘LT’ to draw your weapon and then gently pressing in ‘RT’ before you fire the bullet. It’s such a simple mechanic, but it offers in my opinion far more precision and is far more comfortable to use rather than pressing ‘LT’ to aim, the ‘Right Analog Stick’ to steady aim and ‘RT to fire.
Another method that your will heavily be relying on during your playthroughs of ‘Hitman Absolution’ is the art of disguise. Pretty much anyone that falls victim to ‘Agent 47’, you are able to wear their clothing and don a new disguise (it just so happens that almost everyone in ‘Hitman Absolution’ is the exact same clothing size as ‘Agent 47’). In theory this should work perfect as you sneak your way into restricted areas, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Say for example you take out a simple gardener and take his clothing; you will be able to gain access to the greenhouse area. But while non gardening members of staff won’t recognise you and you can easily sneak on by, other gardeners will become suspicious of you. Now of course I fully expect attention to naturally be drawn to you as a face that they do not recognise. When this happens, you will need to press ‘RB’ to access your ‘Instincts’, this will make ‘Agent 47’ behave in a manner which allows him to blend in and lower any attention that he is getting, let’s just hope you have something left in your ‘Instincts gauge’ to slip on by.
But what I do find odd and rather flawed with the disguises is when you are in disguise as a police officer. Now in a small squad of police officers, you may not be recognised, but with hundreds if not thousands of members in a towns or cities police force, I find it hard to believe that every single police officer would become instantly suspicious of every single face that they don’t recognise. This is where I think ‘IO Interactive’ could have cut some slack when ‘Agent 47’ is in disguise, especially as something like a police officer. This is a very minor gripe, to what are a very immersive, inventive, heart pounding and enjoyable game, it will just at times require patience of a saint to see some missions through, but when you finally complete that hair pulling mission, ‘Hitman Absolution’ is a very rewarding game.
Firstly ‘Hitman’ fans, you’ll all be pleased to know that ‘David Bateson’ returns to his role as the voice of ‘Agent 47’, believe it or not, it was considered that somebody else would have been casted to voice the iconic Hitman. To be honest it would have stirred up the same kind of controversy as when they decided to cast someone else in for the voice of ‘Sam Fisher’, instead of the instantly recognisable voice of ‘Michael Ironside’. Not that this would have happened, but try to imagine ‘Agent 47’ being voiced by ‘Nolan North’ or anyone else for that matter, he would have sounded simply wrong. With that being said, ‘David Bateson’ as expected does an outstanding job in returning to his role, in fact the quality of his voice acting would have fitted well into a big budget Hollywood blockbuster. Having someone like ‘David Bateson’ telling ‘Absolutions’ story as well as he does goes a long way in making the game as immersive as it can be and that goes not just for the voice acting during gameplay moments, but also the narrating ‘Hitman Absolution’.
Hitman Absolutions soundtrack also plays a big role; it adds music to fit the games current status perfectly. It adds moments of tension when it needs to, when the pace of the game needs settling down, then so does the soundtrack. At times the music reminds me alot of the iconic ‘Godfather’ movies; its very old school and I think ‘Agent 47’ would have fitted well into a mafia family. One other neat touch that I believe is worth a mention is the manner in which ‘Hitman Absolution’ uses the heartbeat sound effect. When an unsuspecting victim is approaching a heartbeat sound effect kicks in, if you think of the “dada…dada…” music from the ‘Jaws’ movies, then you will have an idea of the kind of tension that the heartbeat creates in ‘Hitman Absolution’. This is certainly a very strong department for ‘Absolutions’ and ‘Hitmans’ newest story is one of the best told in recent times.
For a game that is essentially offline, with no traditional online multiplayer modes, ‘Hitman Absolution’ has a great deal of ‘Replay Value’. We have the usual suspects such as various difficulty settings and for the ‘Hitman’ purists I would recommend playing the game from the ‘Hard’ difficulty settings and of course a bad full of achievements for all you hunters out there. Each and every missions has many possibilities such as multiple roots (to an extent), loads of interactive objects to take out your unsuspecting victims, a particular favourite of mine came when I clubbed someone of the head with a book, leaving them unconscious on the floor. There are literally shed loads of ways to eliminate your victims; I could go on and on. Each mission will also have a set number of challenges to accomplish, if you chose to do them. Completing these challenges will obviously improve your final score at the end of the mission and perhaps earn you some extra bragging rights for the online leaderboards and you will also unlock extra skills to add to ‘Agent 47’s already impressive arsenal.
Then we have the ‘Contracts’ mode (which no longer requires the online pass that comes with the game might I add), at first I wasn’t clear what exactly ‘Contracts’ mode entailed, before playing the game I naturally assumed that it would be something based on the more traditional multiplayer modes that you find with most games. But what I found was that ‘Contracts’ mode is a mode that allows you to replay certain stages from the campaign and you can then add your own ‘Hits/Targets’, you can then add your own objectives and decide what disguises and weapons that can be used during the playthrough. It’s not what I expected it to be, it wasn’t nothing in the traditional multiplayer sense, nor is it a level creator, it’s something that allows you to add certain stipulations to some of your favourite stages from the campaign and then you can challenge yourself, your friends and other gamers from the online community. To be honest, it’s actually alot better than it sounds as it gives you an opportunity to say to other friends that own ‘Hitman Absolution’, “right then, so you think you’re better than me? Try and beat my score under these conditions if you think you’re hard enough!”
On one hand I would liked to have seen something like ‘Hitmans’ take on the ‘Spies vs Mercs’ from the ‘Splinter Cell’ games. But in saying that, on the other hand, there’s something very satisfying in seeing your friends crumble as they attempt to finish your ‘Contracts’ level and with all the various challenges to complete and the insanely addictive urge to always top your own score, let alone your friends, there’s plenty in ‘Hitman Absolutions’ to lure you back for just one last hit.
There was only been a couple of games that took me by surprise this year, yes we had games that we knew was going to deliver, but much like Agent 47’s victims, I was caught by surprise. For long time fans of the ‘Hitman’ franchise, I’m pretty much sure you all knew that goods will be delivered. But for gamers such as me that have always so desperately wanted to get stuck into these games, they never clicked with me, I could never find that connection. This all changed however with ‘Absolution’, I never really expected much from this game, but I kept an open mind as always. What I found was a very strong lead character, someone that I cared about and someone that I wanted to know more about (I think this would be the perfect queue for me to pre order the ‘Hitman HD Collection), ‘Agent 47’ is an enthralling character.
Then on top of that we had a game with the kind of immersive gameplay that we don’t see all too often. As always and as they should, developers and publishers will always shout to the rooftops of how good their game is and why you should buy it, but this was one of the very few occasions that their words was backed up and then some. There are so many ways that you can play each mission, so many possibilities, almost every playthrough will be different. ‘Hitman Absolution’ is a game that encourages you to play as the perfect assassin by showcasing your friends and other gamers from across the world’s scores. This will have you restarting each mission and checkpoint over and over again to try and get the best score possible, and then after you finally finished your mission, you begin to think what you could have done differently and before you know it, you’re restarting the mission.
Like I said, I never expected much from ‘Hitman Absolution’, but what I found was a game that I just wanted to play nonstop and ‘Agent 47’ is as strong of a leading character that you will find in any game. If you’re a fan of the ‘Splinter Cell’ and ‘Assassin Creed’ games and you want to push yourself with a challenge and to have a game with a powerful storyline to boot, then ‘Hitman Absolution’ is your game. With so many top games being released throughout this busy year, ‘Hitman Absolution’ will instantly come to mind when I think of the best games of 2012.