LTTP Hitman: Absolution Xbox 360 Review
The tail end of 2012 gave fans a decent run of stealth action games. We had Assassin’s Creed III, which, similar to the third Mass Effect game, was lauded for its game play, but had an anticlimactic ending. We also got Dishonored, which really didn’t miss a step, save for a few predictable plot points that one could chalk up to logical story telling. And of course, gamers also were able to play Hitman: Absolution, which allows players to come into the modern era, instead of dealing with swords, tomahawks, ancient pistols, crossbows, and bows and arrows. For whatever reason, I hadn’t actually played the final game on this list until recently. That being said, I have rectified the situation, so here are my impressions.
The start of the game is your basic tutorial mission. It even tells you that the mission is a prologue to the main story. The game tells you how to grab objects, how to distract people, how to eliminate enemies in both lethal and non-lethal fashion, what to do with the bodies of defeated enemies, and how to complete certain challenges. Interestingly enough, although the game does have a scoring system, you actually get to do quite a lot in the prologue mission before scoring takes place, with no ill effects. Of course, once the scoring system turns on, everything you accomplished takes effect, so it’s not like the initial phase doesn’t help out there. The final bit of the prologue gives you some pretty awesome skills.
As far as the actual story goes, the prologue is a contract that the International Contracts Agency made specifically for the series protagonist, Agent 47 (a name which I will always assume is a Star Trek reference). His former handler, Diana Burnwood, has (appropriately) burned the entire ICA, exposed the agency, and left it in tatters. As a way to repay her disloyalty, the send in their best agent, since she’s surrounded herself with a small army of private security. After he penetrates the estate – either by sneaking about or murdering everybody in his path – he shoots Diana as she’s in the shower. Both due to his hesitation, and for not accounting for a semi-transparent curtain and the refraction of the glass door, his shot isn’t immediately fatal. Because of this, Diana manages to make a final request – instead of taking the girl that Diana took from the ICA, he needs to protect her from anybody that tries to retrieve her. For whatever reason, 47 realizes that there is more going on than he knows, and he decides to retrieve the girl, Victoria. This infuriates the new head of the ICA, Benjamin Travis, meaning that 47 has to go to the one place that the ICA doesn’t know is a safe house so he can hide her – a convent.
After that, Agent 47 goes around trying to find out just who – and what – Victoria is. At first, he goes to a usual informant in Chicago, who lets him know about a man that might have more information. That man, Blake Dexter, becomes a major antagonist in the game. Basically, what information he has on Victoria is going to be used to ransom her to the highest bidder, most likely the ICA. One of the best parts of the story, however, is the locales. You start at a mansion, but then you go to a square that’s a little Chinatown, follow that with a hotel, then embark on a building-to-building chase to a train station, go to a club … well, you get the idea. Similar to the other Hitman console games, this spans many areas that are done with exacting detail, and with NPCs that change their behavior depending upon what you do as Agent 47. The game feels like a living, breathing world. As an example, should you decide to replay a mission in a different way than previously, your experience isn’t going to be different just because of your play style. The way that other characters react to you is going to change.
The different types of rivals also make for a fairly interesting set-up. Although changing the difficulty will mean you have more enemies to attack or avoid, it also makes for non-combatant civilians that are far more alert. As such, if something seems off, or you’re clearly trespassing, even if a person that sees you isn’t an enemy, that character can still sound the alarm. This isn’t such a big issue if you’re shooting your way through everybody (and you can get rewarded if you perform those killings in certain ways), but if you’re really trying to be a silent killer that nobody sees, it can be a right pain. On the other hand, the NPCs can also provide a decent cover, and some of the non-enemy NPCs actually have clothes that you can take in order to hide from others.
Two parts about the game that really set this apart from other games in the genre are instinct and challenges. While there are achievements available (trophies for those that are considering a PS3 copy of this), challenges are in-mission items that you can complete. For certain missions, some of these challenges are mutually exclusive (e.g. you have a semi-open area with a single target, and the challenges give you three or four different ways to kill the same person). Each mission also has the mutually exclusive “Chameleon” and “Suit Only” challenges. The first requires you to find every single possible clothing change, and wear it. The second requires that you never once wear a disguise, instead sticking with the iconic black suit and red tie. Overall, the challenges add replay value to a game that could otherwise just be a once-through and finished. As for instinct, imagine detective mode from the Batman: Arkham video games, combined with some additional assassination abilities, and the possibility of using a disguise to go completely unnoticed. It’s all kinds of awesome, and when used right, makes the game a lot easier.
A few fair warnings, however – be sure to check which difficulty you’re using, because once you get to the harder difficulties, enemies notice you almost instantly, there are far more of them, and unless you know how to take cover in a fire fight, you are all kinds of screwed. You probably don’t want to play on a professional difficulty unless you’ve either played a Hitman game or a stealth action game before, because otherwise, you are going to be incredibly out of your depth.
As for the online experience, this is something far more interesting than a typical multiplayer, as it allows players to go through a level without actually playing a part of the story. It allows people to have the Hitman experience, but with some incredibly variable options. You get targets that aren’t your initial targets in the story. You have to figure out weaponry that you may or may not have. You may need to use a special costume instead of a suit. However, the best part about the Contracts system is that, unlike other online challenges, other players made these challenges, so no matter how nearly impossible it seems to accomplish, it can be done. You can even use the system to your advantage, as it is possible to earn in-game money so that you can buy additional weapons, and upgrades for said weaponry.
Ultimately, I really regret that I didn’t get this game when it first came out. Even when I found the game frustrating and almost impossible to progress, I was having so much fun that the restarting was just me looking at the puzzle and trying one more time. While I only borrowed the game instead of buying it, as I had never played a Hitman game before, I will probably buy this one when I have a lull in my gaming schedule.