Game Review: Hitman:Absolution

Agent 47, once again voiced by David Bateson, is making it personal in the fifth installment of the legendary Hitman series from Square Enix. His former handler, Diana Burnwood, burned The Agency and stole an important Agency science project: a genetically engineered girl, named Victoria, with a bright future in the assassin biz. 47, naturally, finds Burnwood and shoots her. He soon has a poorly-timed change of heart and agrees to protect the girl, Victoria, from The Agency and its bipolar ops manager, Benjamin Travis. Benjamin dedicates all of the Agency’s assets to hunting 47 and recovering the girl.

                                                                  Agent 47 getting all “festive."

47 Gets Detective Mode...Thanks, Batman!

Agent 47 is not the type to lie quietly and wait for the storm to pass; he is the proactive type. He hides Victoria in a Catholic orphanage and seeks out a former Agency informant, in Chicago, that goes by the name Birdie. The price for Birdie’s help is 47’s signature Silverballers. Although 47 slums it during most of Absolution, he still possesses incredible instinct and resourcefulness. Instinct, it turns out, is consumable and measurable, and may be used for point shooting, which allows 47 to mark and assassinate several targets at once. Instinct may also be used to detect enemy presence, predict patrol routes, and move past enemies unnoticed while not sneaking.

                                                   Welcome to Hope, SD...the most inappropriately named town in the US.

Bullets Aren’t Getting Any Cheaper

Although 47 must make do without the benefit of his precious silenced Silverballers for a huge chunk of the game, there are plenty of weapons just walking around. Assault rifles, pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, hunting rifles, and his signature fiberwire are some of the weapons available in Absolution. Environmental objects may also be used as weapons or as a way for “accidents” to befall the poor souls involved. Items like butcher knives, explosives, poison, and axes may be picked up and used as silent weapons...well, explosives aren’t silent, but you get the idea. Opportunistic players can often find a way for accidents to happen: dumping a load of bricks onto a targeted passerby, falling off of rails or out an open window, electrocution, or mistaking gasoline for hot sauce. Shit happens, amigo...when’s the funeral? Instinct may be used to detect usable environmental objects and provide a hint on how to use them to your advantage.

                                                               A little blood on the undercarriage and she’s ready to roll.

Playing Dress-Up

One of 47’s trademark stealth techniques is dressing up as the recently deceased: kill a guy and take his clothes. The first game limited this to guards, chefs, etc. Fans of dressing up will be elated to hear that the disguise possibilities are nearly endless. I walked the halls of an orphanage dressed as a chicken, wandered around a South Dakota courthouse with a tinfoil hat, and stalked agents and nuns in a cornfield dressed like a scarecrow. The single player campaign, the Absolution half of the game, limits players to disguises actually found in the level. However, in Contracts mode, players may start the level in any disguise they unlocked during the course of the Absolution campaign.

                                                                                   But who’s gonna protect Dexter?

Tupperware for Assassins

Contracts mode allows players to create hits, by marking targets, on any level in the game. Players may save this contract and share it for other players to play. Players, naturally, get paid for these contracts, and may use the proceeds to buy weapons, disguises, abilities, or upgrades. Weapons and disguises are stored in the safehouse, and may be accessed at the start of any contract. The single player levels may also be replayed in the Absolution half of the game, which scores the player’s high score on a worldwide leaderboard. Levels are designed for nearly infinite replayability, with permanent score-enhancing challenges in every level. For instance, complete a level wearing 47’s signature suit, with no wardrobe changes, and gain a 5% bonus. This bonus is applied for every subsequent replay, and all bonuses are cumulative. This gives players multiple chances to improve their leaderboard score. The challenges are numerous and force players to change up their play style to achieve the bonus, keeping content fresh.

                                                                                   It was like this when I got here.

Waxing Nostalgic

Square Enix did a commendable job in tightening the gameplay, adding a bit of depth to 47’s character, and producing memorable imagery. I had a blast finding different ways to kill the King of Chinatown, felt appropriately vengeful stalking the Catholic orphanage full of slaughtered nuns and priests, and had several “Cassidy and Sundance” moments where I was outgunned and low on ammo. Some of my favorite moments occurred when I botched an assassination, or failed to be stealthy, and was forced into a bulletstorm with Chicago’s finest or the local heavies. Instinct kills and stealth assassinations were satisfyingly cinematic, and getting rid of bodies had more variation than previous entries. I had issues with most of the antagonists, but most were interesting, especially the female hit squad called The Saints: hot hit ladies dressed like nuns!


Midol and a Chocolate Bar

There are some problems in Hitman: Absolution worth bitching about. My first complaint is the antagonists were unnecessarily stereotypical. Birdie attempts to extort money from everyone, the millionaire, Dexter, really loves money, the millionaire’s thug, Wade, and Hope’s Sheriff Skurky are extraordinarily uncouth and brutal to the point of being cartoonish, and Benjamin Travis played the part of power-mad Agency manager who misuses every available resource to close an entire apartment building and a cemetery. Did Square Enix run out of character development funds? I get it, we’re supposed to hate these guys, but you’re screwing with my immersion. There were points in the game where attempting to shoot from cover resulted in 47 popping up and turning to aim at an interesting spot on the wall instead of the approaching baddie. Other times bad guys would casually stroll over to 47’s cover spot, in the middle of a gunfight, and just stand there and politely wait for their turn to die. My last gripe is the uneven execution of some of the levels. One level featured nothing to do but eat an apple and watch an idiot dig his own grave, while a couple of levels forced 47 into instinct mode, without warning, for a cinematic finish. Other levels had impossibly difficult objectives. For instance, upon 47’s arrival in Hope, he gets a call from Birdie who left his Silverballers at the local gun shop. The owner refuses to sell 47 his guns unless he can outshoot a girl on the target range. Repeated failed attempts to best her score forced me to kill the shopkeeper to get the keys to the Ballers. The shopkeeper did not have them on his person: they’re in a safe in his office. Shooting the shopkeeper and Annie Oakley started a big shootout where everybody had a gun. I could build a house out of all the dead bodies laying around by the time I unlocked the case containing my Ballers and strolled off to kidnap Dexter’s son, Lenny.

                                                                  Sanchez, Birdie, and Dexter visiting Mount Rushmore.


Final Verdict
The funds may have run out for bad guy character development but they went whole hog on the features that really matter. The game looks good, plays good, sounds good, and possesses a ton of replay value. I traversed a lot of interesting environments chock full of death-dealing possibilities, killed a lot of folks, and had a great time doing it. Hitman Absolution is a solid GOTY contender.


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