Tag Archives: IO Interactive

Best of 2012 #8: Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: AbsolutionFor its failures as a Hitman game, Absolution still tickled me as a stealth game. Splinter Cell – one of my favourite franchises of last generation – has made a habit of disappointing fans with ill-advised re-imaginings, Metal Gear hasn’t been about the stealth for a while now, and the late 90s fad for the genre had faded, leaving stealth fans as high and dry as hardcore Hitman fans must be now.

I wouldn’t class myself as one of them, having only played the superb Blood Money, so perhaps I was detached enough to enjoy Absolution for what it was rather than what I wanted it to be. It nailed the compulsive pursuit or perfection that I loved from classic Splinter Cell and threw in a handful – but only a handful – of the murder puzzles of previous Hitman games.

Credit is deserved as well for going against the disappointing trend of six-hour single-player campaigns with no replay value. Over 20 hours first time through is practically unheard of these days, and this genuinely does boast multiple solutions that are worth experiencing for the wealth of Easter eggs and humorous conversations to overhear. And you don’t even have to pay for DLC to get it all. Bravo, IO.

Even so, let’s have a proper Hitman game next time, though, eh?

Hitman: Absolution

I adored Hitman: Blood Money. That it took this long to get a follow-up when the series hit so frequently last generation has made the wait almost painful, and the occasionally mismanaged PR campaign that only recently actually, you know, started showing something resembling Hitman, has sometimes twisted the knife.

Now that I’ve finished it, I can say that it’s not a very good Hitman game.

Hitman: Absolution

That said, it’s still an excellent game. In a generation when two other previously prolific stealth series, Metal Gear and Splinter Cell, have been frustratingly quiet, this is one of the best examples of that genre in ages.

In response to criticism that Absolution didn’t look like Hitman, IO released demos of two levels: King of Chinatown and Streets of Hope. These raised expectations because they genuinely looked like proper Hitman, and when you play them you’ll see that they are. You have targets, a small area to run around in, and countless ways to improvise murders – the archetypical ‘murder puzzle’ that have enraptured so many fans. They’re brilliant.

However, they also pretty much represent half of the traditional Hitman levels in the whole game. Every other one has you being hunted by police, mercenaries or, yes, sexy nuns. Some don’t involve killing at all unless you’re playing it wrong. One starts off with you having free run of the level and having to find creative ways into a restricted area – so far, so good – after which you’ll have to sneak your way around crowds of corrupt police before mercenaries arrive and you spend the rest of the sequence fighting or avoiding them.

The way certain enemies can see through them leads to ludicrous spells of spinning on the spot to break line of sight from all directions. On one level, enemy mercenaries will see through your armour with a full face mask unless you burn instinct to blend in, but in another you can nick the clothes of the defendant in court and impersonate him, with the police, judge and clerks oblivious to the fact that a guy who they’re evidently familiar with completely changed appearance in the five-minute toilet break. Being kitted out like one of hundreds of mercenaries will be seen through as soon as you run out of instinct, but dressing as a scarecrow and hanging yourself from a cross is an apparently impenetrable ruse. It’s frustratingly inconsistent.

But like I said, it’s a great stealth game, and if that sounds appealing you’ll have a great time. After all, if your objective is to hide from enemies and disguises are reduced to a last resort, it ceases to be much of a problem. IO also deserves credit in this time of £40 six-hour epics for crafting a game with a huge amount of content, with a campaign that took me over 20 hours on hard, a ton of levels, ridiculous quantities of Easter eggs and incidental dialogue that are frequently genuinely funny, and all without even touching the promising Contracts mode. A meaty single-player game without shoehorned-in multiplayer? Whatever next?

I just hope that now that IO has the need to tell this story out of its system, the next one will be content to plonk Agent 47 in an interesting situation and tell him who to kill.