Hitman: Absolution picks up after the plot of the previous game, Hitman: Blood Money. Agent 47’s longtime handler, Diana Burnwood, has gone rogue and nearly destroyed The Agency. 47 is contracted to eliminate Diana, doing so efficiently and quickly. As Diana dies, she asks a favor of Agent 47: to protect a girl, Victoria, and to assassinate the new head of The Agency, Benjamin Travis. Interestingly enough, Agent 47 feels a small twinge of emotion (a franchise first). 47 decides to honor the final contract and begins killing his way to Benjamin Travis, while attempting to protect the mysterious girl.
Hitman: Absolution (H:A) keeps the same spirit of the Hitman franchise in its gameplay. More of a puzzle game, than a shooter, H:A allows the player to take multiple approaches to killing a target. While you have the option to play the game however you like, it reinforces the stealth aspect by punishing your score for rash actions. For example, you may want to open the front door and start putting rounds into everyone in your way, but you will be penalized for every non-target killed and for being spotted. The controls and gameplay may have been simplified for H:A, but it is also more streamlined. Interactable options will appear on-screen as you approach them, making it ridiculously simple to pick-up and play.
Where Hitman was known for big, open worlds that you can freely kill in, H:A breaks each level into bite-size chunks. So, each mission will have a main target, but several segments of getting to them. While some hardcore fans may disapprove of this change, I feel like it makes the game a much more manageable experience. Instead of having the weight of the entire mission resting on every mistake or success you have, you’re able to have checkpoints to fall back on. Also, don’t mistake this for implying that this game is easy. Even on the, “Normal” difficulty, H:A forces you to reload checkpoint after checkpoint, in order to successfully complete your objective.
H:A takes a top-notch approach to the visuals and audio, bringing the new Glacier 2 engine from IO and a colorful voice cast. The Glacier 2 engine does a great job of keeping the graphics beautiful, while processing crowds of a hundred NPC’s walking about. For the most part, H:A runs smooth, but it did occasionally have frame rate issues during large action sequences. I’m sure that the same problems wouldn’t occur on the PC version, but I played the Xbox 360 release.
The dialogue and characters within this game range from oddball and absurd to dark and believable. No matter how ridiculous or dark a character was, they were still voiced to perfection. Of course, David Bateson returns to play his trademark character, Agent 47. Some of the new faces (so to speak) include: Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Vivica Fox, and Jon Gries. Now, Gries, Fox, and Boothe all do an expectedly good job, but Carradine really blew me away. I had no idea it was even him providing the voice, until I looked it up. Who knew that he could pull off such a greasy, shitty, evil voice? Man, he did a fantastic job of making me hate his character.
Thankfully, they didn’t attempt to incorporate any sort of multiplayer into Hitman: Absolution. But, they did add in a new, “Contracts” mode. Contracts allows players to create their own missions within the levels of the campaign, then challenge the online community to complete them. Not only do players get to pick the character to be assassinated, but they also get to set specific rules and challenges to add some difficulty. For example, a player may need to assassinate a chef, but only kill him with a knife and have to hide the body. Staying within the parameters of the custom contract adds cash bonuses, which can be used to purchase new weapons and gadgets. Contracts mode may have a few kinks in the menu system, but it’s a welcome addition to the Hitman Franchise.
H:A‘s achievement list may hand out rewards like candy on Halloween, but it places too much value on too few achievements. Just by beating the game and trying out Contracts mode, I was able to earn 40/46 achievements. You’d think that would be a sizeable chunk of the Gamerscore, but I only got 670/1,000. Clearly, there’s an issue with the balance in the list. I’m not complaining about netting a quick 700 points, but I wish they had spread the points around more evenly.
I hadn’t played a Hitman game in a very long time, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect out of Absolution. I was pleased to find that the franchise has grown and evolved over the years, leading up to this polished and enjoyable gaming experience. While the plot may be muddled at times, the challenging gameplay and outstanding voice work keep you wanting to play more. Contracts mode adds to the replay value, but lacks any achievements to encourage players to flesh the new mode out. Underneath the shiny new hood of Hitman: Absolution, lies a game that is true to the Hitman franchise and a solid stealth-action experience.
I give Hitman: Absolution 4 “Sexy, Assassin Nuns” out of 5
By Blake Edwards