I am a big guy. 1.91m weighing in at a megaton, I don’t get to sneak around very silently very often. So sometimes playing a game like Hitman Absolution reminds me why I became a gamer. You get to do things you can’t always do in real life. Also I should do some sit-ups. Let’s find out why after the jump.
Stealth is still the name of the game as Agent 47 returns for another outing. Diana, 47’s handler at the agency, has gone rogue and 47 gets the contract to dish out her punishment. After a short brush with conscience, Diana asks 47 to look after Victoria, an experiment of the Agency in much the same way as 47 himself is. Deciding to do what is right, 47 sets out to hide Victoria and do everything in his power to protect her from the Agency. On his journey he runs into some very bad people to whom he does some very bad things.
The storyline is well scripted with the voice acting being some of the best I have seen. Keith Carradine as Blake Dexter, the main protagonist, is a joy to watch as he schemes his evil plans and laughs manically. Local South African actor David Bateson also does what he does best as agent 47. The story never drags and something always happens to keep the excitement going.
Each mission has a certain number of ways to complete them, some of which give you extra achievements which in turn increases your score at the end. You’re left to play the game as you want, but stealth is more highly rewarded than other, more messy, direct methods. So hiding bodies and killing only the specified targets is the way to go. This isn’t always the easiest or most fun way to play the game, though. Luckily, 47 has a wide variety of skills at his disposal to keep you entertained and test out new ways of going about a mission.
Speaking of skills, performing over a certain threshold in some missions will unlock certain abilities for 47. These will make him faster, aim better, and be able to take and dish out more punishment. All the unlocks are automatically applied, so there’s no mucking about with skill trees of any kind. It is a stealth shooter, not an RPG. Of course, you’ll be wanting all the skill unlocks to grab those perfect scores in the story line. If the story gets a bit much, however, you can always go over to contracts mode where players from around the world have set up custom missions for you to perform. Fulfilling certain criteria such as which disguise you have to wear and which weapon you use to kill the targets increases your score. This is a great way to measure your skills against the world. There are also featured contracts being made available on a regular basis, so you will be silently killing people to your heart’s content if it’s what gets your murderous little heart revving.
For me, the setting of Hitman Absolution is what sets it apart from most games. The music and gothic overtones fit well with the overall theme of death and redemption. The music especially goes a long way to create a suspenseful atmosphere, changing tones when certain events are happening. For example, when a target is about to drink a cup of poisoned coffee the music will become more dramatic to indicate to the player that your sinister goals are about to be met. The visual aspects of Hitman Absolution are commendable, from the bright lights of china town to the unbearable heat of the desert.
Patience is key, though, so if you do not enjoy waiting in a dark spot for someone to finally isolate themselves from the guards just so you can subdue them, you might want to give this game a skip. There are checkpoints throughout some stages which make life easier, but if you are a gamer like me that restarts every time someone spots you, you will be playing the same stage a few times before getting it right and that can get a bit frustrating. I for one would have loved a fast forward button in those situations. In the end, getting a mission just right without anyone knowing you were there is rewarding in itself.
Sneaking is easily done on the normal difficulty setting as you have a radar system showing you where the enemy is in your immediate surroundings. An arrow on the screen will also pop up if any of them are about to spot you. Disguises are hidden throughout the game to make your life easier. A feature called instinct also allows you to view enemies through walls or “act natural” while in a disguise and someone looks at you suspiciously. If you feel like all this help makes the game too easy for you, you can always up the difficulty to the “Purist” setting where all the assists are off and it is just you and your trusty silverballers.
Even though the action in the game is top notch, it does feel lacking at times. It just feels that a person bred for violence will be able to do more. For example, you are able to throw knifes at people killing them instantly however if you do this from across a crowd everyone will instinctively know it was you. Also, once multiple attackers are on your tail it is pretty much game over. The options to take out multiple attackers at once are very limited. However since the goal is to get in, kill the target and get out without being seen, this should not really be a big issue.
Hitman Absolution is a game worthy of your money and time. Fans of the original should be pleased with how this turned out, and newcomers to the series won’t feel too lost in the plot. The game should bring you hours of enjoyment of stealthy kills. However if you are looking for a game full of action and destruction, you may want to set your sights elsewhere.
Final Score: 8 incognito prawns out of 10
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PS 3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC
Age Rating: 18
RRP: R599 (Console), R399 (PC)