While the video game industry pumps out cookie cutter, first person shoot-’em-ups, IO Interactive’s Hitman series offers the option to slowly stalk your victims one at a time and meticulously plan out their death like a child with a magnifying glass. Lurk in the shadows, or walk among the targets incognito, with the master of stealth Agent 47.
After six long years, IO Interactive has finally released the fifth and newest installment of the franchise: ”Hitman Absolution.” The follow-up to “Blood Money,” Absolution appears to have all the signature marks of a classic Hitman game: unique weapons, disguises, and a free environment to plot out sick murder fantasies which offers scenarios limited only by imagination. However, Absolution falls short of the bar set by its predecessors as it takes a simple, stealthier approach at the expense of its creativity.
Rather than encouraging players to find their own clever endings, Absolution leaves those who venture away from the game’s monotonous disguise and infiltrate process, disappointed and exposed to watered-down details.
Lush, expansive environments seen in previous Hitman installments have been replaced by short segments, separated by cut scenes that leave the experienced Hitman player feeling suffocated. Beautiful Blood Money levels like the opera house or vineyard have been swapped with dull buildings that lack character, like the courthouse which is nothing more than a few hallways and a patch of grass no bigger than the average backyard.
Absolution is brutally difficult, despite its simple appearance. The big addition to this year’s game is instinct mode. In previous games, a proper disguise was all it took to sneak past your foes. Now all assailants of similar garb become obnoxiously curious of 47’s unfamiliar face. In order to get by, players must use Hitman’s instinct–a simple meter which depletes quickly as Agent 47 musters up his years of espionage experience by hiding his face in his hand, a method famously perfected by embarrassed teenagers.
A new location system has replaced the old icon map with the ability to see through walls as targets glow orange or red. Get too close to a target with an empty instinct bar and a white arrow representing their suspicion glows orange and points towards 47. Within seconds the AI becomes aware of Hitman’s presence and alert security to take him out.
This is the only true challenge separating the player from waltzing through simple levels. This forces players to replay levels multiple times and find just the right path to scrape through unnoticed.
The storyline and voice acting are sufficient, but who cares? Does anyone who purchases a game about a soulless contract killer really want to hear about his feelings, or learn that underneath the serial killer facade lays a heart of gold? In the story Agent 47 discovers a 14-year-old girl named Victoria that “The Agency” has created from a test tube to be the ultimate killer, much like Agent 47 who was cloned by an evil scientist for the same purpose.
Rather than carrying out hits, the old plotline is twisted as 47 is on a constant search for Victoria who he tries to rescue through multiple levels, which has the feel of the original Donkey Kong mixed with a poorly made Metal Gear Solid. 47’s Flashbacks, pop-up throughout the game linking his past and Victorias present by awful medical procedures. This inspires him to save her from a similar fate.
The sexual undertones of this game are strange and may make players uncomfortable. Hitman and Victoria seem to be star crossed lovers from the same background, separated only by The Agency and Megan’s Law.
There is also a group of cliche, scantily clad, gun-toting, antagonist nuns dressed like holy dominatrixes. Are we supposed to be attracted to these computer generated, latex abbesses? The group is made of seven pale white sisters and one African American leader named Lasandra Dixon that replicates the visuals of those terrible “Sister Act” movies starring Whoopi Goldberg, who is anything but sexy, which begs the question “why bother?”
The best feature of this game is the new online additions. Players are now able to create their own hit contracts using given levels, which they can then send to their friends or make public for anyone to play. However creating fun scenarios with the given lackluster environments proves difficult.
Overall the game isn’t bad, new Hitman users will be thrilled with the game, as the core idea of being an assassin is still fun. But the Hitman faithful who have fallen in love the old elaborate worlds ripe with shenanigans may feel uninspired and betrayed. While the game still offers replayability, this time it feels forced as players struggle to complete missions compared to games of the past, where a level would be played over and over because it was fun and each time felt like a completely different experience.
Again, this is a decent game, but as a whole it just comes off as lazy work from an A student. Devoted fans may want to stay away from this one and holdout for the next game, which according to IO’s recent standards may be only 5 years and 350 days away.
Absolution should take experienced players about 10 hours to complete and is available for PS3, Xbox, and PC. This game is rated M for mature audiences only. The game contains intense violence, sexual themes and strong language.
A generous 3 out of 5 stars.