Before this game was released there was a lot of concern amongst fans. Many wondered whether the game would be 'dumbed down', that the need to sell to a wider audience would resort in taking away the hardcore stealth elements of the game. Maybe the Agent 47 everyone knows and loves won't be as we remembered him, or that the format has aged and won't be a relevant having spent six years away from the game. As soon as you play this game those fears will gone and you will wonder why you ever doubted the main man in the first place. Hitman: Absolution was worth the wait.
The game starts with Agent 47 giving the task of taking down his former employer Diana, who has leaked Agency secrets and bringing back a girl named Victoria who is currently in the care of Diana, to the Agency. Before finishing the job Diana gives 47 a note and tells him to protect Victoria from his own Agency which begins the story of finding out what is so special about this girl.
The story is very engrossing and kept me entertained and intrigued throughout the campaign’s entire duration, culminating in a satisfying conclusion that leaves me longing for more. Unsurprisingly, the game’s story isn't one of the best I've ever seen in a game but encapsulates the essence of Hitman better than it’s, somewhat lacking, prequels.
The length of the story is much longer than most story driven titles with 20 chapters to complete, (which all vary in length) most of which feature completely brand new locations. It’s hard for me to judge how long it would take if you just played the story as I was doing everything there was to do but I believe around 13 hours would do it which is longer than a usual 8-10 hour story only experience. However, with a new challenge system, you will be compelled to revisit chapters time, and time again to get the most out of it.
Challenges are what make this game really interesting: each level will have a set amount which will involve 47 performing certain tasks whilst also achieving the mission objective. Some will be pretty evident such as 'never be seen' or 'never change disguise' in the level but others will show you just how layered and well crafted each level in this game really is. Killing a target can involve sniping from a distance, changing into his drug dealer’s clothes and luring him away from his guards, poisoning his coffee or even pushing him down a hole. Each way is so fun I found myself playing each level many times before moving on to the next just to see how each scenario played out. Just really fantastic game design. This is what veterans of the series will look for and you will not be disappointed.
The gameplay really is the shining star and the main reason why this game is so engaging. The controls feel fluid, smooth and easy to use and the first level, which serves as a tutorial, is expertly crafted to teach you everything there is to know very quickly. The shooting mechanics are fine but you shouldn't be using them very often anyway. The way instinct works by showing arrows for alerted guards is great and shows you exactly where you could be in danger without being too intrusive.
My only complaint would be the disguise system which doesn't seem very fair to the player. If you use a police officer's uniform other police officers will spot you from very far away without even acting suspiciously. Perhaps if this didn't happen disguises would make the game too easy but I still found them pretty useless and in the end found it easier to not use them and just stay completely hidden.
Visually this game is pretty stunning and stylish to look at. I never had any graphical glitches or texture popping after a good 30 hours with the game on Xbox 360 and the art style really suits the overall tone of the game. The cut-scenes are put together very well and makes the story come to life. Agent 47 has never looked this good.
Other than the main story we also have a separate Contracts mode to play through. This mode is made up of levels designed by players from the community for others to see if they can crack. Anyone can create a contract and you can share them with your friends to see who can assassinate a certain target the best way and, in turn, get the highest score. The mode is an interesting idea but the possibilities for levels are quite limited and having only spent a short time on the mode I never felt compelled to play it again. A nice feature which many will enjoy but nothing more than an added bonus to the main game for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this game, so much so that as soon as I finished the story I went back and got all the remaining achievements to 100% complete the game. I would gladly pay more for DLC, whether it be story related or not, I feel compelled to assassinate more targets and accomplish more challenges. Hopefully 47 won’t be out of action for as long as his last hiatus of 6 years.
Hitman: Absolution is truly fantastic and one of the best stealth games this generation along with Splinter Cell: Conviction. My complaints are so small and the enjoyment I got was one of the best experiences I've had with a stealth game for a while. The Hitman franchise is alive and better than ever. Agent 47 is going to be finding new ways to eliminate targets for a very long time.