Welcome Back, 47
Six years. Six very long years. That's how long it has been since the release of Hitman: Blood Money, the last released game in the beloved Hitman franchise. And while I can't speak for exactly why it took so long for this game to be released, mostly because of Eidos Interactive being bought out by Square Enix, this is much more noticeably a 2010 game being released in 2012, and there lies the main problem I had with Hitman: Absolution.
For the first time in the history of this franchise, Hitman: Absolution tells a centered story. Rather then the normal "Here are your targets, dispose of them at your own discretion", Absolution instead tells the story of how your handler, Diana Burnwood has betrayed The Agency, leaving you the sole Hitman to take her out. But upon doing so, you discover the true reasons for why she is wanted dead. The game centers around you saving a young girl's life, in which the agency want to use her for their experiments. But all of this doesn't mean you are taking a complete break from making hits.
A big thing that some will argue is a departure in this series, others will see as a step forward, but Absolution does away with the ability to choose what weapons you want to bring in with you. Very early on, Agent 47 has to give up most of his equipment, instead relying on equipment found during missions. While I wasn't the biggest fan of this approach, it didn't really bother me. Absolution also introduces the "instinct meter". This meter is helpful in several ways. You fill the meter by killing or incapacitating your enemies, and hiding their bodies. When full, you can either use the meter to do a "point shooting" (a very similar version of Bullet Time) or, you can use it to put your face down while walking in front of other enemies disguised. This lead to one of the more frustrating aspects of Absolution though, and that is while most costumes will easily lead to a "cover blown" situation, there was always one per most levels that allow full disguise. For example, there was one level in which I infiltrated a compound and disguised myself as a barber. From there, I was able to full on sprint around the entire compound without a single enemy batting an eye. No one cared. Yet if I was dressed as a cop, or an enemy, the other enemies would instantly recognize me if I wasn't putting my head down.
My second biggest issue with Absolution is that when I played through the game on Hard (which is the third in a five tier difficulty ranking), the game is almost impossible to complete in a full Silent Assassin run. Enemies will give you no chance to get by them, and I ran into many instances where extra enemies would be placed right in front of a door that I had to pick the lock on to continue. Extra enemies should never be the way a stealth game is made harder, but for some reason, they decided this is route they needed to take.
Hitman has never been about run and gunning, but several points of the game have you doing just that. For the most part, these sections of the game feel out of place. While I understand from a story aspect why these are in the game, I would have much rather the developers made all of these cutscenes, which leads me to my final and biggest complaint on Absolution. What is up with the terrible looking cutscenes? The cutscenes of this game become so pixilated that they make a video watched on netflix at the worst streaming quality look good. This really took me out of the experience at times, especially when the in game graphics look stellar (except for a grain effect, but I can live with that). I don't understand that two weeks ago, I played through Halo 4 and saw some of the best cutscenes this console cycle, so why is this looking so awful? It made me long to have a pc capable of running this game, just to see if they fair better there.
But not everything is awful about Absolution, I actually loved every minute of the game. The sound design is top notch, I loved the score this time around, and everything else about the game works. While I do miss the ability to bring in weapons for the missions, all of that judgement is replaced when you play the all new Contracts mode. Contracts mode allows any player the ability to go in game, any level, and mark any targets they want to for another person to kill. You can pick up to three targets, hell, you can even pick the outfit and weapon you want for the kill. The best part is, the player creating the contract has to finish the created contract for it to be able to be shared with other players. So that eliminates people from creating contracts that are impossible. The mode works flawlessly, and is something that I really enjoyed, especially when the main story of this game was over.
Absolution will take an average player around twenty-hours to complete first time through, and it's quite a long story. While you might not like the beginning, it defiantly has a fantastic ending that's worth sticking around for. While I know that IO Interactive is working on a follow up, and has been for awhile, Absolution is a fantastic sequel that is worth every penny you spend on it. The changes to everything else here are top notch, and no longer does Hitman feel like an average pc port on the home console. Welcome back, 47.