It’s rare these days that games provoke any kind of deep intuition or careful thought on the players’ part in order to get the best experience out of them. Is it that development studios are refusing to buck the trend? Or perhaps we have all just become accustomed to QTE’s and interactive cinematic storytelling that we forgot how much fun games used to be? Thankfully, with Hitman: Absolution, the enjoyment factor is still very much alive.
In what has been a year of blockbuster disappointments (Assassin’s Creed III taking first prize) it was a breath of fresh air to see originality and innovative game design brought back to some of its earlier roots with Hitman: Absolution. ‘Playful’ is what best describes the experience, almost as if Absolution knows it is a mature video game that engages with the user, asking them questions rather than presenting easy answers.
At its core, Hitman is essentially a stealth action game, while early previews may have focussed on Absolution’s more user friendly approach – the super-powered, Detective Mode-shaming Instinct for example – beneath this pandering to casual players is still the essence of Hitman. Only when played with a meticulous eye for detail and the sheer determination of wanting to get the best ranking possible, does Absolution spread its wings and showcase itself as a technical marvel.
Contracts mode perfectly embodies the Hitman sentiment, it allows you to take any of the 50 sandbox environments in the game and completely transform the dynamic of how they play by selecting a different target. Even such a small tweak immediately forces the player to take on a completely new perspective of 47’s surroundings.
The long awaited return of ‘the most dangerous man alive’ isn’t without faults; however, these are more elements of frustrating game mechanics than glaringly obvious downfalls. An undercurrent throughout the game is that when 47 disguises himself as the enemy, any similar AI can see through his deception with apparent ease – even when covered from head to do in full body armour.
The levels are smaller than Blood Money, but the new checkpoint system act like mini sandboxes that make up the ‘whole’ level. At first glance they may appear reduced, but, like the assassination and infiltration tasks themselves, playing around with the mechanics will reveal there’s a lot to do within. Like 47 himself: bland on the outside, fascinating on the in.
Hitman Absolution is a polished game that does the series justice, the accompanying plot at times does appear to just of been plucked out of the air on a screenwriters hangover, but it serves as a glimpse into 47’s emotional state after all those years being a cold hearted bastard. Will Absolution keep you coming back for more? In short, yes. Simply because stepping into the shoes of Agent 47 is pure unadulterated fun – something unfortunately a lot of games and their mundane protagonists are far from these days.