Hitman Absolution review
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A fun approach to the assassin genre that gives players plenty of options to progress through levels, dodge the police, and eliminate targets.
- Multiple gameplay approaches
- Contracts mode adds addictive community competition
- Solid overall presentation
- Mediocre A.I.
- Lackluster narrative
- Annoying save and checkpoint system
Agent 47 is one dull, emotionless antihero. As an assassin, he carefully eliminates targets with a simple wire pulled around a victim's neck, or he takes a hands-off approach by poisoning their food. He hides bodies in dumpsters, disguises himself as shop clerks or police officers, and uses every piece of his environment to blend in with the crowds. The bald Agent 47 does this all without fireworks or half-naked girls dancing around his every step. It's his lack of empathy, his lack of compassion for his targets, and ability to appear quite flat that make Agent 47 a perfect assassin. While he may be the most uninteresting leads in a AAA game, he is also one of the best characters to take players through Hitman Absolution as this blank slate lets you figure out how to eliminate each target, how to escape the police, and how to blend in with the crowds.
There are very few targets on Agent 47's short list that allow players to take a straight forward go-and-shoot-in-the face approach. As you guide this middle-aged assassin through levels, the choices are in your hands, and it's up to you to decide how emotionally vested you are in the overall plot. See, this isn't a game of simple target assassinations. Agent 47 is on a mission. He discovers one target is a close friend, and after pulling the trigger he agrees to protect a little girl. He goes rogue from his agency soon after and the game's narrative is split between finding the girl from a group that wants to make a profit of her and evading his former employer.
The story is tied together by highly stylized cinematic cutscenes that lead you to believe the game is all about action. Spoiler alert: This is not an action game; this is a stealth game. Agent 47 comes equipped with very few tools to kill his targets. Instead, developer IO Interactive asks players to find objects to use as weapons throughout the 20 levels. Use a screwdriver to stab patrol guard in the neck, dump his body over a ledge, steal his clothes and disguise yourself as a local. See that knife in the kitchen? Use it to slash one bad guy's neck and quickly throw it at another's forehead. Agent 47 is not only incredibly stealthy, he's also a fantastic killer.
The game rarely throws too many of the same style missions at you. One moment you are escaping police at a crowded train station--blending in with the masses of people after shutting down security cameras--and the next moment you are sneaking through a military compound. But not every level calls for some big adventure. You could find yourself starting a bar fight in some hick drinking establishment or practicing your shot with some gun slinging, big-boobs bombshell. While the variety of levels keeps you anxious to see what's next, it's not held together all that well. At times it feels like a random series of missions stringed together to make a campaign, instead of a comprehensive story sliced into bit-sized pieces.
The good news about the levels is that they never give you a straight line. It's not open world, but IO Interactive gives you plenty of ways to approach each level. If you've grown tired of games that hold your hand while stringing you along stages designed on rails, you'll be pleased to know there is never only one way to get through levels. Not only are the levels smartly designed, they are also beautiful playgrounds. You could find yourself slipping in and out of cover to avoid a helicopter's spotlight, or walking through Chinatown and soaking in the district's rich culture.
Perhaps you noticed the mention of a cover system above. That's right, Agent 47 sticks to cover quite well, and can get into intense fire fights with baddies. You absolutely have the option to approach just about any level with your guns blazing. But this isn't the best way to play Absolution as the game tends to nick points for killing people--especially civilians--and getting noticed by the bad dudes. But the cover system comes in handy even when you play through in stealth. Eavesdrop on conversations to give you hints about your target's location or weaknesses, pop out of cover ... (continued on next page)
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