Hitman Absolution (PC) Reviewed: Less sandbox, more Splinter Cell

Hitman: Absolution

By on November 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm

It might have been plagued with problems, but Hitman: Blood Money still has a cult following to this day. Each mission took place in a huge, open killing ground, where the method of death was limited only by the player’s twisted imagination. The game provided the tools and the environment, but it was up to you to decide how to manipulate them through hours of observation and experimentation, and it’s still revered as one of the finest examples of sandbox gameplay. Powered by the meagre muscle of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox (with the 360 version really just an afterthought), it’s no wonder virtual killers were fingering their garrottes with glee when Hitman: Absolution was announced. Today’s consoles are exponentially more powerful than their predecessors, so we could only imagine how much bigger and more densely packed with death traps the new game would be.

Instead IO Interactive used the power of the PS3 and 360 to deliver the most claustrophobic Hitman game yet.

Gone are the huge playgrounds of Blood Money, with each level now broken down into bite-sized murder-chunks. The reasoning behind this compartmentalisation is obvious as soon as you lay your eyes on Absolution’s luscious levels. By making each area much smaller, the game can cram more detail into the environment and the objects that fill it, without causing today’s consoles to burst into flames. The PC version is simply spectacular, using hardware tessellation to deliver a level of detail over and above the consoles, and the crowd technology is still as impressive as it was in the last game, with hundreds of people filling clubs and marketplaces.

The NPCs have been brought to life, far more believable than the robotic automatons of the past, spewing out lengthy reams of voiced dialogue provided you stick around long enough to listen in. In Blood Money, it often felt like you were a kid with a magnifying glass looking in on a huge robotic ant farm, but Absolution’s areas feel much more alive and real, albeit at the cost of scale and openness. While the look of the game is mostly breathtaking, IO has gone a bit crazy with the lighting and bloom stick; even Agent 47’s bald dome casts off enough glare to distract overhead pilots. The eye candy also comes at a cost, occasionally bringing my i7 3770K (overclocked to 4.5GHz) with dual GTX 670s to its knees, often in areas that should run beautifully, such as tunnels.

Due to the smaller size of the areas, many levels follow a single linear route, making it less about experimenting with different pathways and more about following the obvious cues to the next checkpoint. Every now and then it’ll open up into a larger area like a marketplace or apartment building, where hints of the old Hitman experience shine through, but even these areas pale in comparison to the hectares of space virtual hitmen are accustomed to exploring.

This lack of continuity is strange problem for a game that prides itself on bringing a strong narrative to the series

Making it even less about player choice is the fact that you don’t get to choose which weapons to start the mission with. Instead you spawn with whatever the level designer has deemed suitable — but you don’t have to use them. There are usually three or four traps squirrelled away in the environment, and they’re not always easy to find; in one section it took me an hour of reloading before I found a certain poisonous fish that I could use to poison my target.

This has a huge impact on the playstyle — whereas in the past you could choose which weapons to take, and the levels were littered with various options of despatching your target, now it plays out like an easter egg hunt. Walk through the level, stumble upon the obvious trap, then trigger it when the target is near. The game doesn’t even let you use weapons that you ended the last mission with — if you left the last mission bristling with items tailor made for mass murder, they’re all gone by the time you start the new mission, even when both missions are directly connected in the game’s timeline. This lack of continuity is strange problem for a game that prides itself on bringing a strong narrative to the series.

The choice to use pre-rendered cut-scenes means that other continuity issues constantly rear their ugly head. Countless times I opened a door in-game, garbed in a stolen police officer’s work blues carrying a police revolver, only for the game to jump to a cut-scene of me entering the room in Agent 47’s trademark suit armed with a silenced automatic pistol. It’s jarring and it’s basic film school stuff, so it’s baffling that a game that places such a heavy emphasis on narrative ignores one of the basic tenets of the storytelling process. If you can ignore the issue, the storyline is actually rather decent. It’s not going to win any Emmy’s, but it’s also not cringe-worthy. We’ve all known that – deep underneath the coat of blood of his recently eviscerated victims – Agent 47 has a good heart, and Absolution explores the theme of how many lives he will take to save a single life.

Chances are you’ll take a lot more lives than you want, as playing the game in stealth mode is brutally difficult. Demons Souls is an utter cake walk compared to stealthing through Absolution on the higher difficulty levels, as the linear level design and aggressive AI makes it incredibly hard to get through most areas. The new disguise system makes stealing uniforms basically worthless, as enemies garbed in the same attire will spot you in seconds unless you use your Instinct power to hide your face, but it burns out in just a couple of seconds. Throw in checkpoints that are harder to find than a working follicle on 47’s head, and this is one tough sucker.

Like Demons Souls, the sweet, sweet sensation of satisfaction of getting through a level makes it all worth it, but you’re going to need the patience of a saint to ghost your way through. Blasting enemies is infinitely simpler, and the improved controls and weapon feedback makes this a very serviceable third person shooter.

This gunplay can be used in the online Contracts mode, where you must kill a target in an area according to a plan built by other players, but most players will probably set up tricky silent assassinations instead. It’s an interesting mode that will likely die out rather quickly, as the joy of setting up or achieving a kill is still limited by the linear levels.

If it sounds like I’m disappointed in the design decision to lessen the scale of the game, it’s because I am — but that doesn’t necessarily make Absolution a bad game; it’s just very different to past Hitman experiences. Experimentation is now replaced by observation and persistence, and it feels much more like a Splinter Cell or Metal Gear game. Yet there’s still the feeling of sweet satisfaction after clearing a level without killing anybody, and in some ways this is even more pronounced thanks to the fiendishly clever AI and devilish difficulty, provided you’ve got the tenacity to retry levels dozens of times.

Many gamers will also appreciate the increased attention to detail, and won’t miss the head-scratching problem solving required in the past. If only IO Interactive could have accomplished both, combining the open nature of the previous game with the lush minutia of Absolution, it’d be the perfect Hitman game. Instead we’re left with a much more focused assassination experience, which sacrifices emergent gameplay for blockbuster presentation.

Good:

  • A visually gobsmacking game which makes the most of the PC’s powerful graphics capabilities
  • AI is much more believable thanks to better behaviour and a wealth of dialogue
  • Pulling off environmental kills is still incredibly satisfying
  • Gunplay is now a viable – and enjoyable – way to clear the game

Bad

  • Doesn’t feel like a Hitman game
  • A narrower experience than the sandbox gameplay of its predecessors
  • Incredibly hard to successfully stealth your way through on higher difficulties
  • Very demanding hardware requirements if you want all the eye candy
25 comments (Leave your own)

POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILERS

I could forgive much of the linearity if the continuity was at least decent, there was one part in the game that revealed 47 had access to a whole bunch of weapons in his car, but the option to take them with you on a mission was never there. The inventory system also feels like they took a shortcut, I can carry my silverballers, a shotgun, a pistol, and a sniper rifle all underneath my suit, but if I want to carry two improvised weapons like a brick and a syringe, then I’m up shit creek.

While the game’s plot was semi-enjoyable to play out in that it was at least marginally interesting and had great voice acting and some over-the-top panache, a lot of it felt unnecessary to me. Several of the missions where 47 is effectively bartering his skills as an assassin for information felt misplaced, simply because it seems like 47 would have no scruples with simply threatening the information source to get what he wanted.

Anyway, worth it at a discount, not at full price.

 

Haven’t read the review, don’t have time, but just on the title of the review alone, I think I am going to agree with this. The game totally feels like Splinter Cell Conviction with costume changes and less stealth mechanics, the levels all feel horribly small and the larger levels all have so little points of interest, it really feels like a step back from the previous games. Blood Money is still imo, the best of the series and I really wish that style of game was more financially viable.

I was really kind of hyped and excited for this game, simply because it was a new hitman game, but its hitman in name only afaic, this years most disappointing title for sure.

 

Torture is notoriously unreliable in real life, nuke you really should read the view as you just make yourself look like an A spouting nonsense.

It’s certainly one of the best title’s I’ve played all yeara nd the stealth is incredibly enjoyable, and due to the new difficulty of the title when everything comes together on Purist for a SA rating it feels like christmas.

This is also easily the best and most fair Hitman Absolution review out there (see the GA one for comparison, just… urgh) being objective about the game instead of incredibly biased because it’s not blood money 1.5

Persoanlly, I would pay $60-80 for this game, and to get it at $30 it was an absolute steal, and I can see myself playing it for a long time (hell Purist is taking me bloody forever for the infiltrator challenge at the same time as I refuse to kill anyone but targets; a personal challenge but a fun one. To do suit only at the same time would take so much longer due to the hard parts of the levels coming halfway through).

 

jez:
Anyway, worth it at a discount, not at full price.

TL:DR version, ^ this.

 

Having played through the game, i can agree it feels very much removed from its predecessors.

The feeling of being pushed down a corridor filled with mirrors to give the appearance of space is felt throughout the game.

In saying that i did enjoy myself and for the small price of $29 dollars, thanks to Games.on.net and Greenmangaming.com i can say i got my moneys worth.

 

I don’t think i’ve ever met a hitman series fan that has wanted anything close to a “serviceable third person shooter” from the franchise. Honestly, i’m finding it a little insane that so many reviews are giving it high scores and praise but telling me so much of what i don’t want to hear about the game

 

“A visually gobsmacking game which makes the most of the PC’s powerful graphics capabilities
AI is much more believable thanks to better behaviour and a wealth of dialogue”

I found the visuals to be more standard than “gobsmacking”

AI is terribly stupid, I had “purist” moments where I was crouched 4 meters infront of the target and they would ignore me completely

“Gunplay is now a viable – and enjoyable – way to clear the game”
Blood Monies gunplay was infinatly better, I HATED the gunplay in this game.

As a game it was sub par as a hitman title it was awful imo

 

All in all I’m not surprised by the new Hitman focus, not when that infamous trailer essentially spelt out what it is largely down to – male fantasy appeasement (ie T+A with guns) and a more action orientated experience overall. If I was feeling more candid I would say park your brain in neutral when you load up the game as you won’t be needing a great deal of it – if you liked the environment “sandbox” of recent Hitman titles.

There are some great sections where it feels like Hitman again, as Bennett mentioned, they are the more open “smorgasboard” areas, though they remain diluted when compared to other Hitman games. I will say I did enjoy my Chipmunk suit and the katana, that was fun.

The cutscenes are jarring. Did you hate in DX;HR when super stealthed Jensen blundered into the first boss fight? Then you won’t enjoy the intrusion of these cutscenes either. It’s not that the story is bad, it is great at making 47 start to unravel from his previous clinical existence, that spark of humanity you saw at times in earlier games is readily more apparent here and it is interesting enough. It is just strange to hear 47 blather on so much about everything.

It was pushed that the game hasn’t lost it’s stealth and while it does include stealth it is not particularly enjoyable and on higher difficulties (where extra numbers of enemies with super hearing and sight are in play) it is painfully difficult to stealth. The satisfaction of ghosting through is there it is just oh so harder to achieve now and not in a good game design way but in a, well we just stuck more enemies around way.

IO said they were influenced by Grindcore movies and wanted it to feel like one and it does. The environments are run down, there is a suitable amounts of T+A and lots of bloodshed. The games looks beautiful on PC and the controls aren’t too bad, presuming you like cover shooter style mechanics. There are perhaps too many conveniently placed bins and like DX:HR suffered from the all too convenient duct placement allowing your “stealth” option.

I picked the game up cheap, dirt cheap so I feel I have my money’s worth. If I paid a higher price I might be more miffed about it all. It’s a fun enough game but it is, for me a dilute Hitman experience – in regards to the previous recent games where the environments were a lot more fun and gave you a good many options. I do like the fact that enemies will challenge you if you are dressed as them as it would make sense that they would have an idea of what their friends/co-workers look like and it adds more challenge. Albeit on higher difficulty levels it is perhaps tuned in the AI’s favour too much.

The contracts aspect looks like it could be a lot of fun and the challenges can be interesting/challenging enough to extend the life of the game.

 

You people do realise the first 2 hitman games are linear, right?

Stop talking about Blood Money as the entire series and play the originals before commenting on them.

spooler:
“A visually gobsmacking game which makes the most of the PC’s powerful graphics capabilities
AI is much more believable thanks to better behaviour and a wealth of dialogue”

I found the visuals to be more standard than “gobsmacking”

AI is terribly stupid, I had “purist” moments where I was crouched 4 meters infront of the target and they would ignore me completely

“Gunplay is now a viable – and enjoyable – way to clear the game”
Blood Monies gunplay was infinatly better, I HATED the gunplay in this game.

As a game it was sub par as a hitman title it was awful imo

This is the biggest troll I’ve read all day, the visuals are ‘standard’? Have you seen the visuals on the average indie game lately?

You didn’t even spell infinitely right in your haste to get the anger out which is a sign of a completely biased view as you didn’t even re-read your post.

You people really are looking to hate it for not being blood money; coneveniently placed bins (like every other hitman game to date), awful controls (uhh NO), super AI (uhh I have purist infiltrator on the first 5 levels and I can confirm that it ISN’T and I even released youtube videos detailing how it isn’t), ‘we just stuck more enemies around’ no, just no. Every enemy in a level has a purpose even if you’re not good enough at the game to see it.

The sandbox hitmans (AKA 1 OF THE SERIES) were ridiculously easy due to ‘hey 1 disguise you get an all-access pass to the ENTIRE MAP!’ At least contracts had the dignity to still include many stealth aspects to it.

The game is actually a challenge to play now; I’m up to 10 hours and only 5 levels in on purist whereas blood money it took me 20 hours to get silent assassin on every level even with the horrendously broken parts of the game e.g. the 35 second opera SA rating; really? You use a god damn explosive and STILL get silent assassin? Abysmal.

 

rapid101:
You people do realise the first 2 hitman games are linear, right?

Ummm, no they weren’t, I managed to do the first mission in HM2 5 different ways completely silent, the later levels had a lot of scope for improvisation in taking your targets down too, 1 was slightly more linear than 2, blood money was pretty good but forced you into linear sequences more often.

Sounds unfortunately like what happened to the thief series except worse.

1 & 2 were both sandbox style games, contracts was a combination of hm1+2 and a couple extra levels, blood money was ok but didn’t quite have the scope of 1 or especially 2.

The point of a disguise is that if you don’t get too close (sushi level was hard at this) then nobody will notice someone who looks like they belong. I got caught plenty of times not timing my crossings of hallways et. al.

From all the reviews and the gameplay I have seen, this is not quite the hitman game I would expect, forcing particular play styles onto the PC throughout, small level sizes with linear pathways and limiting equipment for non-storyline reasons.

I may spend a small amount and buy this title, but only if I get it for $30 or below.

Looks like it has targeted the splinter cell market (pseudo stealth, fantasy situations (nuns with guns) and linear design).

 

@rapid
” indie game lately”
Natural selection 2 comes to mind.
but having said that it’s not an indie, sure it looks pretty but there is nothing special about its visuals.

I don’t like it not because it’s not blood money but because I didn’t enjoy it
It wasn’t a troll post it’s my opinion on what is at best a sub par game and at worst is the worst part of a game franchise so far as I personally think of it.

sorry my post isn’t perfect from an “English standards point of view” 4″ phone screen isn’t the best typing surface.

The first 2 hitman games were not linear not in the same way absolution is.
Even if they were that’s how a series evolves it adds new things becomes more open not more closed off, linearity is not a bad thing but it is not implemented well in absolution.

I could discuss further but basically I don’t like the direction they took the series in, just because I have a different opinion than you it does not make me “a troll” seriously calm down I don’t like the things you like I’m not trolling I just have my own view point.

 

o_O Time to pack the angry pants back in the drawer.

Given I am playing through on purist myself at the moment my views are apt as to and related to what I have experienced in the game. “Sandbox” is too liberal a term to use for any Hitman game, hence the parenthesis, but the past 2 games in the series have been more open and the trend over the whole series has been to open up more options for play (from the heady heights and control horror of the first Hitman through to BM). I won’t speak for anyone else’s experience other than my own.

If you think I would purchase a game that I’m already set to hate then you are very much misinformed, no matter how cheap the game is. An analogy if you will; I wouldn’t buy a piece of poo and then complain that it was a piece of poo and that I should never have purchased it – especially if I had prior knowledge that it was, infact, simply a piece of poo not worth buying.

The infallible argument that you are better at the game and understanding it’s level design than anyone who would dare voice their disappointment with aspects of the game, is a strong one That said, when I encounter extra guards placed in levels that are simply staring at a wall, then the feeling is that they are there to simply impede quicker progress and as extra guns if things go south.

To me that is tantamount to simply placing more enemies as a direct difficulty increase rather than utilising a more clever mechanics (such as more strict AI behaviour towards 47 poking his noggin out for a look around a corner). While I wouldn’t describe the AI as Super AI it certainly has increased hearing and sight detection, sometimes that means the occasional sight detection through a solid wall. Catch me peaking around a corner well fair game to you sir, simply march off your regular patrol path and make a bee line to my far away hiding spot all the while screaming to surrender when I am completely visually obstructed? Yeah that is kind of some imbalanced AI work. Thankfully it doesn’t happen that often and for the most part the AI is in fact plain old effective at what it is supposed to be doing.

Yes the previous Hitman games had a decent amount of bugs, especially Blood Money, but it was a step further again for IO in terms of presenting Hitman as a game of options, a Hitman where he could gun you down, slice you up or simply fork you up given a handy utensil drawer. A game where you could plot and muse your options, where the mundane device could become the spectacular. Absolution is a big step forward in presentation and polish for IO which I applaud them for, it’s a step back in the past trend of pushing towards more options. Whether that is a good ir bad thing for all players is not a clear thing – some love having a cavalcade of options while others like to search for that one item that is required to progress.

I don’t particularly feel the need to defend my views, or argue with fanbois or haters on my experience with this game or games in general as gaming is quite the subjective beast and people have all sorts of different tastes and expectations on what makes a game better or worse than it’s predecessors. But I have had a long day of golf and I am now bored because the family is away and I am awaiting pizza delivery so I can watch some crap 80′s action movies on DVD.

I would add that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones (particularly the spelling stone – accusing someone of posting in a frothing rage so much that they misspelt a word and then misspelling one yourself in the very next paragraph is, at this point, hilarious, though of course it could be a wry self-observation about accusing someone of bias while displaying bias, in which case, well played).

Readers will be bored absolutely pantsless by boring internet posts which have long since stopped discussing the game itself (aka probably this post). Hefting the might flag of internet game commentary responsibility it would be possibly far more succinct to say….

…that with Hitman: Absolution: Your mileage may vary as a Hitman fan.

 

jez:
POSSIBLE MINOR SPOILERS

I could forgive much of the linearity if the continuity was at least decent, there was one part in the game that revealed 47 had access to a whole bunch of weapons in his car, but the option to take them with you on a mission was never there. The inventory system also feels like they took a shortcut, I can carry my silverballers, a shotgun, a pistol, and a sniper rifle all underneath my suit, but if I want to carry two improvised weapons like a brick and a syringe, then I’m up shit creek.

That same part of the game made me stop and think “what the hell” Similar parts where you would go to the next area and be taken back to just one weapon drove me insane aswell

 

I don’t know who these people commenting with angry walls of text are, but their lack of avatars makes me nervous.

 

Hey reviewer, it started on pc mate not ps2 and xbox. and i would say this hitman game is different for this sole reason, all 4 previous games were basically you in a mission with a target and you just go, with cutscenes at the end and maybe at the start. but this hitman is a story version of that, still let loose in some interesting areas but they are all connected through loading doors; only other difference is all AI is area triggered in this game which is really stupid, like REALLY stupid. previous games the ai just patrolled areas and events happened despite you being there which actually made you feel more immersed rather than walking over an invisible scripted action trigger in this game. still love it though

 

jez,

*giggles*

It’ll be a long time before I play this one. Got the first four games a while back and haven’t started them yet. But back in the day I loved playing the 2 Hitman 2 demos (one for Xbox, one for PC) and the Blood Money demo.

 

Oh and the crowd tech isnt that special either. i mean you still spot about 200 of the same person and people who operate market stalls too! you think they could atleast work on changing THOSE faces; i hate to say it but out of the two games pitted against each other in crowd tech id say assassins creed 3 has just pulled out on top, but hitmans crowd most certainly reacts better and longer (especially with bomb blasts hehe)

 

Is H: A a TWiMTBP title?

That would be a shame for my AMD rig…

 

Pinothyj – actually, it’s an AMD sponsored game, not TWiMTBP, so you’re good to go. Not that those sponsorships ever mean anything.

 

Great stealth game rubbish Hitman game, don’t think anymore than that needs to be said.

 
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