Agent 47 is back in the newest incarnation of the Hitman series. Hitman Absolution sees our highly skilled assassin embarking on a personal quest to answer the questions that come up during the course of play. This is the best game in the series by far in my opinion; this game allows the user to play their way. This is a lot about trial and error and manipulating the world around you. There is so much choice it is crazy. Add to this the contracts mode where you can create new contracts and send them to friends and this is a complete game.
The trailer/ tutorial allows us to get used to the story and the controls. We are told the location of former handler Diana Burnwood by the international contracts agency (ICA) and are given the contract to take her out. The story here becomes very pesonal and for the first time you form a real bond with Agent 47. As you move through the level you learn the basics of sneaking, using disguises, firearms, dumping bodies and throwing items to cause distractions. Basically you are shown how to approach the missions of the game and the serious amount of choice you have at your disposal. It’s a great idea by the designers to give us the Hitman with all his movements and sneaking intact from the get go so we feel like the true killer he is.
The controls are really intuitive and perfectly mapped. Move is mapped to the left stick whilst looking around is the other stick. The trigger brings up your instinct. What is instinct? This is a special slow down mode that lets the player see the world through the eyes of Agent 47. This is shown by a meter in the bottom right hand and the bar fills up when you do good things, such as headshots, skillet takedowns, hiding bodies and general stealthy work. This mode is the replacement of the old mini map system. This shows you the world and lets you see a fire trail where the enemies are going to patrol. This is great as you can plan traps or kills in a very clever way. You can also see objects of interest and receive hints. You can also activate point shooting which is a cool way to clear a room in a matrix style way. Once you are in instinct mode you simply press square and you will see the world differently; each target can be tagged and then once set Agent 47 will shoot with deadly accuracy. You can also think and clear the room in an even cooler way. Say, for example, you’re in a room with a few bad guys and a gas canister. Tag the canister and the bullet shot will cause it to explode and kill everyone. However point shooting comes with a price as it burns instinct every second you are in this mode. Each marker you set burns more instinct, so it’s a trade-off between keeping some instinct for later stages of the level or going nuts in that instant.
There are five difficulty levels with easy, normal, hard, expert and purist. The difference between these is the level of instinct you have. Easy mode players can use more checkpoints, instinct regenerates and enemies are slower. Purist is the ultimate test; it’s for the true agent in us all. This mode gives you nothing, the AI is on expert and you will get no help, no guides, no interface and only a crosshair. If you are a secret agent in training then you might want to try this mode but most people will stick to normal or hard mode I wager. Once you choose your difficulty it is time to jump in and kill. Most levels begin with a cut scene and your given a few targets to take out. How you do this is up to you, the level design and the population are marvelous. Using instinct you can trail your target and see what they do and who they interact with. This lets you spy on them and see the potential areas where you can kill them. You can even set traps so you’re not near them. You literally have ultimate choice in gameplay, the premise for the levels is the same but how you do it is up to you. Walking behind people and subduing them is the best way to take them out and steal their clothes. The disguise mode is a nice touch although you have to be careful as the people who are wearing the same clothes as you will be get suspicious of you if you get to close. All you have to do is simply hold R1 as you pass and you will use instinct to fool them. The AI is very clever as there are a few stages of alertness. These include “suspicions”, “alerted”, “exposed” and “clear”. The more you change the world around the higher the level of alertness.
There is a cool close combat system as well. You approach your target and time your button presses to the prompts onscreen to knock them out quickly. It’s time to talk about the graphics; the Glacier 2 engine was built from the ground up by the IO team for this game. This has let them create a living, breathing world with the facial expressions and eye movement being flawless. The wrinkles on the faces and the rain drops look lovely. The team at IO have called this graphic style ”stylized hyper realism” and the engine really backs this up. Another great part of the world is that this engine allows us to control Agent 47 seamlessly in a massive crowd of people. Indeed up to 1200 can be controlled with this engine and over 500 characters can be shown on the screen at one time. This is a wonderful achievement as the crowd react to what’s going on. All 500 of them! This engine gives us a deep world, realized perfectly and to a very high standard. This looks lovely people, you will be impressed. It’s also a testament to the love showered on this game that no two playthroughs will be the same. Over 2000 pages of dialogue has been used here and the NPCs really add a lot to the game. Humor and grit is apparent in spades here.
All of this is great right? Well I can also reveal the contracts mode is fantastic. This mode lets gamer’s create and share their own custom hit contracts. You need to play a level first which will then unlocks it in contract mode. You then walk around the level tagging people and killing them in any way you see fit. The system tracks how you killed the person, with what weapon and what you were wearing. Then a score is generated, you then send this contract to your friends or the whole community. It’s their job to beat your score and send it back. There is no limit on the number of times you can send contracts and the number of people you can share. You can view your scores on the leaderboards and see who is the best. This adds so much to the gameplay and the lifespan of the game. This mode is also free to download and play. It was originally a code that you needed to have in the game box but now it’s free to download. A great move by IO as this will get the fans behind this game in a major way.
Hitman absolution offers choice and on a large scale, you can kill the targets any way you wish. You can use your imagination in any way you want, there is a lot to do and the contracts mode adds a lot to this game. Once you finish you will go back and try the levels again in a different way. The dialogue between the people is great as you can learn secrets and the routines of the targets. The Glacier 2 engine is dark, perfect and let’s you have a lot going on without any slow down or lag. The frame rate is always high and lovely to look at. Get this and enjoy killing in stealth again.
- Fantastic level of choice and innovation.
- Fantastic graphical presentation with them being clean, yet dirty.
- The contracts mode is a great addition and really adds a lot of the lifespan.
Summary: Agent 47 is back in what is the best installment of the series. Choice and creativity are present here in a massive way. You can come at a target in anyway you want.
- Format: PS3
- Developer: IO Interactive
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Release Date: November 20, 2012