Over the course of two and a half months, I tested my skills as a hitman by playing Absolution’s campaign blind on hard difficulty. Having never played a Hitman game before, I didn’t know what to expect when I jumped into the campaign on a “professional” level difficulty. Well, I’m now here to tell you what to expect: A lot of dying. And retrying. And pulling people who just got phoned by their doctor that they don’t have cancer out of windows.
Hitman Absolution is the story of Agent 47’s lone ranger episode, where he breaks free from the Agency and all of his former employment ties, rescues a girl from the hands of a redneck and his saucy secretary and takes down an armada of evil men in the wryest of manners.
The portrayal of a very sinister story’s protagonist is done impeccably by the voice actor of Agent 47, David Bateson. He doesn’t speak much during the core gameplay, but it’s the handful of cutscenes that he speaks in that really demonstrate his cold demeanor and lack of sympathy for the psychologically flawed in society. While the story itself is dreadfully grim and almost unbearably depressing at times, the developers have included some sillier aspects to lighten the mood, such as comical easter eggs like the Loch Ness Monster or disguises like a giant chicken suit that allow you to kill heartless sociopaths without feeling much remorse.
The campaign is an assortment of tightly enclosed spaces where you must hide, kill and evade guards while either eliminating certain primary villains or just reaching the exit of the area without raising alarm. I hear that on normal mode raising the alarm isn’t a deal breaker as you can always win via a gunfight if things get out of hand, but I can say first hand that on hard difficulty that is RARELY an option. I think I only survived two stealth sections-gone-wrong with just my assortment of firearms, and every other time (all five hundred of them) I had to reload my last checkpoint. There are multiple reasons for this: The checkpoints that you can manually activate (like in Super Mario) are faaaar off the beaten path which means that unless you’re willing to take the risk of exploring every nook and cranny of a level you probably won’t find any extra respawn points to make the level easier. That, coupled with the disguise system where, unless you’re wearing a truly unique outfit (like the previously mentioned chicken suit), everyone will detect you instantly lead to a stressful gameplay experience that’s not for everyone. The main mechanics consist of hiding behind cover, quickly maneuvering around the level out of guards’ sights, taking out your targets and escaping in such a way that no alarms will be sounded. If it sounds challenging, that’s because it is. It requires a LOT of patience to wait for guards to go on patrol routes that leave you a good path to follow, and that kind of gameplay will be a huge turn off to a lot of gamers. But if you’re willing to sneak one hundred percent of the time, rarely use firearms, and accept that the detection system is twitchy and pretty cheap at times, Absolution’s harder difficulties might be pleasurable for you. One new addition to the Hitman series is the instinct system, which is pretty much detective mode from Batman: AA. It allows you to see enemy units through walls and blend in with the crowd when someone is on to your disguise. It’s a nice additon and definitely helpful in a handful of situations but will only truly change the gameplay on lesser difficulties, as the higher on the challenge spectrum you go the less effective it is in disuading enemies of your presence.
The reason it took me two and a half months to beat this game is because I just lost interest after every thirty minutes I played it, which is kind of a problem when trying to complete a twelve hour game. Every time I’d die (and there’d be a lot of those), I just didn’t really feel compelled enough to retry up until the next day at best. This process then drew out over the course of ninety some days, until I finally steamrolled through the last three missions of the game in one sitting and conquered my Hitman demons. Now, the reason I tell you this story is to show you that it’s not immersive on the harder difficulties. The plot is great, second only to Max Payne, but not enough so to make the repetitive dying and retrying worth the grind. And since no game is fun if it’s too easy, I really don’t know what the developers were aiming for in terms of difficulty range. Everything either feels slightly too challenging or slightly too easy, and it forces you to pop the game back into the case, play a different game and look at Absolution like that one nagging friend that keeps calling to hang out with you.
I did try out contracts mode, but it left about as much flavor in my mouth afterwards as a glass of carbonated water. Sure, the novelty of it is nice and the ability to make custom hits and contract specifications is cool, but it lacks any real flavor or substance to make it worth playing regularly. The amount of edits players can make to the map of their choosing in contracts is too limited to provide a substantially different experience from the campaign’s versions, making it a passable mode that will surely attract Hitman tryhards like gnats to a lava lamp.
-Agent 47 is a badass with a great voice actor
-The story is upsettingly dreary which adds to realism
-Gameplay is a unique take on the stealth genre
-Graphics are absolutely stunning, Agent 47’s bald head is glistening polygonal perfection
-Lengthy campaign on harder modes
-Contracts is fun for Hitman tryhards
– Some characters have a level of vileness that shouldn’t even belong in games
-Gameplay is such an acquired taste that very few will enjoy it or even have fun sampling it
-Fundamental issues with core mechanics such as the disguise system hamper ability to experiment with level layout
-“numerous” ways to take out targets are just ruses, most of the options available to kill a target are all available within three feet of each other
-Outside of contracts and the campaign, there’s not much reason to keep playing
I’d say the community of Hitman fans is a con, but that’s not exactly fair. But be warned: The community is horrendous. These fans will ride your ass ’til they see skid marks if you so much as say anything authentically positive about the game or say it’s too hard (in case you planned on posting to forums or Youtubing a playthrough or some shit).
On a final note, I recommend you go out and get this game if you like being the odd man out when video game conversations arise. I advise you to get Hitman Absolution if you like being the gamer that everyone asks your opinion for when they’re tempted to get an out of the ordinary game, seeing as you got Hitman and are thus well acquainted with out of the ordinary. Because, for all its flaws, Absolution is a truly unique experience.