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Hitman: Absolution Review

chef kill
Ah Square Enix. I’m pretty impressed Square Enix, first you give me the masterpiece that is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Allowing me to play in virtually any way that I see fit. Now however, you hold my hand all the way down to my local video game store and have me buy Hitman: Absolution. Then, the hand holding continued. You gave me directions all the way back to my house, told me you loved me and spooned me as I popped in the game. We sat down together on my green love seat and you placed my Xbox controller gently into my quivering hands. Then the love making began, you told me what to do and where to go and how to get there, and that is exactly what this game feels like. Never has a lack of choice or decision making looked so beautiful and felt like such shit! I might be channeling my inner Crowbar here but I honestly feel like you have changed Agent 47, and I don’t know where this relationship is headed.

While I have never played the first Hitman game I have been a HUGE fan of the series dating back to Hitman 2. The unbelievable amount of choice the games gave you to succeed in any way that you seemed fit was the most important part of those games. A detailed dossier of your target really made you feel like this guy was scum and truly made you want to kill this person, and not just kill them, but embarrass them while doing so. You got your target, a brief background of this asshole’s wrong-doings, a screen to bring whatever weapons you felt like you might need, and off you go. You were placed into a level with no other help than a map and a few nav points showing you where things MIGHT help you in killing your target. The rest is completely up to you. In all previous installments Hitman was what you wanted it to be. Did that random painter give you the evil eye? Well lets wait for him to go to the bathroom, kill him, put on his clothes, hide the body and see where we can go. At first glance Hitman: Absolution seems to do the same thing, but as any true Hitman fan will eventually see this is all an illusion. This game is so linear that there is no need for a map, not only is there no need, but the developers don’t even give you one. That’s right, no map in a Hitman game … ever … anywhere. As soon as I realized this that sickening feeling of knowing that this wouldn’t be MY experience but whatever experience the developers wanted me to have slowly cascaded over me.

crowd surfing
There are some redeeming qualities to Absolution however. The Glacier 2 engine is quite incredible. Even on the Xbox 360 this engine gives us a glimpse into what the next generation of consoles will be capable of. And while they may never fully compare to what a PC can do in the graphics department it is certainly a step in the right direction. This game is visually stunning. You can walk among crowds of NPC’s, sometimes in the amount of hundreds of people, and never see frame rate drop or blurred textures. I can’t stress enough how beautiful this game looks. The “signature” kills in this game are also very funny which is a big reason to continue playing. Finding the 2 or 3 ways to kill a target in the most hysterical way possible is part of the fun that makes this game still have value as far as I am concerned. In it’s own right this would be a fantastic game, the problem is, is that it isn’t a Hitman game and fans of this series expect more … or less depending on how you look at it.

When I say we expect less I mean less of the gimmicks. The game now features an “instinct” meter, which essentially allows you to look through walls to see where enemies are and what paths they take. Playing on ‘purist’ mode disables this, adding to the challenge. However the linearity remains intact. The difficulty in this game has nothing to do with imagination and how you are going to accomplish your goals, the difficulty in this game lies in the fact that anyone, and I mean ANYONE that wears the same outfit that you choose to disguise yourself in will recognize you as out of place and in turn, follow you and blow your cover. There could be a 50 man team of cops walking around and if you are wearing a cop uniform to try and sneak by they will notice that you don’t belong there. Its as if every cop in the city knows every other cop. Borderline cheapness is where the difficulty rests, not in finding creative ways to get to and kill your targets. Like I said before, there are about 2-3 ways to kill your targets other than going in guns blazing, whereas in the previous installments there were close to a dozen ways to fulfill your Hitman obligations. The developers chose visual beauty over creativity and choice. This is a decision that die hard Hitman fans will not appreciate.

The story is “okay” at best. Aside from the main ‘bad guy’ none of the targets that you have to take out come across as terrible people. In fact in a lot of cases I almost felt bad for them. Profanity is used at a record clip and feels very forced. Like the writers were trying to be edgy, when in reality it comes across as contrived. A younger audience might find it cool but anyone over the age of 20 will find it a bit cheesy. Add to that a bullet time effect and a cover system and you have Max Payne/Splinter Cell Conviction in Agent 47 clothes.

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Let me finish by saying that I do not hate this game. In fact, the ways that the developers thought up the kills that they have were very funny and very creative. My girl friend and I shared many laughs as I murdered the unsuspecting. The problem I have is, is that its their creativity that shows through in this game, not my own. I didn’t get to reach the conclusion of a gratifying kill on my own. My hand was held till I got to see what someone else thought was the best way of getting the job done. I want my own experience, I don’t want someone else’s and that is my biggest gripe with Hitman: Absolution. If this were the first game of the Hitman franchise I would have little to be unhappy about. I obviously have mixed feelings about this game and I am going to give it a 6.5-10. While it is a solid game it isn’t mine anymore and the developers ‘dumbed’ down the series to accommodate a wider audience. Great move for their bank accounts bad move for their true fans. I just can’t help but feel that something was taken from me. I want my old friend back.

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