The Hitman franchise is one of the greatest of all time and it constantly features in my mental Top Ten Series of All Time list so the six year wait for Hitman Absolution has been agonising for me. As the game's release drew closer and closer I began to fear that the game simply could not live up to its promise. The other entries in the series had been fantastic but it had been so long that I couldn't help but doubt whether Absolution could be the great game Id expect a Hitman game to be.
The good news? My doubts have turned out to be unfounded.
Absolution opens with a cutscenes setting up the story for Absolution and two things are immediately apparent. The Glacier 2 engine that has largely been the cause of the lengthy development cycle for the game looks fantastic and this game will be far more story driven than any game in the Hitman series so far. Hitman has always had a story but in the older games it felt like it was really a means to an end that existed solely to provide a vague backdrop for the awesome missions. The story was there and it was mostly good but it played second fiddle to the missions themselves. This wasn't a bad thing but it is now a thing of the past, most AAA games are expected to provide, or at least attempt to provide, a cinematic story and Absolution acknowledges this and does it, with the story now being on an equal footing with the missions.
The missions themselves are great. The game does get off to an odd start, during the first few missions the changes seemed to have made the game not feel like Hitman but fortunately by the time you reach the fourth mission the game really gets into gear and is jaw dropping from then on. The levels are the same sort of big sandboxes you'd expect from Hitman with great ways to kill someone ranging from having the piss on a live wire and sending 10000 volts through them to simply sniping from a window in a cafe. One.great addition is that each mission is scored, almost everything you do can add or subtract points which you can compare with your friends/the world. This adds to the already immense replay value of the series and is a great way of giving it online functionality.
The other big gameplay change is instinct. I'm playing on normal so O can use it if I want to. I have to say that using to to look through walls and predict enemies patrol patterns just feels like cheating but using it to tag multiple targets for a quick execution Is bad arse. Ultimately it depends on how much of a purist you are but it's mainly aimed at newcomers anyway so you can just ignore it if you want. In fact on the harder difficulties it isn't even present.
Sadly other gameplay changes don't work quite so well. The disguise system still works in basically the same way that it used to but enemies can detect you far far easier. In act its too easy. I have so far played most of the game simply sneaking around rather than using a disguise because its so easy to be detected when wearing a disguise that the system actually seems broken. This is one of the few elements of the game that is worse than it was in the older games.
Graphics wise, as O have mentioned already, the game looks stunning. The character models and the facial details are fantastic, 47 looks older and more world weary and everyone just looks amazingly real and human in terms of their details and character models. The environments fare just as well with stunning views and great detailing. The lighting is also fantastic with dark tunnels being moody and sweeping shots of deserts and fields looking awe inspiring. Also the power of the engine is shown off through the use of massive crowds. At one stage you have to walk through a crowded train station and everything is fluid and detailed and the frame rate never seems to drop, even you start a huge firefight. This never fails to impress and it really hits home that this game looks damn good.
Fortunately it sounds good too with another stellar soundtrack, more fantastic sound effects and the same great voice acting and script that you would expect from a Hitman game. David Bateson returns once again as 47 and his performance is as perfect as ever and his supporting cast of heroes and villains and all those in between is superb. For voice acting and script alone this is definitely one of the best games to have come out this year.
The game also features some sort of multiplayer mode, don't worry there's no death,arch or capture the flag instead they have implemented a system where you can choose a target in a certain level, set a certain way of having them killed, test it and then share it and have other people try and do it and even try and do it better than you. This is another fantastic addition to an already amazing game which adds to the replay value and the sense of competition that the score system introduced into the game has brought to the series.
Hitman Absolution is a fantastic game that pleases the most hardcore of the purists whilst being accessible to about e newcomers. It is a master class in how to take a series forward and is a true masterpiece in game design with every element from the gameplay to the story to the sound being fantastically well done. It's still too early to call Game of the Year but this is certainly a seriously strong contender.