Hitman: Absolution review: beautiful contracts

Hitman: Absolution is nearly everything I want from a video game. It's beautiful, big, and an absolute blast to play. IO Interactive has crafted a game filled with so many interesting sandboxes to play in, that it's hard not to come back over and over again.

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Hitman: Absolution is nearly everything I want from a video game. It's beautiful, big, and an absolute blast to play. While far from perfect, the addictive stealth gameplay of Hitman kept me coming back for more. IO Interactive has crafted a game filled with so many interesting sandboxes to play in, that it's hard not to come back over and over again, long after the credits have rolled. Absolution is one of those rare games where you'll want to play just to experience the graphics. IO's new Glacier 2 engine pulls off some incredible visuals, among the best this generation has to offer. Particularly impressive are the scenes where the engine renders hundreds of NPCs for Agent 47 to walk through. Whether you're playing in a train station, a bar, or a strip club, the game manages to always throw some eye candy. Each environment you play in feels thoroughly realized. In fact, the world can seem intimidating at times. The first time you're dropped into Chinatown, you must come to grips with the hustle and bustle of hundreds of people moving around. Then, you'll have to grasp how large the environment is, with tons of side alleys and restricted areas to access. And then you'll start realizing how many toys there are: whether it's a cup of coffee, a glass bottle, or a piece of sushi--there's so much you can interact with in your quest to take down your target.

Chinatown can be quite a daunting place to visit

IO clearly revels in how much they've jammed into each level in the game. At the end of a mission, you'll see a summary of what you've achieved, and what you've missed. A catalog of every interactive object in the environment is revealed, letting you ponder questions like "I wonder how I can use a bong to kill someone?" Each mission also includes a number of challenges that give you potential recipes for death. For example, if you really want to, you could dress up as a samurai and kill someone silently with a katana. And that's just one way to off your target. Because there are so many ways to complete a level, achieving a perfect kill becomes all the more satisfying. It's one thing to kill your target and everything else in the way; it's another thing entirely to kill only your target--and make it look like an accident. By trying to make these "happy accidents" happen, Hitman: Absolution is, in many ways, like playing your own Home Alone--albeit a lot deadlier. I personally attempted to do a "perfect" run for every level, resetting the level every time something went awry. However, Absolution offers enough flexibility where you don't have to play like that. With five difficulty levels, the game certainly tries its best trying to cater to a broad audience. Longtime fans will probably want to play the more hardcore modes, which introduces smarter enemies and gets rid of many of Agent 47's supernatural "Instinct" abilities. However, on the easier side of things, you'll be able to shoot your way out of most tight spots. (This video from Conan O'Brien is pretty representative of how a "bad" player on Easy difficulty might play.) The game is littered with so many "did I do that?" moments that it becomes easy to ignore some of the game's more problematic aspects. In one level, I was able to steal a judge's outfit and walk into a courtroom and dismiss it. Moments like that help me forget the sometimes frustrating (and unbelievable) AI and glitchy checkpoint system. Perhaps the game's biggest flaw is its tone. The story takes itself very seriously, in spite of it being focused on some absurd sci-fi nonsense. It's difficult to tell what IO was trying to do with the characters: were they meant to be intentionally funny, or are they simply poorly designed? Given the story features sexy ninja assassin nuns and a villain with a robotic hand, I wonder why the game takes itself so seriously. In spite of the terrible story, the occasional glitch, and AI snafus, Absolution's gameplay has me coming back. And so long as there's still new exciting challenges for me to try and unlock I don't see myself quitting for quite some time.
This Hitman: Absolution review was based on a debug Xbox 360 version of the game provided by the publisher. The game will be available on November 20th on Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 18, 2012 5:00 AM

    Andrew Yoon posted a new article, Hitman: Absolution review: beautiful contracts.

    Hitman: Absolution is nearly everything I want from a video game. It's beautiful, big, and an absolute blast to play. IO Interactive has crafted a game filled with so many interesting sandboxes to play in, that it's hard not to come back over and over again.

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      November 18, 2012 5:04 AM

      So what of the publications that gave poor early reviews? Trolling for hits?

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        November 18, 2012 5:13 AM

        I haven't read any of the other reviews--what did they say?

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          November 18, 2012 5:17 AM

          That it was utter garbage. And after seeing a playthrough of the game where you killed a luchadore in the middle of a crowded bar after taking your mask off with a hilariously silly QTE sequence and somehow get silent assassin rank, I have to agree

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            November 18, 2012 8:59 AM

            So... you agree but haven't played the game. Ok.

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            November 18, 2012 11:27 AM

            From what I'm reading in other people's reviews, it seems people are upset that you *can* play it in ways other than sneaking around. I would very strongly disagree with the notion that the game "encourages" you to kill guards. It's certainly *easier* to kill the guards in certain parts of the game, but that's sort of the challenge, isn't it? There's no real "reward" for playing the silent assassin--other than the self-satisfaction that, hey, you did it.

            My first time through, I managed to only kill two guards. And that's because I decided to blow up a gas station to take out two of my targets. Unfortunately, there was collateral damage. Still, to be able to do that was incredibly empowering. Was there another way to complete the level? Certainly. For example, in the luchador level, I cut the power, sneaked past the guards, made my way to the top of the arena and dropped the stage lights onto the arena. You don't have to play it that way, but I find it far more fun to play it that way.

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              November 18, 2012 1:55 PM

              It's the principal of it all. It took blood, sweat, and MANY TEARS to get a Silent Assassin rank in previous games. You actually had to think. Replacing that with "QTE a wrestler to death in front of hundreds of witnesses....YOU WIN THE GAME" is sorta...sorta silly.

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          November 18, 2012 5:19 AM

          Didn't care enough to read much, but wasn't there a couple of threads the other day here about PC Gamer hating it?

          (does some digging)

          http://www.shacknews.com/chatty?id=29197960

          http://www.gameranx.com/updates/id/10682/article/hitman-absolution-is-a-mess-gets-torn-apart-in-pc-gamer-review/

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          November 18, 2012 5:22 AM

          That's it really doesn't reflect what made the previous Hitman games brilliant:

          http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/18/wot-i-think-hitman-absolution/

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            November 18, 2012 7:13 AM

            Wow that's pretty scathing. Blood Money was fantastic and straying from that formula seems like a terrible idea to me.

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            November 18, 2012 11:37 AM

            Oh man ouch

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          November 18, 2012 5:30 AM

          Read this: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/18/wot-i-think-hitman-absolution/

          It makes me sad, really. All I wanted was more blood money. And apparently I'm getting a toned down Kane & Lynch :(

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            November 18, 2012 6:32 AM

            "Absolution is a clever free-form Contracts mode with less hits than the New Radicals"

            Fucking amazing zinger. I like the cut of their jib.

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            November 18, 2012 7:22 AM

            Ouch.

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            November 18, 2012 9:04 AM

            Yeah, I just canceled my pre-order.

            I'll still play it eventually, but what I really wanted was just more of Blood Money. Maybe a little bit bigger, better and badder, but more of Blood Money. This does not seem to be exactly what I was hoping for, so I'll get it later on when I have more free time.

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            November 18, 2012 11:30 AM

            how does that review say the levels are small but Andrew Yoon's the exact opposite?

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            November 18, 2012 11:30 AM

            "Seconds later I was dressed as a chipmunk mascot and as I scaled the side of the building, a preposterous man in a preposterous situation, I realised I was probably supposed to be amused"

            I didn't even see that chipmunk costume. But once again, it's your choice to play it as silly (or as stealthy) as you want. For me, I see that as a plus--not a mark against the game. I do agree with the consensus that the story is absolute garbage, but it's the sandbox gameplay that I cared more about--not the nun-filled story. (Yes, there are SO many nuns.)

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              November 18, 2012 12:46 PM

              That's basically the complaint though, the new game very often forces your hand or limits your options, and has only a few 'real' hitman levels with full sandbox potential.
              It's just as I feared back when they showed off the library level, you get a choice to sneak through a set of rooms or shoot your way through, after which you are discovered regardless of your approach. That just won't do when previous games set the bar so much higher.

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            November 18, 2012 10:23 PM

            don't they want people to finish it? do these types of reviews reflect how the game is evolving?

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        November 18, 2012 6:56 AM

        To be fair, he's not the only reviewer to actually be very positive to the game in his review. It's got roughly an 85% on game rankings, putting it near the top of the holiday window releases. I haven't read much on it myself, but puts on flame retardant suit now ign also have it a high score, so he's not the only reviewer to get paid off to actually enjoy the game despite some not feeling as strongly for it. It's like, his opinion, man.

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          November 18, 2012 7:01 AM

          I didn't mean for it to read like I was dismissing their opinion, but was rather hoping for a genuine opinion. Though I can see how it would be read that way.

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      November 18, 2012 7:20 AM

      How do you feel it stacks up to Blood Money?

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      November 18, 2012 12:03 PM

      This looks more like a paid advertisement than an actual review. Check out RPS review to get the real idea of how the game is. Short answer, if you liked the old games you will most likely hat this one.

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      November 18, 2012 12:50 PM

      How the heck can anyone say this game is "beautiful"? Ugly duckling.

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      November 18, 2012 1:43 PM

      This is nearly everything you want from a game, yet also has a terrible story? Got it. That makes perfect sense.

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        November 18, 2012 1:58 PM

        wisp, he wants flawed games that aren't perfect, come on.

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        November 18, 2012 2:07 PM

        Some people dont play videogames for the story and don't really care if it has one.

        When I was throwing 10p pieces into arcade machines as a kid, they rarely had a story or you skipped through that stuff to get to the actual game.

        I like a good story in games every now and then (which is why I love the Uncharted games so much) but sometimes I just want to run around and blow shit up, I don't need a story to make that fun as long as the gameplay mechanics are good :)

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        November 18, 2012 3:50 PM

        What's what nearly means

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          November 18, 2012 6:27 PM

          what

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            November 18, 2012 6:33 PM

            Haha "That's what nearly means"

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              November 18, 2012 6:35 PM

              I would think nearly would be like... "this game is awesome, but the last twenty minutes were silly" or "I found this one character annoying and detracted from the experience" or "there were occasional framerate issues." Not "THE STORY IS AWFUL." That seems like a pretty glaring problem with a video game.

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                November 18, 2012 6:41 PM

                Completely depends on what you want to get out of a video game. For many, an awesomely fun game with a shitty store would qualify as "nearly everything they want". For some others, it would even be everything they want. And for other still, it would be pretty much nothing they wanted!

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      November 18, 2012 2:18 PM

      Good to see that PC Gamer's Tom Franics was plain old wrong.

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      November 18, 2012 2:52 PM

      Having read a handful of very different reviews, I think I now understand what's up with this game. Apparently it's a good but not great stealth action game with a laughable story. PC Gamer and RPS are so disappointed because it's not the Hitman game that they wanted. They wanted more Blood Money--huge levels designed as puzzles that could be approached freely from many different directions. To be honest that's what I wanted too. Well it sounds like you get some of that, but have to endure a bunch of modern, scripted action game tropes along the way.

      Definitely waiting to pick it up from the bargain bin now.

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      November 18, 2012 4:03 PM

      I think this is a game that you just have to play and see for yourself. I think I'll like it a lot.

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      November 18, 2012 4:05 PM

      Have you played any of the other hitman games Andrew? I'm just wondering for context. This sounds like a largely competent game, if a little less an actual hitman game. It seems if you're looking for 100% Hitman, you'll be disappointed, but as it's own game it's pretty good.

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        November 18, 2012 4:08 PM

        I was thinking about asking the same thing because it doesn't seem like he has. Not that it diminishes or invalidates the review though, it just puts it in context.

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        November 18, 2012 4:38 PM

        That's what it sounds like from the reviews I've read. A terrible Hitman game but decent on its own. I wanted a better version of Blood Money though :(

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      November 18, 2012 5:25 PM

      I think it looks fun. fuck the haters. killing people is fun in games. and the engine looks good.

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      November 18, 2012 11:47 PM

      The only source I trust (PC Gamer) gave it 62%. Apparently it strips away basically everything that made Blood Money an awesome game, the freedom, the open levels, ability to choose your own equipment, actually getting to kill your target as opposed to getting to a door at the end of the level or watching the kill work/fail in a cutscene...so disappointed.

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        November 19, 2012 6:34 AM

        PC Gamer has amended their review a bit:

        "A note from Tom: At the time I reviewed it for the print edition of PC Gamer, the PC version of Hitman: Absolution suffered from serious performance problems. These have since been fixed, and I’ve had the chance to verify that on our own machines. Since it’s still not out, there doesn’t seem much point in dinging it for a problem you won’t have. So in this online version, I’ve amended the bit that was no longer accurate.

        To give you an idea, on a 2.8 GHz quad core with a Radeon HD 4800, it now runs at about 30-40 FPS on medium settings. It used to be 15 even on minimum.

        The previously awful performance contributed to it feeling like a shonky PC port to me, and I took it into account in the score. Now that it runs decently, the game feels approximately 4% less shonky, and I’ve adjusted the score accordingly. This is about as scientific as the initial scoring process."

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          November 19, 2012 7:46 AM

          Fair enough, but still...it doesn't change the overall message of the review.

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            November 20, 2012 9:49 AM

            I'm playing it and so far it's brilliant.

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      April 11, 2013 9:26 AM

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