|Developer: iO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Single player, leaderboards & ‘Contracts’ mission editor.
The Hitman, Codename #47 returns for his fifth outing overall, and his second on Xbox 360. Things are about to change and “The Agency” for whom he’s always worked, is about to be torn apart by one of their own.
The first level sees Agent 47 coldheartedly shooting his former handler, Diana, in the shower on orders from “The Agency.” Remarkably in a game that’s happy for you to blow up, garrotte, stab, shoot, burn and hurl enemies to their deaths, we’re saved from the complete moral corruption we’d have presumably suffered by seeing Diana’s breasts by a magic shower curtain, that protects her modesty to the dire end. I only mentioned that because I think it’s just one more indication of what a strange, messed-up world we live in.
Absolution features a new mode called ‘Point Shooting’ which allows you to aim at multiple enemies during slow-motion “Instinct” time: you hold ‘RB’ for instinct, press ‘X’ to select Point Shooting, hold the left trigger to aim accurately for headshots, press the right trigger to lock onto them, then just press ‘X’ again to fire at all the targets you’ve tagged. This is similar to Splinter Cell: Conviction’s “Mark & Execute” precision shooting mode, but doesn’t seem to work quite as well in moments of intense action and pressure, because it requires a good deal more skill. However, when you do pull off a multi-target execution, just like SS:C, it feels extremely cool!
Weapons range from #47’s trademark dual Silverballer pistols, Revolver, SMG, Shotgun, Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle, through a host of obvious weapons like swords, knives and fire pokers to other objects that can be used as improvised clubs and thrown objects like books, vases and statues that can be used to cause a distraction. There are also proximity mines, remote explosives and fuel cans that can be use to blow enemies/things up.
Alert the enemy and you have two options, kill them or hide and wait for the alert to subside. Alternatively, the ‘Fake Surrender’ move (hold ‘A’) will get you out of many tight spots. 47 feigns surrender, putting his hands up before disarming the enemy and putting him into a ‘meatshield’ hostage position. This usually ends up in a huge shootout with every enemy on the level and any reinforcements that arrive but sometimes situations can be controlled. Agent 47 has a number of slick moves to help him out of tight situations (including “hiding” by performing an action that makes him blend in with the other characters on a level), however, dragging bodies around looking for places to hide them is a slow and painful experience, and I have no idea why 47 can’t just sling them over his shoulder for quicker movement.
Each level has a number of related challenges, some of which you will get in normal play and others (like killing with a certain object or set piece of scenery, or hiding a certain number of bodies in a certain way) will tempt you to replay levels many times, and I’ve rarely wanted to replay a game’s levels more than Absolution’s.
Visually H:A is mostly very tidy and at times the Glacier 2 game engine is very impressive (particularly crowd scenes and a corn field you won’t forget in a hurry). It allows for a great deal of detail, but the spot effects vary to a large degree, with the result that some locations and cut-scenes look like they were rendered by graphic artists of hugely differing abilities. Objects and characters clipping through scenery and each other is also a frequent and major visual poke in the eye. I really hoped we’d get rid of this sort of thing in this generation of games, particularly as things like ragdoll physics have improved so much.
- Improved shooting mechanic.
- Effective sticky cover mode.
- Clever yet simple online Contracts mode.
- Lots of ways of murdering people.
- A veritable Kill-a-thon.
- Mostly great graphics and character models.
- Great storyline, voice acting and music.
- Challenges genuinely add replay appeal.
- Occasional dodgy graphics and clipping.
- Infrequent checkpoints.
- Dragging bodies around like an old man instead of being able to hoist them onto your shoulder.