Review by Nazifpour

"Great gameplay, fantastic graphics, abysmal story"

Can a game have the highest standards possible when it comes to gameplay and graphics, but the lowest possible standards when it comes to story? Apparently, yes, it can. Hitman: Absolution is a very great game with a very bad story. Ultimately, I would never call this game a disappointment, because it does its job the best: your experience as the hardened super-assassin Agent 47 is as breathtaking and fantastic as ever. I personally disagree with many of the criticisms addressed against this game- that it is not a true Hitman game, that it is simplified in relation to the other games in the series, or that it is not true to the spirit of the game. The differences between this game and the previous ones in the series are almost nonexistent, and all that there are there improve the game overall.

Gameplay

The basic idea behind every Hitman game is to put you in the shoes of a very powerful assassin who is free to either shoot his way into the building and kill everyone who moves or to find a silent way around the mission in order to kill your target undetected. The way that the series handle this is very unique. You can knock out or kill enemies, wear their clothes and infiltrate the target's safe house, kill the target, or even fake an accident. The levels are large and crowded and the target and the NPCs go about their business and you can finish every mission in a multiple ways. The game very directly encourages the silent method by rewarding you scores after each mission, and the best score is only achieved when you go about the missions undetected and having killed no person except the main target. This mechanism is at the heart of any Hitman game, and a game is a Hitman game unless it abandons this mechanism. Therefore the reviewer of VideoGamer.com is mistaken when he says: "The problem with Absolution is that its new custodians from the Kane and Lynch team seem to have fundamentally misunderstood what made Hitman great.". He is wrong because the changes are simply tweaks, nothing major is touched, and there is no other game which plays like this in quite this way.

If we want to address this argument, we need to first remember what made Hitman games great. By doing so, we can see that the elements are present in this game as well. The main thing which made Hitman games great was the absolute freedom you have in the game, the sense of experiencing the mission as a real assassin does with finding ingenious methods to beat the missions. In the absolute majority of the missions the same thing still exists, and it is done brilliantly. You are truly challenged to beat the level with the perfect score. It is not an easy thing to do. It requires a lot of hidden work and planning, and like always, there are multiple ways. This makes also the game extremely replayable, which was another great thing about the franchise. The last missions are especially tough, and finishing them silently is an extremely difficult challenge.

But what are these changes which have brought the curses of the reviewers and the fans? Well, to my two cents, nothing major, and also good. Let's go through them one by one.

First, there are some missions in which you do not have a specific target and you just need to reach somewhere in order to finish them. They include missions like infiltrating a factory or fleeing the police. These missions were almost absent from the previous games, but they do not compose the majority of the missions. You can still choose to finish them silently, and stealth method is equally tough when it comes to them. Some of them are required to advance the plot, and some change the pacing of the game. They are not bad missions, therefore it's wrong to nag about them.

Second, your "Instinct Ability" is one of the things which is supposed to make the game more "accessible". This ability which is similar to Dark Vision in Dishonored or Bat Vision in Arkham Asylum, grants you many abilities, these abilities include seeing the enemies from behind the walls, the pattern of their walking, hints, also disguise yourself from them. Now this is clearly a departure from the stark realism of the previous games, but why is that necessarily a bad thing? The challenge to keep your instinct meter filled adds an entertaining dimension. Some parts of the game are clearly impossible to finish without this ability, because there are hordes of enemies gathered in one place who will recognize you if you walk into them and distracting them would prove very troublesome. You have to learn and manage your instinct. this is not a bad addition, it makes it more entertaining, and it doesn't make the game easier.

Apart from these two changes, there is no other major difference between this game and its predecessors. Therefore, I have no idea what the critics are talking about. Usually, we nag when a game is too similar to its predecessors, but we are ready to nag when the slightest changes are made.

Also, for the first time, I actually recommend playing the game in the action mode as well. First, there is this point shooting thing, which enables you to pause the game, to go around the room and target the enemies, and then bring them down with cool slow-motion shooting. You have absolutely no use for this when you play stealthily, but GOD it's fun when you do it. The enemies are intelligent and tough, you have an abundance of cool weapons, covering works perfectly, and all this build up a very fun and entertaining and also challenging action experience too. Usually, the real fun is in stealth, but this game can be played as two separate genres and be equally fun in both.

The multiplayer mode added to the game is also very fun. Thankfully, the creators have not added it just for the hell of it, real imagination and work has gone to it. The Contract mode is free for everyone. It can't be called a level editor actually, but it's still very entertaining. You have to load a mission, with an outfit and a default weapon, all you should have unlocked during the single player, and you can use them to tag three other characters and kill them. Basically, you compare your assassination skills with other people.

Generally speaking, I believe the gameplay to be fantastic and almost perfect. Now up to complaining.

Story

Horrendous. Terrible. Shameful. And a lot of words like that. Now, Hitman games have never had a Shakespearean plot. But at least the story was not so much in your face in those games. Yeah sure you just crossed yourself before that priest, whatever, now let me kill people. The story was just an excuse. But in this game, the story comes to the forefront. The very tagline of the single player mode is this: "It's personal." The creators have tried, and they have failed, to tell a more personal story of Agent 47, one he goes on a personal mission, one which is emotional and stuff. But the failure lies in the fact that no real emotion is delivered, no real suspense is felt. The story falls apart and there's no redeeming quality that I can think of.

Basically, the plot is identical to Super Mario Bros., you have the same damsel in distress and the repetition of "the princess is in another castle". The difference here is that the ones feeding on the mushrooms here seem to be the writers of the game and not Mario. You just don't get enough information and background on the girl to care for her fate. She's too flat of a character. The first scene of the game in which you kill Diana is supposed to be emotionally heart-wrenching, but you're just too busy checking her ass in the shower to worry for that. The villains are too one dimensional, too psychopathic, too flat to come across as real people. Now, I know, Agent 47 is not the best person alive, and it's hard to make him look sympathetic, so maybe the easiest thing to do is to make his enemies so worse in comparison. But believe me when I say that it fails to be believable after the third psychopath. Flat characters, silly dialogues, mindless violence, juvenile sex, they all make the experience so cheap it's not even worthy to be criticized.

Now, I'm not a puritan, and sex and violence never offend me. It's bad writing that offends me. You can add all of these elements in a game and it can still be great- strippers, BDSM nuns, hot assistants, whatever. A great example of a story with all these elements is Sin City. But you have to do it the right way. First, you shouldn't treat the gamer like some sex-deprived maniac who will be go off such things. Secondly, weave these elements into the plot somehow. Listen, I don't mind it even if you use it just to appeal to the gamer's sexual abilities. I don't think every sex scene should have a deeper meaning for the plot. A writer has a right to excite the reader with things, and sexual desire is a thing. But do it right. Do it respectfully. Thanks.

It is a great shame for such a great game to have such a weak story.

Technical Issues

Great graphics. Fantastic. I really felt amazed when I saw 47 showering, and with the character models. People look like real people, and their faces really moves like a human, and everyone looks pretty (in an aesthetic way). People's eyes, especially 47's, look real and live. The scenery is beautiful, vast, and each level has a unique feel to it. The animations are fantastic, especially the ones where someone dies. Blood and gore are very realistic. This is one of the best graphics I have ever seen.

Sound is also great. All the voice actors and actresses do a perfect job. Now, since the dialogue sucks you might fail to notice that, but the voices do a great job. There are many celebrity actors, and many of them also appeared on Deadwood, so something is going on here perhaps. The music is also acceptable. One of the few great moments of the games was when Ave Maria started playing in a church, which is nostalgic for the gamers of the second game.

Overall, the game is successful in the technical department too.

There are of course bugs. One of them provided a very pleasant experience for my friends, when you undress a dude he suddenly turns black. This "racist bug" was very amusing to my friends who kept analyzing it to mockingly prove I'm racist. Other bugs are when the AI chooses not to function all of a sudden, and things like that. None of these bugs are that serious, unless you are a PS3 or X360 gamer. I have read that these versions of the games faced crashes, freezings and corrupt saves. IO Interactive has promised to work on these issues. As a PC gamer, I never saw a serious bug.

Overall: No matter how bad the story, you know how the cliche goes: what truly matters is the gameplay. Well, the gameplay is great, so buy the game and play it. You'll grind your teeth through the story, but the overall experience is worth it.


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/12

Game Release: Hitman: Absolution (US, 11/19/12)


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