Hitman is one of my favorite franchises ever and he’s taken nearly a seven year break from our lives so expectations are beyond high for the latest installment of fan favorite Agent 47. It’s also his first outing on the PS3 and from past experience anything with such high anticipation rarely lives up to the hype. I reckon Hitman might just break the mold.
The first level starts us off heading towards a hit given to us by the new head of The Agency. Hitman remains professional and heads to his target ignoring any emotional attachments that may stand in a lesser mans way. The first couple of sections guide you through the interface well and set you up with the skills you will need to succeed on your own.
The last section of the tutorial allows you to fly solo and decide how to take care of business. It’s quite a simple mission with loads of options and a simple guard setup but it acts as a perfect first mission. Poisoning food and drinks for instance makes a return as do a myriad of hilarious but gruesome ways to take out your targets.
MISSIONS & STORY
This time the story is simple, but good, and with Agent 47 as the lead you know you’re not going to be disappointed. The cut-scenes look nice and provide a good setup for whatever mission lies ahead and because you no longer work for the agency the missions take on a much more ad-libbed feel with 47 having to make greater use of his surroundings and objects he finds on route to his target. You don’t even choose your equipment for each level anymore.
As far as game play goes this actually means you have more options than before. The general lack of external support and direction means you’re left to your own devices a lot more. I can’t even think how many different ways there are to do each and every mission and I’m sure I haven’t found them all.
Each level has several infiltration sections where 47 has to get to his designated area to find his target. During these sections there is no actual target but the aim is to get through the area as quietly and inconspicuously as possible. After the infiltration section you move onto the main target area.
This is really when the game opens up. The areas are large and there is a huge amount of stuff to explore and find. The checkpoints really become an integral part of the game allowing players to explore it and find as many ways to take out my target possible before reloading the checkpoint. After I choose my preferred method of death just I reload and move on to the main kill. The checkpoints are also very useful for the strive to perfection giving you a chance to replay after an unfortunate detection or any other general mishaps.
There are 5 different difficulties to choose from in Hitman. Easy pretty much allows you to do what you want without much fear of losing. Normal is really where the game starts and even then it can be a little too forgiving at times. I did my first play-through on Normal and at times I probably should have put it on Hard if I’m honest. A really useful thing that Hitman does is tell you when you select your difficulty which features will be available for you and which won’t so you get a pretty good idea of what you’re getting into.
Probably the most important feature in Hitman is instinct, at least until you move up to the higher difficulties. Holding down “R1” will slow down time a little and allow 47 to see through walls with highlighted enemies and beacons showing you points of interest such as pills or an environment ready to be set up as a cunning trap for an unsuspecting target. Instinct can be a crutch at times but I recommend having as much as you want for at least your first play through to learn the maps and all the options in an area then move to the higher difficulties when you’re ready, which award more points.
SCORES & CHALLENGES
The problem that presents itself with Hitman is the incentive, other than bragging rights and enjoyment of the game, to play “properly” and really have the Hitman experience given that there are so many options available. Don’t get me wrong, a gun toting rampage or a crow bar oriented slaughter fest has its enjoyment but it’s a shame to miss out on the rare chance to be subtle, creative and devious.
But never fear! IO interactive have got us covered. For each mission you will receive a score based on your mission performance. You will get a huge bonus for getting the “Silent Assassin” bonus which is done by not killing or subduing any body but your target, which should really be your main goal.
There are also a set of challenges for each level which once completed offer a percentage boost to your score for that level. For each level you must get all the disguises, finish the level with only the suit and finish the level undetected. You can complete these in as many separate runs as you want and obviously you can’t get all three in one as getting all the disguises and completing the level with no disguise are mutually exclusive.
On top of these there are a set of unique challenges for each level. Once any of the challenges are completed you will always have those multipliers no matter what way you complete the level. So once you have them all and complete the level on the highest difficulty with the silent assassin bonus you’ll theoretically have the top score. Tell me don’t want to at least try it.
The mighty Contracts mode. As if they hadn’t given us enough with all the content of the off-line experience IO have come to the rescue once again with a rather genius on-line solution. Rather than some half baked excuse for on-line where players run around hiding from each other all using the best spot and the best weapon to see who’s the luckiest that doesn’t really make sense we get Contracts.
Contracts mode allows players to create they’re own hits and share them with other players on-line. The “Play to Create” system puts the creator in the game like any other mission except you pick up to three people you want to be your targets. Then you take them out in any way you want and other players have to try to beat your score within the constraints you set up.
Given a good community and creative players this will really keep the game alive for a long time even after you have totally completed the single player element (which by the way is no simple task). And things look good so far with a huge amount of levels already available, not to mention the fact you can challenge your friends to beat your levels.
The whole game looks good and it has its own definitive style. The lighting effects are great and everything is very shiny and slick. It’s not the most realistic looking game in the world and at times the grainy filter gets a bit excessive but it still looks great. The interfaces and HUD look good and despite the fact they are pretty obvious and not difficult to see they don’t spoil the action.
Sound makes a surprisingly big impact in Hitman with some epic choirs providing punchy hits of treble amongst the long, dark, base filled chords. If all goes well as you roam around your mission there likely won’t be much music but if you start racking up the body count the dynamic score kicks in with some really satisfying music that make you feel like a real bad-ass. The weapon sounds are nice too, especially the melee weapons. Hitting someone round the face with a metal pipe or police baton really makes a disturbingly satisfying thud.
A welcome return for agent 47. Hitman:Absolution does the franchise justice and provides a challenging and fun experience throughout. A clever on-line solution for a heavily single player oriented game should give Hitman massive longevity but there’s tons to do even if you don’t delve into Contracts. It’s hugely satisfying when you pull off the perfect hit and the score system rewards creative and clever play styles.
Hitman is definitely one of the best games of 2012, if not the best and should absolutely be in your hit list (sorry I couldn’t resist).
Hitman:Absolution is available now on PS3, XBOX 360 and PC.