Hitman: Absolution is like a strip club. Its got a lot of pretty things that you’re going to want to play with, but it will break your wrist the moment you try to have a little fun.
By all accounts, Hitman: Absolution should have been a great game. When I first started up the Sniper Challenge mode, which was a precursor to the game’s actual release, I instantly fell in love. The crisp, well crafted graphics had an attention to detail that was hard not to adore. After unloading a full clip of my high-powered silenced sniper rifle, Agent 47 discarded the empty magazine with wild abandon, while smoothly going through the all-too-familiar motions of reloading.
At that point in time, I thought to myself, “If this is any indicator of what the actual game will be like, then this game will be amazing.”
The moment you hit the menu screen, you get hit by this amazing dialogue that is performed with the dramatic flair of an art-house film. Again, I found myself thinking, “If this is any indicator of what’s in store for me, then this game will be amazing.”
Continuing this trend of immense promise, the first mission of Hitman: Absolution has you learning the basics of what it means to be a super silent, man murdering machine. The main message throughout the entirety of this ‘tutorial’ of sorts, was that there are a lot of options when it comes to ‘assassinating targets, and fulfilling contracts.
If you felt so inclined, you could sneak past everyone through a variety of distractions and disguises. Alternatively, if you had a deep, brooding desire to strangle every neck, you came across with piano wire, then all the more power to you!
The problem is that the first mission is a complete and total lie. The very next mission you get your first encounter with the one thing that ruins the entire game; the dreaded scoring system.
There’s a very, very good reason that games like Call of Duty are so popular; they thrive on making the player feel rewarded for playing the game. When you constantly see big bold pluses to your numerical score, you feel great. Conversely, when all you see is negative numbers, for trying to play a game that you want to play it, you feel like you’ve just been slapped on the wrist.
In Hitman: Absolution, whenever you try to play the game in a manner other than how it wants you to play it; you’ll get fined points. After the first mission, it was my intent to play through the game by silently dispatching guards with my silenced silver ballers, without ever being detected. Even though I could successfully manage doing this, by carefully hiding bodies and changing disguises, I quickly noticed that I constantly finished every mission with a negative score. Being told I was #41,035 in America, despite successfully playing the game the way I wanted to play it, felt terrible.
Eventually, I tried to conform to the game’s desires, and started to play the game non-lethally. Very quickly I found that there is a distinct lack of specific disguises that are required for getting to certain areas just lying around (despite me searching quite extensively). In this desperate attempt to conform, I turned to non-lethally incapacitating people for their disguises, only to find out that, up; you guessed it, minus points.
The absolute worst moment of this was after I had spent several hours trying to perfectly sneak past guard, after guard, after guard, only to find this huge weapon cache Out of some sick sense of humor, or a lack of understanding of its own mechanics, the game literally took the time to showcase just how wonderful their selection of weaponry was. Out of some sick sense of humor, or a lack of understanding of its own mechanics, the game literally took the time to showcase just how wonderful their selection of weaponry was.
In that moment, I took the time to calculate all the negative points I would incur, had I actually indulged in my desire to play with such a wonderful assortment of weapons.
What happened next, I’ll leave up to your imagination.
It’s such a shame that this one, fatal flaw in design ruined the entire experience for me. Even though I still took great enjoyment in the brilliant performances, especially by Keith Carradine, the perpetual bad taste in my mouth, left by the scoring system, never left; dampening the experience entirely.
No amount of glossy menus, delightfully cheesy characters, and dark humor could abate the constant disappointment and frustration brought about by being penalized for doing something that I was told; by the game, I could do.
If what you want out of a stealth game is to spend 30 hours throwing bottles near AI, then Hitman: Absolution is the most polished bottle throwing simulator known to man; complete with a great cast of well delivered lines. I just wish it could have been more.
If you can tolerate the onslaught of psychological turmoil brought upon you by the scoring system, or are a bottle throwing simulator fanatic, then there’s probably a really good game here.
Never have bald heads been so polished.
Music that would give Hans Zimmer a run for his money, brilliant voice acting and realistic sounds make this game incredibly atmospheric.
Despite great dialogue, the actual story is beyond obvious and relatively unimpressive. The macabre humor and glossy UI does do a lot for the game.
I got 30 frustrating hours out of it. If you’re particularly masochistic, you could possibly get more time out of it, trying to get perfect scores and achievements.
I seriously can’t see myself recommending this game to anyone. If you’re aching for a stealth game, go get Mark of the Ninja, which actually adequately rewards you for playing the game the way you want to.