About the game
Hitman: Absolution is a stealth video game, published by Square Enix and developed by IO Interactive. It is the fifth installment of the franchise and the sequel to Hitman: Blood Money (2006). Before release, the developers stated that Absolution would be much more accessible and easier to play, whilst still retaining hardcore aspects of the franchise.
The story of Hitman: Absolution follows Agent 47’s efforts to protect a teenage girl – Victoria – similar to Agent 47 himself in that she is genetically-engineered and a potential asset to the International Contract Agency (ICA), whom Hitman formerly worked for.
Upon release, the game met a very critical response, primarily about its linear storyline. Although the graphics, environments, locations and varied gameplay options received positive approval from fans, the promised accessibility from developers was not welcomed as it strayed too far from the roots of Hitman games.
Had they removed Agent 47’s classic Silverballer pistol, I can’t even imagine how poorly fans of the series would have reacted.
Ignorance of Hitman roots
What set aside previous installments of the Hitman franchise was the creativity of assassinations in an open world environment which promotes replayability and innovation. Hitman: Absolution strayed far from this with its linear gameplay and lackluster story. Thankfully in March 2016, Hitman brought back its roots of gameplay.
However in Hitman: Absolution, there was a little bit of an identity crisis. Hitman games exhibit stealth elements, but do not solely rely on them. Hitman: Absolution felt at times like a Splinter Cell stealth game, and just occasionally like a Hitman assassination game. This removed player freedom to choose as the gameplay was essentially a point-A-to-point-B linear story rather than the open world creative experience that Hitman franchise players are usually used to.
And not in a good way. Victoria is a large part of the game, and a large part of why Hitman: Absolution failed to meet fan expectations. The entire premise revolves around young Victoria whom Diana and Agent 47 are attempting to save, yet we are told barely anything about her character. Save for the fact that Victoria is a weapon similar to 47. There was quite clearly a focus on gameplay with this installment of the franchise, which really begs the question why the developers would exert little to no effort on such a shallow storyline.
The developers wanted to switch things up with the series, which in a Hitman game is more than welcome. Though it feels like they went about this in the wrong way as the cross between a Splinter Cell Sam Fisher and a Hitman Agent 47 is too disjointed. The game doesn’t know what it wants to be, which makes a game like this difficult to enjoy as the two aspects together aren’t quite the best of both worlds. More like, if you like one aspect of the game, there isn’t enough to satisfy you wholly, as there would be in another Hitman game.
On top of the disappointing gameplay elements, the entire story just doesn’t feel like Agent 47’s kind of story. 47 is a cold and calculated killer, which is what makes him a great Hitman. No remorse, no morals, just cold-blooded killing. Attachments are weaknesses in this profession and would get Agent 47 killed if he had any. His whole thing is that he doesn’t care about anyone, and it makes no sense for his character to become so attached to Victoria – whom again, we are not told much about. It just doesn’t make sense for 47 to care about a teenage girl, as him not caring about anyone was what set him aside from other game characters.
The antithesis of what a Hitman game is, is to play the missions in one particular way. Appealing to a mainstream audience made the game less accessible to core fans of the franchise, and delivered an unsatisfying and unnecessary story to Agent 47’s history. Spoilers, if you care: the story is simply killing your handler, Diana, killing some ICA agents, and then Diana somehow returns and everyone is forgiven. Hitman: Absolution has zero impact on the franchise as a whole and is thus an unworthy game of the Hitman title, and can be completely ignored if you don’t want a dull experience. Every mission tells you what to do. That’s not what fans want. We want a guide at best. Let us define our own experience, and make the most out of what the game has to offer at our own fine-tuning.
The “instinct” system was also introduced in Hitman: Absolution, and carried over to Hitman (2016). Thankfully though, in future installments this could be turned off. Here’s why: instinct allows Agent 47 to see enemies and civilians through any layout and even predict their movements. A glowing trail appears in front of your targets and tells you their pathing, which ruins some of the fun of just figuring this out yourself – which is by no means difficult. Furthermore, instinct is required to use a “point-shooting” ability which allows 47 to kill a number of enemies quickly, which is good for ambushes, but takes away a lot of the player skill required.
Sometimes simplicity is just too simple for a game like this. The world, the characters and the game are meant to be complex and able to play out in a multitude of different ways depending on what the player wants. If this is your first Hitman game, it may seem like a fun time, but it is so very limiting compared to the other games in the franchise which offer so much more.
There are many aspects of Hitman: Absolution to enjoy. The story may have been cheesy, but also cohesive and showed a different side to 47 which some people may have liked to see. The villains were likeable (which is hard to do for a villain). It felt more like a personal story to 47 as the reasons for every story decision were explained. The game engine felt polished, and the levels felt fun and fresh. However, a lot about what made Hitman games good is just missing here, and if you’re looking for a more complete experience, then the other Hitman games are definitely up your alley. Especially if you liked Hitman: Absolution – which is okay! It’s not a dumpster fire, but the new Hitman 3 is a better use of your money and time.