I don't have much experience with the Hitman series. I knew the iconic character from cultural osmosis but never played any of his games. I decided to give them a try after the enjoyable Hitman: Agent 47, though. I was so enthusiastic, I actually moved my Xbox 360 back into the bedroom to play Hitman: Absolution and the remastered versions of the three games preceding it.
So what did I think of Absolution (which I played first)?
It's a really-really fun game.
|The gritty noir feel of the game is one of its best qualities.|
The premise of the game is Agent 47, the bald-headed, barcode-sporting protagonist of the games has been assigned to kill his former handler Diana. Diana is as close to a human connection as 47 possesses left in this world, especially after the events of Silent Assassin, and his arguable only friend.
Despite this, he still chooses to carry out the mission and terminate her life. It's only as she lays dying that 47 discovers why she betrayed their agency (called "The Agency") and brought about her death: a young girl named Victoria has been created via genetic engineering and is destined to become a super-assassin like 47.
Hating what he's become and unwilling to see an innocent condemned the same fate, 47 kidnaps the girl and takes up the newly-deceased Diana's role in protecting her. Unfortunately, a corrupt redneck arms dealer and the Agency aren't about to let something so valuable as Victoria slip through their fingers.
So 47 has to kill everyone after her.
|The game is Mature rated and earned its rating.|
As plots go, it's not exactly The Last of Us but it works well given the character's history and established personality. 47 is never warm and cuddly but you believe it when he goes Papa Wolf on the various bad guys who want to control Victoria. His subdued emotions are contrasted strongly with his absolute fury expressed in several scenes. This is, after all, one of the few times he's killing for himself rather than as part of a contract. I am very-very pleased, with the storytelling.
The characters in the game and storytelling are set up in a gritty, Tarantino-esque, exploitation film sort of way. Agent 47 is the ultimate badass protecting the pure and virginal Victoria as well as nuns from the deviant villains. There's a lot of interesting sexual imagery spread throughout the game which is interesting given Agent 47's asexuality.
The owner of a local strip club is a serial killer, a psycho henchman makes constant sexual jokes, the misguided mentally stunted Lenny is bullied constantly for his lack of manliness, the Saints are assassin stripper-nuns (seriously), and villain Blake Dexter is a greasy Southerner embodying every toxic trope of masculinity which exists. Hell, Blake's bodyguard is obviously a steroid-ed up Danny Trejo.
The game takes you from the grimy streets of Chicago with its poverty, ruined buildings, and sleazy strip clubs to the deserts of the West. From there, you'll deal with hick gunshop owners, greasers who are much more dangerous than they seem, and bars where fighting is a national pastime. There's Chinatown during New Years, creepy motels, factories, and other wonderful settings for killing people.
|Every level is beautiful and full of character.|
You can also lay traps for them like where I arranged for the car alarm on an expensive vehicle to go off in order to lure its owner to it, then shot him in the face. These levels are, by and large, a lot of fun. They have a high level of replayability and are never so large you don't want to devote extra time to doing so.
The second kind of level is a more traditional linear pathway where there's guards looking for 47 and you have a straight line to get past them. These kind of levels are more akin to Max Payne than Deux Ex and aren't as much fun: even if they're still fun. I just wish I'd been given more options for dealing with the situations I faced.
|Admittedly, some elements of the game are ridiculous.|
One thing I'm rather leery of the fact is disguises are rather worthless. There's almost no point to disguising yourself as a police officer since they can see through police officer disguises. On the other hand, there's nothing more awesome than finding a disguise which fools police and then just walking around them to do whatever skullduggery you want.
But yeah, still very-very fun.
In conclusion, Hitman: Absolution is a great game. It's a hard R-rated game which has some problematic sexual elements but given this is about a amoral hitman with severe issues, it's not one I'm going to criticize heavily. I really hoping they make this game backwards compatible with the Xbox One.