1 Good 1 Bad is a new feature I've come up with to make up for the fact that I don't always finish games quickly enough to give them a full review. The premise is pretty simple; I try to pick up on one specific good & bad aspect of a game and talk about it in more detail than you might find in an overarching review. Even the best games have their bad points (and indeed a lot of the worst games have some good points), so all criticism/praise of certain features should be taken in isolation and not necessarily as an overall opinion of the game.
Well then, first up, Hitman Absolution.
Precision, one assumes, is a skill which separates professional assassins from the rest of us. The hallmark of the Hitman series has always been about harnessing 47's ability to exact flawless executions with a minimum of fuss. Despite 47's proficiency for infiltration, one of the drawbacks of previous Hitman games was the slightly clunky controls, which were capable of causing frustration in the game's tensest moments.
In Absolution, 47 is now a much more fluid beast, and the ability to snap to wall cover and switch between hiding spots with the press of a button has given the player the ability to stalk his prey more effectively. It now feels satisfying, and rewarding, to move silently around the outskirts of hostile areas, observing the patrol patterns and waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.
The mark and execute feature also adds to this feeling of superiority over your foes, and while puritans of the Silent Assassin rating will never want to use it, it can be a useful tool when trying to deal with outnumbered situations if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. Gimmicky, yes, but not without its own cool factor.
Due to the restructuring of the game into shorter, more frequent levels, it's unfortunate to find that the game's best bits, the assassinations themselves, are significantly watered down in challenge when compared to those in Blood Money. However, they are still undoubtedly when this game is at its best, and the fluidity of the control scheme only makes them more satisfying.
BAD - THE WAY THE NARRATIVE WEAKENS THE EXPERIENCE
Hitman games have always had a loose storyline running through them, but it’s generally been an afterthought; a way of tying a series of levels staged across the globe together. IO Interactive have departed from that approach with Absolution, with 47 now on a mission to rescue and protect a young girl who’s backstory is not too dissimilar to his own murky origins. This realignment of the series’ focus into being something that’s story based rather than being essentially about presenting you with a challenging set of mousetrap like puzzles only serves to dampen the appeal of what used to be a quite unique game experience.
Every antagonist within this story has a larger than life personality, lending it a B-Movie feel that doesn’t really marry alongside 47’s calculated and placid demeanour. Hitman games have generally always had these kind of characters as targets (Blood Money’s liberal interpretation of Hugh Hefner springs to mind), but previously they were just background filler; a way to setup interesting gameplay scenarios (like making a hit at a pseudo-Playboy Christmas party, for example). In Absolution, the bad guys often appear front and centre in the cut scenes between levels and the combination of some half-baked dialogue and some truly detestable or simply puerile characters succeed in making the plot feel trashy, but without any of the charm that a decent B-Movie story might have.
Crucially, the gameplay is also undermined by the new focus on storytelling. The game takes a marked downturn in its middle section, when (mild spoiler alert) 47 escapes capture in a particularly dreary looking Chicago and heads to America’s Deep South, trying to chase down the rootin’ tootin’ hoodlums that have kidnapped the girl he’s been trying to protect. One particular moment epitomises the dross that’s on display here; a section where 47 heads to a local gun shop and comes across his iconic Silverballers in a display case on the desk (he bartered them for information earlier in the game). The Ned from South Park inspired shop owner tells him he can have the guns if he can beat his daughter in a shooting gallery. A shooting gallery. In a Hitman game.
It’s a pointless, trivial pursuit that enhances neither the game nor the plot in any way whatsoever, indeed actively destabilising it by tacking on a gameplay element that has no foundation in a game that actively punishes you if you kill anyone other than your target anyway. I JUST WANT TO DO SOME MORE MASTER ASSASSIN STUFF, DAMMIT.
Hitman: Absolution’s storyline has all the trappings of a Uwe Boll film, and that’s about the most damning thing I can say about it.