‘Hitman’ Just Misses the Target

I was a bit concerned about “Hitman: Absolution” at first. It wasn’t about the fact that I’ve never played a “Hitman” game in my life. It wasn’t even so much my complete lack of knowledge about the “Hitman” franchise. Really, the reason I didn’t think I would enjoy this game is because I felt like it was just a “Splinter Cell” knockoff (never mind the fact that the first “Splinter Cell” came out two years after the first “Hitman”).

After the first few minutes of playing, my worries were not immediately eased. From the start, I could feel a heavy influence from “Splinter Cell” (especially “Conviction”), though, as the game progressed, I felt like it became more its own, and less another game.

If you want to know what the game was like, here’s the entire game: walk around, distract people, kill people, steal their clothes, walk away, repeat. That’s about it. That’s the whole game. If you’re looking for a riveting story, you won’t find it in “Absolution.” If you’re looking for a game bursting at the seams with blood and boobs, it’s perfect for you.

While it seems like killing might get a little repetitive and boring, the game does a fantastic job of creating ever-changing environments, so each level has different obstacles the player needs to consider. In fact, one of the coolest features of the game is that each decision the player makes affects the surrounding environment, and the rest of the game. For example, if you decide it would be easier to just throw a grenade into the clubhouse to assassinate a gang leader, you can expect at least a dozen repercussions. Police will come to investigate. Citizens will run around in a mob. Future objectives will be more heavily guarded. You get the idea.

At the end of each level, you are given points based on what you did to get to the objective, how you killed the objective and what you did afterwards (i.e. hiding the body). These points unlock new abilities, like better control over your weapon or the ability to run longer. During the time I played it though, it didn’t seem like many of the abilities made a noticeable difference in the gameplay.

What surprised me is the level of strategy required to complete missions. Unlike the typical “Call of Duty” shooter, or even a “Splinter Cell”-type stealth game, “Absolution” doesn’t pressure the player to walk right to the objective, guns blazing. Instead, it encourages creativity in how the player will get to the objective (usually, a person that needs to be killed), and how the player will decide to kill the objective.

One interesting feature is the “intuition” the character, Agent 47, has. When you walk by certain things (either objects or places), a little message pops up, explaining good places to hide or good ways to kill the objective to make it look like an accident.

When I typed out that last sentence, I realized how morbid this game really is. Perhaps that was my biggest dislike about the game: it glorifies violence and death. Then again, so does every game on the Xbox 360. And, since this game pretty much only has you killing “bad guys,” there weren’t any guilty feelings (yes, I’m the person that obeys traffic laws while playing “Grand Theft Auto”).

The story was decent. If you’ve never played any of the “Hitman” games, you may be a little confused at first, though the plot was fairly easy to pick up. To be honest, I’ve never really been one to care about the stories games have anyways, so the somewhat contrived (but entertaining nonetheless) story didn’t bother me.

I was mildly impressed with the graphics, although I wasn’t blown away like I was with some other games (go play “Rage,” right now, and you’ll see what I mean). The lengthy cutscenes between every stage and every level highlight the slightly above average graphics as well.

All in all, “Hitman: Absolution” was a solid game. While it was definitely not the game I would typically play, I enjoyed it. The mix of strategy, stealth and shooting was pretty good, though I would have enjoyed a more flexible first-person shooting game. The controls and gameplay don’t really allow the player to wage shootouts longer than a few shots. I recommend the game as long as you don’t expect a shooter similar to “Splinter Cell.” Should you buy it? Eh. Should you rent it from Redbox first? Probably.

Final Rating: 3.5/5