The Hitman action-assassin game series continues with this extended experience featuring elements of a successful hired assassin – stealth, strategy, and anonymity, so players need patience, practice, and considerable improvisation abilities.
The main character, only known as Agent 47, finds decent, betrayal, and considerable challenges in the fifth installment of the Hitman game series – Hitman Absolution, which ironically and purposely released during the 47th week of 2012. The six-year time gap between this installment and Blood Money gives developers an advantage for more creative license and new features, which largely work well as 47, voiced by David Bateson, addresses situations directly related to “The Agency” (a.k.a. International Contract Agency (ICA)) and a young female character named Victoria.
Several characters factor into the crime drama events and include the head of the agency Benjamin Travis, voiced by Powers Boothe; his assistant Jade, voiced by Shannyn Sossamon; Blake Dexter, voiced by Keith Carradine and Vivica A. Fox who voices LaSandra Dixon leader of a group called “The Saints”. Players might guess certain storylines if they have played past installments or remember specific character traits while the unpredictable game elements keeps players constantly alert.
Players must constantly scan the environment for patterns, items, scenarios, possible interactions, and special events for endless creative twists that are most successfully completed without drawing a lot of attention. Conquer objectives in multiple ways using helpful elements like disguises (54 total) and the new instinct, which allows players to see enemy movement paths, items of interest, get hints, and, best of all, point shooting special action for multiple targets. First press the R1 button to access instinct mode (starts slow motion visuals) then press the square button. Hold L2 and use the right stick to highlight target while press R2 to tag/mark them. Press the square button again to execute this special action. Players can also use instinct when wearing a disguise to blend in even better. Glowing Hitman symbols provides save points and special abilities like instinct provide that extra advantage.
Set in Chicago, Hitman Absolution offers two main modes – the 20-chaptered Absolution, which represents the main storyline, and online contracts, which can reveal storylines within Absolution if playing them here first instead of in Absolution mode. Players can try existing contracts or make their own and share them. This new feature does not overwhelm with options and presents a straight forward process without acting as a full-fledged editor. Just pick a target (a.k.a. mark – up to three) then “mark” them and exit the area. Time, items used or not used, witnesses, style, and weapon choice also factor into contract creation. Finally write a description and upload.
Players can complete created contracts any time whether they are online or not. Players can also rate created contracts. Need more? Players can always conquer the side challenges (more than 250 including wear four different disguises, etc.) while checking the challenge status during gameplay. Success in all these situations can result in bragging rights on the leaderboards, but mainly provide funds for weapons and disguises.
Expect a relatively small learning curve for mastering 47’s abilities and interactions, but the trial and error learning curve can be considerable. First, set the difficulty (five total) carefully as enemy reactions improve with higher skilled choices. Players begin with abilities to activate additional checkpoints, instinct regeneration, instinct hints, and slow enemy reactions in the easy mode. Players lose instinct regeneration in normal mode and lose instinct hints in the hard mode. Activated checkpoints disappear in the expert mode then players can dare to try the purist mode with no visual help, guides, assistance or even a standard interface – only a weapons crosshair.
Second, master the controls, which are largely smooth and well mapped though minor overlaps detract a bit from the experience. The down directional button provides an easy way to quickly holster weapons. This action may seem unrealistic when hiding a large sniper rifle, but comes in handy when an expected character catches you in the act of doing your job. Use R2 to throw object or shoot weapons (zoom in with scoped weapons using the directional buttons) and use R1 to reload or hold to use instinct.
Other button combination actions include pressing the circle button to enter/exit cover and the x button to quickly move into nearby cover. Players can subdue (make sure weapon is holstered) using the square button coupled with triangle for the final kill if necessary. Similarly player can press X to use characters as human shields then press square to knock them out.
The triangle button becomes a bit problematic when picking up or interacting with items and hiding bodies (live or dead). Just hold triangle for the items and use a quick tap to stash bodies. Finally, observe the environment. Use the select button to constantly access the valuable notebook – a great resource for identifying multiple ways to progress and complete objectives.
Sandbox scenarios guarantee some fun, but also create repeated attempts without careful strategy and stealth. Observe escape routes. Character movements are not easy to predicate. Players can bypass most potentially hostile characters who approach you after suspicious behaviors, but moving into a crowded area with several can be fatal. Shoot outs are not typically ideal, but the 19 uniquely, upgradable firearms upgradable can get the job done in more than 100 variations. Players can check visual text prompts (e.g. “CLEAR” means no one currently would approach due to suspicious behavior”) and character awareness of 47’s presence with the specially colored visuals – indicator arcs with points on the top middle that show direction.
Also available on PC and Xbox 360 and in special Professional Editions. Related games also appeared before and after the Hitman Absolution game release.
Hitman: Sniper Challenge was great for players who pre-ordered and took advantage of pre-release bonuses based on gameplay while the short-lived Facebook App titled ‘Hire Hitman’ was quickly subdued in early December due to controversial elements such as language and bullying.