The music is infectious, the lights mesmerising, the atmosphere of the club noisy and boisterous with just the right amount of skin on display.
I am a ghost, a shadow, no one knows I'm there and I move through the crowds as a bouncer (the bouncer I took the disguise from languishes unconscious in a nearby waste bin). I'm near my target; his bodyguards don't know how close he is to death. But how to kill him, I have several windows of opportunity and I can use a single method or a mix of sorts.
I care about civilian casualties, about the lives of his bodyguard. I'm not there to take their lives; just this smut peddler and I pick my method, moment and make the kill. It all goes to plan and he dies with a single silenced shot to the head. He's just one of a list of targets and then there's the upstairs room, so I take the keycard and dump his corpse carefully out of sight.
Hitman is back and it's a pretty fine return, with lots of options and user created content to dive into...there's a reason we gave this game a 9 and that's because it's in a word: brilliant.
Agent 47 returns in the sequel to one of the most beloved franchises created by Io Interactive. This sequel ups the story ante in several ways and we're not going to spoil a single element of it by blabbing about it here, we don't want 47 knocking on our doors thank you!
You'll just have to experience the twists and turns of the Hitman story yourselves.
If you're a fan of Hitman games there are a few new things you may or may not like, there's a few new mechanics which make their debut in Hitman: Absolution and change the way you approach the game as a player. If you're new to the franchise then this is an excellent jumping-on point and welcome aboard one of the most fun and frustrating gametrains you'll ever board. Hitman is easy to play but devilishly tricky to master, and if you want to unlock the best skills and stuff, you're going to need to become as professional as 47 himself down the line.
Hitman: Absolution wants you to have fun though, so it's given you numerous difficulty settings to play with and you can customise just how much help you get from the game's various HUD elements.
All the way from Easy (full help, lots of instinct, slower reaction times for enemies and less of them, instinct regenerates) - no challenges to Purist, with no HUD, lots of enemies, fastest reaction and only a crosshair to help you aim. Purist is the 'defacto' Hitman experience and whilst there are still the new mechanics - the player needs to use their own skills to determine if they've been spotted and so on.
At its core it's a third person sneak/disguise/puzzle shooter. You can use numerous methods to eliminate your targets and get to your objective. You're rated based on how you approach the problem at hand, how you deal with it, your weapons and disguises used. If you're playing like a bulldozer, don't expect a high score or any awesome unlocks at the start. If you play carefully, intelligently and cleverly you'll get far more bang for your buck out of the game's various systems than you would as a killing machine. Plus, there are a lot of bad guys to mow down if you trigger an alarm or get spotted. Not too bad on Normal, but if you do that on Purist, you won't survive for long.
47 has lots of tools at his disposal, the environment can be used to kill your target, weapons can be found of all kinds on the huge levels - some of them are tools, they can be thrown to distract or kill enemies. Then you have the new and improved garrotte, the fibre-wire, which now automatically lets you drag bodies into hiding spots without having to miss a beat.
The same design philosophy runs to disguises, you can now disguise yourself from a hide spot once you've piled in the body. No more having to kill, disguise and waste precious seconds as you're nearly discovered. You can still do that if you want, it all depends how you want to approach your objective.
Once you're in disguise you're not infallible from the same kind of enemy type. If you dress up as a cop, other cops are going to want to talk to you. So you can blend in using Instinct, a new resource which gives Agent 47 a visual representation of his ability.
Instinct varies based on the difficulty level. On Easy and Normal it lets you blend in a lot easier, see through walls, watch enemy movement patterns and perceive useful locations on the level such as hide spots or environmental kill zones. Are you playing on Purist? Forget it, you can blend in, that's it and you won't know how much Instinct you have left.
Instinct comes back when you accomplish tasks, do certain objectives and on the easier difficulties you can get it back by blending in at a hide spot.
Instinct also powers Agent 47's precision targeting skill (Point Shooting) which allows him to slow down time, tag enemies' ala Splinter Cell Conviction and send them all to hell with a fluid cinematic Hollywood camera showing their unfortunate demise. With a lot of Instinct it's possible to kill a whole lot of people on the easier settings. Of course you really shouldn't be doing that if you're a Hitman Purist.
There's a cover system which works wonders, and allows you to smoothly move around objects, roll to new cover. There's an enemy line of sight system which shows you how close you are to being spotted and by whom. There are lots of little tweaks which make the game a lot more fun for new players and old alike.
You can attempt challenges per level on Normal or above, doing a whole level without being spotted, doing it with just your suit. These unlock %5 score modifiers and allow you a %100 score bonus after multiple playthroughs of the level. Each mission is broken up into several expansive and engaging levels and there's a system of checkpoint saves (based on difficulty) which allow you to restart from a point when you die.
With all the tools and tricks at your disposal, no two hits can be the same if you want it to play out like that. Dress up as a guy's drug dealer; shoot him in the head as he does a line of coke in the apartment. Or you can mock surrender to a thug or cop, then take them as a human shield, using them to get close to the guy.
You earn score for how you play, how you clean up afterwards, do well enough per checkpoint and you'll unlock new skills for 47 which make subsequent playthroughs much easier. Being able to blend in without eating as much Instinct, improve weapon handling, better sprint speed and so on.
There's a simple hand to hand system which relies on a few QTE button presses depending on if the enemy is aware of you or not.
All in all, these new systems help to make this the best and most replayable Hitman title yet.
The new Glacier engine pulls off some lovely visuals, making Absolution the best looking entry to the series. The level of detail on the characters and the environments is superb with the streets of Chinatown packed with people, colourful fireworks bursting overhead and beautiful red and gold everywhere. Then you have the dingy hotel - Terminus, which echoes that old 1940's look perfectly. The engine handles a lot of stuff going on and looks great doing so.
There are some superb animations in Hitman: Absolution and from 47's various combat moves to the enemies, there's no doubt that the Glacier revamped engine has been tweaked to allow for greater flexibility. There are a lot of context sensitive death animations based on the weapon that 47 is holding at the time, and the screwdriver to the gut is one of our favourites.
The physics engine handles Hollywood style gun battles really well, shotgun blasts knock enemies over, explosions do a great deal of damage and destructible objects fly apart really well.
As you crank up the difficulty the AI gets smarter and smarter. On Purist you'll be hard pressed to get away with murder literally, unless you're really smart. They understand the level, they understand the propagation of information and they'll use it to inform each other of changes in their environment. Scare an NPC and they might run off to tell their heavily armed thug friends about you, they'll come to the area you're in and start hunting. If you're still there, expect a fight. If not, you can watch the enemy spread out and check various parts of the area.
You can hide in a bin or wardrobe and as long as no one saw you enter, you're fine. Of course if they did see you enter, expect some witty banter and then a lot of lead.
In combat they use cover, tactics and provide superb adversaries for 47 if you're playing gung-ho.
In short, Hitman's AI is some of the best we've seen since ever.
To match the gorgeous visuals and solid word building the audio suite for Hitman is excellent, there are tons of tiny spot effects and ambient sounds which pervade each level and make the whole game far more atmospheric. From the tunnels beneath an area to the Chinese New Year they are all really well done.
What can we say about the score to the game, it's powerful, it's fitting and it evokes the right kind of emotional response from the various scenes. The piece we like the most is the dramatic reveal of 47 as he skulks around a library and the camera pans up across his feet to show his face. This piece music is Hitman to us.
There are some famous folks playing characters in Absolution, Powers Boothe for one, Keith Carradine. David Bateson returns to reprise his role as Agent 47, which is fantastic because he is Agent 47 and no one can replace him. In short, the voice work for the game is top notch and the dialogue delivery is as good as it's ever been.
The story is well written and has some solid character interplay. There are some twists and turns, with slow reveals as the game progresses. It's a good one!
There's no multiplayer in the game, its all about singleplayer. However there is an unlimited online mode in Hitman Contracts. It's an A-synchronous game mode which lets you play any level and pick any number of targets, you carry out the hit, which becomes the way the mission is structured. You then save it off and challenge your friends/other players to complete the hit.
You get Contracts dollars which can be used to buy stuff for Contracts mode.
It is simple, and it is effective. It works perfectly and provides the game with mission after mission of user created gameplay content with contests to find the best assassin in the world.
Come in 47, your time is up.
Thankfully it isn't. Hitman: Absolution proves there's life in the old agent yet and this latest instalment of the beloved franchise is about the best we've seen since Blood Money and that's high praise indeed.