10 Dec 2012

Monday Media Fun - Absolving 47

I see what SquareEnix is trying to do here.

Agent 47 is an ok character who has some history made deep by the direction of the IP. The game is about figuring out how to commit murder in creative and interesting ways to very bad people.
The current game
Sqaure Enix is trying to make the guy more, urm, human.

It’s too bad it’s at the cost of the game.

Hitman is a bland, bald, and pale character with little to him outside of the following facts: 47’s gained a conscious since discovering who he is, 47’s got a knack for dressing up, and David Bateson gives a perfect mix of deep gravel voice with a flat emotionless tone of speech.

The new challenge system that was introduced in the pre-order Sniper Challenge is well used here. Players are given a series of objectives with vague clues or simply instructions to carry out within the assigned level. These lead players to explore and come up with interesting ways to commit 47’s assassination. There is buckets of replay here. I played the first real level, King of Chinatown, almost two dozen times in order to complete the challenges and find all the ways to put the gangster down.

The King of Chinatown vs Chef 47
how do you see this ending?
My high score is simply to walk up to the fish stall, get the fugu poison from behind the lady prepping the cuts, and pour the poison on a soup dish as the cook is grabbing a smoke. I walk to the exit door and wait for the target to try it a few seconds later and die.

Now each mission has this layout of challenges to encourage players to go through the missions over and over again while also seeking a high score from the player’s performance. Unlocking the challenges gives a percentage bonus that gets used so for those who seek to get the highest scores need to replay the mission once more after completing all the challenges.

The voice work is well done and the high standard that the series has held is still present in the latest game. The extras are well done and the script still has that odd ball black humour to it. The graphics are once more not bad but the console version, Xbox 360, is not being pushed and some of the character models are looking a little old. Assassins Creed 3 has just as many characters on screen as Hitman but they pulled it off and Hitman is looking old by comparison.  

Gameplay is well done and simple, it’s easy to manipulate and work the environment in the trial by error style of discovery. Combat is pretty loose but that’s never been the focus for the game. It feels; runs, shoots, and drags like a Hitman game. The odd ledge sequence is clunky and the dumping of bodies is a little slow with 47 taking just as much time with a dead body as a KO’ed person. Way to lax-a-daisy and ginger with the touch for my tastes.

Melee has gotten better and I enjoy seeking out other objects Hitman can use in the mission to supplement his lack of a melee weapon. I dislike the hand to hand and find it’s week compared to the melee weapon combat. The quick time seems added on last minute and there is no depth. I would have preferred no button commands outside of kill much like the Splinter Cell series. Unless game designers put depth in the gameplay they should not have it. Splinter Cell did well with a one button kill command and players still as empowered as they did playing the Assassins Creed and Batman Arkham titles.

My largest gripe is the one part that has made me re-think my loyalty to the series and comes back to where I started at the beginning of the post.

Most of the levels suck.

After the second level, King of Chinatown, the rest of Part: One is 47 reacting to enemies hunting him down. It was no longer a plan and explore level to kill someone, it became a game of cat and mouse. It tried to become an action game. Now the story reason makes sense but the folks who make the game are better at building sandboxes and not action game levels.

I understand the escape levels to control the pace of the game. It worked in previous games. Yet I find that after dozen levels in part one of Hitman I’ve only pulled 2 proper ‘hits’. Since finishing the game I've only got a half dozen mission that really felt like a Hitman game. Fighting my way out of the burning hotel, was lame. Fighting through the rooftops, was boring. The escape through the train station was fun and really used the gameplay elements that this iteration in the franchise brought to the table. The Terminus Hotel was ok otherwise. So was the Rosewood missions and the Chinatown escape and murders. The gun store mission in part two was a nice change of pace and the following levels have been an improvement so far. The rest are infiltration, move through a target rich environment or escape levels.    

It’s too bad when I say 'improvement' I mean return to the games tropes and strengths.

New ideas don’t always work. Sometimes when we work on making something better we make it worse. I find it frustrating that the folks who put this game together lost that focus. The pre-order sniper challenge was awesome and one of the best pre-order bonuses I’ve ever enjoyed. It showed thought and purpose with the game, going beyond giving away codes that just unlock weapons and some equipment.

With the challenge system in place replay is not an issue. My only problem is I will only replay some of the mission rather then all of them.

Hitman: Absolution has earned a score of 3. It’s a good game, but not a best seller or one of the perfect games that have come out this release season. Since I'm a fan of the genre I'm playing it and I enjoyed it.