After assassinating his former handler, Diana, Agent 47 goes on a mission on her request to track down a young girl named Victoria. Meanwhile, his own employers hunt him and an arms manufact... Read allAfter assassinating his former handler, Diana, Agent 47 goes on a mission on her request to track down a young girl named Victoria. Meanwhile, his own employers hunt him and an arms manufacturer, Blake Dexter, pursues Victoria as well.After assassinating his former handler, Diana, Agent 47 goes on a mission on her request to track down a young girl named Victoria. Meanwhile, his own employers hunt him and an arms manufacturer, Blake Dexter, pursues Victoria as well.
As in previous installments, you play the scary man with the lustrous head. In case the name is not clicking yet, the story follows 47 as he tries to right some wrongs and protect a kid with a mysterious past tied to the Agency. A babysitting contract killer. Fancy that. Being the sequel that it is, if you've never played at least one of the other games in the series before, you're probably going to miss out on a lot of references, but the narrative is still entertaining enough by itself that you don't *have* to.
The thing that stands out the most is how the general presentation and vibe have changed. Better art style, atmosphere and level design make for a much more cinematic experience. Simultaneously, Absolution favors more linear stages than its predecessors (something that's gotten a lot of flak for), but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The most significant difference is the tweaking of structure in assignments. Where before you had one big level per mission, in Absolution, each level is broken down into separate screens, each one with their own objectives. It's true that this compromised the freedom that, say, Blood Money gave the player, but it also helps in not getting overwhelmed in huge maps if exploration is not your thing.
There are also quite a number of mechanics that have been introduced to 47's repertoire, most notably, the Instinct feature and upgrades tied to your mission performance. While we've all seen sequels that basically add new features to make an extra buck, all of the additions in this one are actually well thought out and make gameplay much more varied and interesting. They feel organic to what the game needs, they're well executed and are just plain cool to engage in. Mix this with the fact that the HUD is very clear plus contextualized commands (a la Heavy Rain, sort of) and you get something that is extremely easy to sit down and play. Regrettably, they also took some neat things out, such as choosing your loadout before each mission, the ability to buy equipment and hiding weapons within other portable items. My uncle Bob used to say: 'if it ain't broke..." and he was a wise man.
The cool bit about all of these new things, though, is that you're not forced to use them. There are five difficulties when starting (or continuing) a save that range from a very easy mode, where the Instinct gauge regenerates automatically and guards have Down's, to a 'Purist' mode, where not only you lose the Instinct button and checkpoints, get a more snappy AI and a much less forgiving damage threshold, but you also don't even get a HUD. If you're worried about the challenge, Purist will keep you busy for a long time.
Lastly, the prominent Contracts mode is a mix of create-your-own-murder and some multiplayer competition. Basically, Contracts lets you load up an objective-free level and 'create as you play'. Kill whatever mark you choose, under whatever conditions (murder weapon, disguises, exit path) you choose and make a mission out of your choices. Through an online voting system, other players can tackle the contract you designed and try to beat your score fulfilling the criteria you set. While I can appreciate the effort to add some online competition to the game and the idea behind a reverse whodunit is certainly great, it would've been nice to have some more variety when setting up your own contracts.
The core and substance of the game are basically left untouched: you sneak around, kill stuff in whatever way you so choose and walk away.
Of course, there are some faults.
Besides the occasional getting stuck in a wrong angle when trying to move behind cover, a corpse bouncing about because the physics engine decided to be naughty and some other seldom glitches, I've seen a lot of reports on low performance, poor FPS or instability, usually coming from people with nVidia cards. I myself (an ATi user) haven't experienced a single stutter with everything on max but it seems to be hit or miss in terms of performance.
Glitches aside, there are some other issues. It's weird because the sum of Absolution's parts make up a very robust and polished product. Yet, there are aspects to design, like baddies spotting you in disguise from a mile away, certain missions sort of pushing a balls-to-the-wall, guns-blazing approach while at the same time penalizing you in rating for not being stealthy enough or the constant crutch on the new Instinct feature, that detract from the overall enjoyment. The way the scarcely-available checkpoints work are also a bit of a problem. While the general direction seems to build upon the good stuff from the previous games, some sections could've been fine-tuned better.
Summing up, Absolution is a more accessible and linear mix of what worked in its predecessors plus some decent new features, a much cleaner design and pretty visuals to boot. The caveat is that the franchise seems to be taken in a different direction, so don't expect a second Blood Money. It could've been better, but it still is a high quality title.
- Dec 2, 2012