Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Not done talking about Hitman.

As usual, I hate the Hitman: Absolution review.  Perhaps I'll revisit it in the future.

This was one of those games I could (and pretty much did) just go on and on forever about.  Even now, there's so much more to say.  I love the way the game has - as Hitman games always have - this way of rewarding experimentation and exploration.  Similar to Dark/Demon's Souls, this is a game that you get just a teensy bit better at with each failure - each time pressing a bit deeper, edging a bit closer to success.  The difference is that in Hitman, the greatest enemy is your own desire for perfection - demanding you restart a level over and over again because no, killing twenty cops was not on the agenda.

The tiny, confined alley I describe in the review may be a small piece of real estate with relatively few options for the player, but it still requires some real ingenuity to get through if you're trying to be professional about things.  Last night I spent about an hour trying to put together a contract for it, to no avail.  I know exactly what I want to do, and I know it can be done because I've managed each facet of my plan before - but to pull them all off together is seriously challenging.

I can't wait to dive back into Contracts mode and throw down the gauntlet.  Another thing I should have mentioned in the review - I love this game.  Yes there are a lot of changes that rub the old-school Hitman fan the wrong way, but at its core it's still the experience we've always adored - and just as it was with Mark of the Ninja and Dishonored, a triple-A stealth game in a world of conveyor-belt sports games, cultural-phenomenon first person shooters and the occasional indie gem is an absolutely wonderful thing.

It's like XCOM in that regard.  It's just sooo nice to play something that's very different, but still triple-A.

The one thing that bugs me most about Absolution wasn't even mentioned in the review, because I'm sure it's a far too subjective complaint.  In Contracts mode, in order to lay down a contract that has the highest possible score, you have to (1) never take off your suit, (2) hide all bodies, (3) kill no one but marked targets, (4) never get spotted and (5) never miss any shots.  

It's (5) that bothers me.  And (1) a little, to be honest.  The game is very much built around 47's superpower of changing clothes and blending in to any situation, and (1) robs you of it - but far worse is (5).  

(5) demands that, if you want to post a killer score, you have to shoot a target.  At least one.  If you never use a gun, you don't get the score bonus.  Which is some flat-out bullshit.  

The game constantly reminds us in narrative - and classically did, in how the previous four games scored your playstyle - that 47 is a consummate professional, leaving no trace of his presence save a body no one is likely to find.  When you shoot anyone in the head, there is a big fucking blood puddle left afterwards. 

That's not very subtle.  Why the fiber wire - and accidents - isn't considered 47's most-signature weapon is beyond me.  I have no issue with a perfect headshot from across a map being of equal value to the wire and accidental kills, but to put it above the wire is abhorrent.  

Also, the fact that I can go through an entire mission, never get spotted and kill no one but my target without getting Silent Assassin rank is some bullshit. 

Equally, gunning my way through a level but picking up a bunch of evidence and scoring a single Silent Assassin-bonus-qualifying kill after the last load screen - which equals a huge score - should not give me a Silent Assassin rank for the entire mission.  It defies the spirit of the franchise - that, in order to get the best possible score, you have to disturb the game world more instead of less.

And the way it docks your score if you incapacitate enemies without hiding the bodies is stupid.  Choking a guy out is awesome - I should get points for that, not have them taken away.

I'm also a bit sad that they pared back 47's non-lethal abilities, and made some of them less useful.  Enemies will hear you choking someone out through a wall, for example. And choking someone out takes several seconds.

In Blood Money I always had multiple options for non-lethally incapacitating foes.  I could inject them with a sleep agent.  I could nail them with some chloroform.  I could come up behind them, take them hostage and immediately whack them in the back of the head with my gun to conk them right out - but the same action in Absolution is so loud it attracts the attention of all nearby guards, and renders itself useless.

All that being said, I feel I haven't successfully communicated how pleased, overall, I am with Absolution.  I don't feel breaking the game up into 40+ smaller chunks of real estate was a bad move - sometimes it feels a bit constrained, but it also gives the player greater opportunities for experimentation and exploration.

A lot of reviewers are bitching about the lack of manual saves and checkpoints, but I feel they're kind of missing the forest through the trees: a mission comprised of five loads is a mission which has five checkpoints.

While I do feel there were some missed steps or bad decisions - a few things which damage my expectations of what a Hitman game should offer - Hitman: Absolution really transcends any problems I could suggest it has.  It's a bit like Okami or Bionic Commando or Resonance of Fate.

It's not perfect, no.  But God, do I love it.

No comments:

Post a Comment