I’m not going to beat around the bush: I love the new Hitman game. It is an absolutely fantastic return to form for the series after the deeply flawed Absolution. It combined the things Absolution did right with an infusion of the series’ core gameplay flow, and some of the best level design in the series thus far. If you’re a fan of the series, or are looking for a jumping-on point, you should definitely buy it.
Important Note: the contents of this post were written in 2014 for a series of tumblr posts analyzing Hitman: Absolution and why it failed so hard. I intend to refer to it heavily in my upcoming review of 2016’s Hitman: Season One, and am not particularly happy with how tumblr handles long text posts, so I’m republishing it here and reformatting it into a single post.
The latest title in IO Interactive’s long-running and much-acclaimed Hitman series, Hitman: Absolution, was fairly controversial on release. Although it reviewed about as well as previous entries into the series (it brought in high-seventies to low-eighties on Metacritic, depending on the platform, whereas Hitman: Blood Money rated low-eighties; Hitman 2: Silent Assassin came in in the high-eighties range but was also released all the way back in 2002, so the numbers may not be perfect comparable), many devotees of the series were profoundly disappointed, even angry, about changes made to the series’ formula, to the point that IO Interactive started the development of the next Hitman title with an open letter promising a return to form. But in the meantime, it’s worth looking back at Absolution, a few years after its release, and asking: was it really as bad as all that? Was it really as broken as its detractors claimed it to be?
Spoiler alert: Yeah, it kind of was. What’s more interesting is why. Closer examination reveals that although some of the game’s problems were unique to it, many others were not. Rather, these flaws were minimized by the level design in previous games, whereas in Absolution the levels emphasized these faults and made them stand out. In this post, I will be looking at the game in three areas (Narrative, Game Systems, and Level Design) to try and clearly express what sets Absolution apart from its predecessors and why it comes up short in the process. Click on the read more for an introduction to my perspective and the context in which I will be writing.