Column by Ethan Clevenger
Clevenger is a junior computer science major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m not usually one to replay a game much. Online multiplayer is lost on me, and local multiplayer is only valuable insofar as my girlfriend or roommate is interested in the game (in my girlfriend’s case, rarely). The campaign of a game is often a narrative journey for me, and with the sheer number of adventures out there, it can be hard to replay a story just to read it again. But with “Hitman: Absolution,” the do-it-yourself campaign keeps drawing me back.
The story revolves around Agent 47’s own rogue operations, which make it very compelling. The game opens with 47 betraying the Agency, the covert group that bred him to be the ultimate assassin, by failing to complete a hit on his former handler, Diana Burnwood, and running off with the young girl she had kidnapped from the Agency. After a brief fetch/favor takes the momentum out of the story, the game recovers nicely on 47’s terms and rules. He’ll be pursuing his own targets for his own reasons to keep the young girl Victoria out of both enemy and Agency hands — alluding to the independence the game offers.
Each level usually culminates in one or more assassinations on your part, hence “hitman.” Agent 47 is no stranger to the game, so a slew of options are available with every level. For your average patrolling enemy, a piano-wire strangulation may suffice, should you choose to kill him or her at all. However, main targets beg for a little more creativity. From gas-stove explosions to poisonous seafood to exploding disco balls, Absolution offers a plethora of options for fulfilling the hit. These various paths to success are supplemented by challenges and score bonuses for completing them. Rarely will an in-game challenge draw me back, but I found myself replaying levels over and over again to earn various styles and even complete them unseen or without disguises. Never have primary weapons felt so useless.
The voice acting and writing are also superb. Backwoods business magnate Blake Dexter is detestable in all of the right ways, delivering the highlight of the experience. 47 is cold, sometimes in an almost humorous sort of way — a facet the game capitalizes on with outlandish disguises ranging from a chicken costume to a tin-foil-hatted conspiracy theorist.
The Glacier 2 engine looks beautiful, even running on the PS3’s cell processor, which is at this point not only unwieldy for programmers but also quite outdated by tech standards. The facial capture is acute and particularly eye-catching. I can’t wait to see what this puppy will do with the next generation.
Where does “Hitman” fall short? The game seems overly-sexualized at times, something the maturing medium is working on. Male antagonists seem to dig near-bare-breasted BDSM to an overzealous extent. However, this certainly lends a hand to creating a level of detest for them and perhaps is trying to lift the veil on an underground skeez culture we aren’t aware of, so I’m not ready to criticize it as an artistic decision in all instances. I recognize its value as a character development device, but it certainly warrants the game’s “M” rating, one that should be considered heavy-handedly.
Artistry cannot save the entirety of the game, however. The scantily clad Saints sent to eliminate 47 have no explanation for their skin-tight habits. Victoria and even Burnwood, in her small role, are both strong and admirable, but other female characters are largely relegated to secretary-like roles with stereotypical features to match.
These debatable missteps do little to draw from what is otherwise a fantastic game for both the “Hitman” faithful and newcomers to the franchise.