With HITMAN 2016 putting IO Interactive to the forefront of modern gaming with its award-winning success and its much-anticipated sequel HITMAN 2 set to be released NOV 13 of 2018 – I think now’s a good time to talk about the black sheep of the franchise…Hitman: Absolution.
Hitman: Absolution was quite a controversial game among fans since it tried to cut away from the original formula and go take a new direction. Since the very first game, each installment has involved a series of assassination hits that are all part of a larger story.
Hitman: Codename 47
Introduced Agent 47. It isn’t discovered until the end, but each assassination contract lays the foundation of 47’s origin. For those of you who don’t know, 47 is a clone. The Five Fathers are the main targets of the contracts throughout the game. They’re also called the Five Fathers because they are the men whose DNA gave birth to 47…along with his younger brothers – series 48 Agents. You are also introduced to Dr. Otto Wolfgang Ort-Meyer – the mastermind behind the assassin’s creation.
Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Hitman 2 introduced a lot of elements Hitman players are familiar with like the assassination rankings. (the top being, of course, Silent Assassin) It also helped develop Agent 47’s personality. One of the core elements being his professionalism and why he’s always taking on the most suicidal contracts available. Agent 47 doesn’t care about the money – he uses the payment more to keep score than any real interest in living the high life. The story here surrounds 47 teaming up with the International Contract Agency (a.k.a. the Agency/ICA) to find Father Emilio Vittorio – 47’s closest and only friend who’d been kidnapped by the Italian Mafia.
I’d still count this as the darkest of the Hitman games, and the reason for that is its focus. It’s essentially a character study of Agent 47 played through several a string of contracts. How does that work? Well, Contracts introduces us to a series of both new and revisited assassination hits from previous games – but with a twist. The whole game consists of Agent 47’s memories as he’s dying from a gunshot to the stomach. So, every mission is a look at the world through the eyes of Agent 47 himself. I’m not going to tell you why Hitman: Contracts is still the darkest installment by far. I’d rather you play it. But, when you do, it becomes obvious from the very first level.
Hitman: Blood Money
Where Contracts was the darkest – Blood Money is the gold standard of Hitman games. The one game all other installments should be compared to. It was a perfect balance of world hopping, comedy, tragedy, interesting scenarios, and gave us the infamous Agent 47 Ave Maria – linking back to his Catholic roots set in Hitman 2. Storywise, one of the real differences between Blood Money and its previous games is that it pulled away from Agent 47 as a character and centered more on Agent 47 as myth. Every mission was evaluated by a pair of characters who discussed various events in the perspective of one looking in from the outside.
And finally, that brings us to Hitman Absolution. Believe it or not, despite the installment not really being a Hitman game as it was someone’s rejected movie script reluctantly forced to have assassination levels in it. The game was a linear mess – which cut out a foundational pillar of the franchise.
The creators said they wanted to take the series in a more cinematic direction. They also wanted to do a focus on the character of Agent 47. But here’s the thing. The creators tried to do this in the traditional way – by giving someone to connect with emotionally. And that might work for the traditional protagonist for a game like this. But Agent 47 isn’t your typical protagonist.
Agent 47 is severely anti-social. He prefers animals to people. He’s also an outsider. He’s not a real human. No mother or father. He’s a genetic clone made to be the ultimate killer. You can’t treat him like a normal person. That might be why the creators of Absolution couldn’t tell that every previous installment in the Hitman franchise had been focused on some aspect of Agent 47’s character.
We got crazy characters and whacky villains straight out of a b-grade grindhouse film. Maybe that’s why the story didn’t work out too well either. We were supposed to believe that Agent 47 was being pushed to the limits by characters who wouldn’t make on 47’s list if a Nuclear Holocaust destroyed the rest of civilization. 47 has spent his whole careers taking down crime lords, generals, and billionaires only to be put against the wall by some trailer trash cowboy and his goons?
You can start to understand why I’d prefer this game to be considered non-canon. Every other installment had been an artistic masterpiece by its own right. Now Absolution comes along and turned everything into a giant farce.
But Hitman Absolution wasn’t all bad. It gave us a number of good things that were carried on into HITMAN 2016. One was the ability to choke people out. Blood Money just gave 47 two sedatives – allowing you to knock out only two people per level. We also got the ability to use items to distract NPCs. The suit only challenge was introduced in Absolution – which makes 47 seem more like a badass when he kills an untouchable target in a high-class hand-tailored suit. More emphasis was placed on sneaking around, rather than relying mainly on disguises. And finally, the game gave us the instinct mechanic which highlighted the targets on the map and helped your disguise work. It also let you mark targets and do some auto-killing with kill cam zoom in…in a stealth game…where killing anyone but the target earns you penalties. Instinct was kind of a mess in Absolution, but they fixed it by the time HITMAN 2016 was released.
So that’s a quick rundown on how Hitman has evolved as a game, how Agent 47 has developed and how Absolution wasn’t quite a complete disappointment. It’s a relief that Absolution didn’t kill off the franchise because the series course corrected in time for HITMAN 2016. And I can’t wait for HITMAN 2’s release on NOV 13.