hitman Xbox 360 Reviews

Hitman Absolution review

It’s been six whole years since we last saw a Hitman game, and most of that has been a rough ride for IO Interactive. Apart from a splendid game about some diminutive practitioners of ninjutsu, it released only the lacklustre Kane & Lynch: Dead Men and its even more divisive sequel, and saw many of its long-time followers – fans precisely because of its headline act – shake their heads and wonder where it all went so very wrong.

Fingers were pointed accusingly post-Kane & Lynch, primarily because IO seemed to be involved in some sort of elongated act of self-love where style squashed substance’s head beneath its angry – but impressively modish – foot. Both titles lacked the passion for which, through the Hitman games, IO had earned itself a reputation. Having now played Hitman: Absolution to the point where some of its characters, kills and scenarios have invaded our dreams (some 80 hours), we can safely say that those who kept the faith are about to be rewarded. Hitman: Absolution is one of the best videogames we have ever played.

For those unfamiliar with the Hitman formula, it’s Groundhog Day with guns and fibre wire. You know Groundhog Day? That movie from the Nineties in which Bill Murray plays a weatherman who wakes up every day to the same day. Explain it to anybody and they’ll tell you it’s a sucky premise for a movie, right up to the point they actually see it. Suddenly, a million possibilities dawn. What if you knew what was about to happen? And what if you could use that intel to open up the world around you to all sorts of delightful abuse. What if through trial, error and repetition the world got better and more interesting? What if when that guy pees on the fence, there’s an electrical current running through it? How do we arrange that before he gets there? And will it be the funniest thing we’ve seen today? And what about that woman who walks in front of that whale harpoon? What if…

That’s the glory of Hitman: Absolution. While you could argue that it’s always been that way with the series, never has it felt so inviting to experimentation (and indeed abuse); and never before has it so encouraged the systematic learning of every detail of each of its 50 (fifty!) miniature sandboxes. ‘It’s your toy,’ it says with swelling pride, ‘you own it now, so go **** it up’.

In Hitman: Blood Money, there were plenty of ways to kill each target and plenty of ways to get yourself into whatever position you needed to be in to do it. The same is true here, but IO has been mindful that it can no longer rely entirely on long-time Hitman fans. It also has to educate a new generation – bring it within the folds of its existing fan base.

Perhaps, early on in Hitman: Absolution’s showings, IO didn’t do such a good job of that. It showed Agent 47 shooting his way through the levels and later said that it chose to show the optional action-oriented style of play to get this new audience’s attention. But against the backdrop of that particular E3, it did the exact opposite. That E3 was nothing but action titles doing similar things. We feel now more than ever that Hitman: Absolution would have been better served with a demonstration of a man setting his own head on fire after Agent 47 ‘doctored’ his male pattern baldness treatment. Or with a montage of all the different heavy objects you can engineer to drop on a person’s head. Or the convoluted setup necessary to ensure a man who tortures pigs for a living meets an ironic end.

But any game with such innate complexity is going to be tough to get your head around at first, and bringing you up to speed with its unique qualities is something Hitman: Absolution achieves with finesse. The tutorial levels first tell you what to do, then narrate what you’re choosing to do, before finally, letting you loose in a mansion dressed as one of its security guards. Just at the moment you think you know what you’re doing, Hitman: Absolution sets you free. It’s a perfect and brilliant piece of game design. One that, unlike other tutorials, is worthy of mention.

The second tactic it employs to bring you up to speed is to separate highlights of Agent 47’s shenanigans into distinct challenges, each labelled cryptically so as not to spoil any surprises. For example, if you have to dress in samurai armour and stalk the level putting a katana through your enemies’ throats, the challenge might say something like ‘Bring honour to your family’.

Developers waffle about replayability all the time. It’s a buzzword that too often comes in lieu of a necessary apology for how damn short the game is. Us? We very rarely play anything twice, because supposed replayability is so often just ‘the same again’. We have tremendously good memories, you see. If we want to experience bits of a game twice, we just think about them.

This is the first game this gen whose levels we’ve wanted to play repeatedly and relentlessly until we’ve discovered every one of its secrets. Replayability isn’t just a buzzword, but the real deal, arriving in the form of experimentation: the donning of every disguise, the finding of every hidden weapon and signature kill, the eavesdropping on every piece of throwaway intel, the witnessing of every consequence. You are the catalyst, and when mixed with the AI, you can’t help but make unique things happen every time you play.

Think about that for a second compared to, say, the Call Of Duty series. In those games, stuff happens around you and to you. You’re the recipient, and you react in the only way the game allows: with a spray of lead.

Rare are the moments where the world is merely ticking along until you choose to interfere with it. And when memorable moments do occur, they tend to be the ones that offer you a choice of tactic. In All Ghillied Up, for example (from Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, generally regarded as one of the most memorable levels of the whole series) you get to choose when to fire your sniper rifle while the world below carries on obliviously. We remember such moments because we felt – just a little bit – like we played some part in creating them, because the world itself didn’t necessarily intend them to happen exactly that way. Hitman: Absolution is like that all the time.

You could criticise the story all day long. It isn’t much more evolved than Donkey Kong. Rescue the princess, essentially. Remarkably, though, it’s of very little importance in the grand scheme. And we’re fine with that. The true story in Hitman: Absolution is told through its gameplay. Like BioShock, Half-Life 2 and other revered classics Hitman: Absolution is set to join ranks with those that simply don’t need cut scenes to keep their players gripped.

Special mention must also be awarded to the game’s visuals. At the arse-end of a generation, two things happen. Excitement for minor graphical upgrades dwindles, while what can be achieved on current consoles reaches its zenith. The two cancel one another out under normal circumstances. But IO’s Glacier 2 engine somehow manages to escape from these equal and opposite forces with astonishing lighting, superb rendering of crowds and easily the best physics we’ve seen to date. it’s not what makes the game as good as it is, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

We were also surprised to find that if, God forbid, you did want to pelt it through the game guns blazing (and miss about 90 per cent of what’s there), it’s also a remarkably solid shooter. Good enough, in fact, to eclipse all but the very best examples of the genre without breaking a sweat.

They say you can’t appeal to everyone. That’s what received wisdom tells us, and it’s rare indeed for anybody to pipe up and dispute it. Which is odd, since examples of such things are everywhere you look. We’ve never heard anybody say they don’t like ice cream, kittens or that drumming sound the rain makes on a tin roof. Hitman: Absolution is all of that, in a blender – ice cream, macerated feline – sprayed at the tin roof through a giant, angry fire hose. It’s also a study in pure, unadulterated excellence.

Score: 10/10


Edit: We received our review code on 24th October. The author of this review also wrote a guide to every challenge in the game, from scratch.

33 comments on “Hitman Absolution review

  1. kong0013XUE

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  2. Dan Howdle

    Sigh. No. We just really, really liked it.

    We played the damn thing for 80 hours. If our opinion differs to others it’s because we played it differently to others. Thanks for the support.

  3. Cockney Charmer

    Wait, so if a reviewer actually ends up liking the game he/she has reviewed then automatically they are a sell out and paid to like it?

    But if they say they do not like the game then they are being overly harsh and are not genuine fans of the game to be allowed to review it or even share their thoughts on it?

    Being a games reviewer is a thankless job at the best of times, not it just seems to be a “cant win” kinda job as well

  4. Jenuall


    This isn’t a case of “Game given a good score, reviewer must be a sell out”.

    We’re talking about a game which has been almost universally held up as a poor offering, failing to follow up on the good qualities of it’s own prequels or even offer a compelling experience when examined in isolation. And yet inexplicably said game has been given a perfect score, 10/10. Given the circumstances I think there is every reason to be suspicious of the situation.

  5. Dan Howdle

    Play it, then come back and talk to us. I mean REALLY play it. Don’t bumble through the story mode on easy, do all the challenges. Set up devious contracts, do every one of the game’s amazing 200+ signature kills. Then come back and we’ll have a chat about how good the game is, hmm?

  6. Brian

    Im playing it right now and i love it. I have always been a hitman fan since the pc original. How can you judge the review as bias if you are comparing it to other reviews?

  7. drkmn302

    10/10 is an excellent score for Hitman – i played this for hours, trying different ways to complete the missions. Graphically is mint, Gameplay on the odd occasion instead of grabbing he would cover<< that not even an issue. Storyline was easy to follow, each level/chapter had its own challenges, weapons/customes collect and evidence on top of the actually storlyine, then contracts on top… Not all reviewers are sell out and should be ashamed of yaself of saying so… you'll find that 90% of the players would give this game more then a 10/10 !!

  8. Cockney Charmer

    @Jenuall You come across as a total muppet lol

    Do you get how reviews work?

    A Review is one person’s opinion of the thing they are reviewing. So all that matters when you read that review, is what that reviewer is saying, not that half the internet has the opposite opinion to it, and nor should that fact tailor what the reviewer thinks

    The beauty of gaming is that not everyone agrees, hell some people still buy Call of Duty every year in vast numbers, despite the internet saying the series sucks…go figure huh

    I think what you need to do is move on, you shared your opinion on the opinion of the reviewer and there you go. No idea if you have played the game or not or just basing what you think on the things you read elsewhere on the interwebz…but when I play the game, I will keep this review, and the negative ones in my mind as I play. Then form my own opinion

    Not immediately accusing this reviewer of being a sell out

  9. AA (Absolution's Anonymous)

    This review is a total joke. No wonder sales of the magazine are constantly diminishing. Dead by next Christmas.

  10. Agent 47

    What a crock. Either these guys have never played a Hitman game before, or they got paid nice. There is no inbetween here.

  11. Snowman

    I bought 360 magazine for 3 years straight, moved to x360 when it shut down and have always trusted the reviews, so I will give you the benifit of the doubt on this one but it really jars with some of the other things I have read about this game.
    I understand games are, and should be divisive but 10/10 is essentially saying it is the perfect game, have you scored any other games this high?
    Like I said I will trust you on it until I play the game myself but PLEASE tell me it doesn’t conveniently appear next to an exclusive interview in the magazine like other high scoring games have the last couple of months.

  12. Dan Howdle

    Hey Snowman. Yes, there’s an interview in the mag, but you’re misunderstanding the process. We review games first, then decide (if we like them enough) if we want to go after a post-review interview. Fact is, if we don’t like the game, publishers won’t want to do an interview, if we play it through, then write the review, we then decide whether or not we want to do an interview to talk about how the development of the game went. Because we feel people are interested in that stuff.

    Edge do the same thing.

    That is what happens in all post-mortem interviews we run. We’re just trying to give our readers more. An interview conducted after we’ve seen everything in the game is from a whole different angle to one where we’re only shown what they want to show us (at preview stage, for example). There is nothing untoward, underhanded or invisible happening here. There’s just guys doing the best job they can to deliver to their readers the best coverage they can provide.

    Hope that helps.

  13. Snowman

    Thanks for clearing that up Dan, I am just sceptical since with so many magazines closing lately there must be pressure to increase circulation and I bet some mags do chase exclusive content at the expense of objectivity. After all, “Doritos” comments aside some journalists ARE far too cosy with PR people, which is a shame as now every honest reviewer is having to justify themselves.
    As I said earlier, I’ve been reading your stuff long enough to trust you but thanks for the response, good to know some of you are still fighting the good fight.

  14. Dan Howdle

    No worries Snowman.

    You know us, as you say. If we give a game a high score, it’s because we liked it, low score we didn’t. It’s that simple.

    When it comes to this recent scandal, some people want to shoot the herd rather than single out and quarantine. And it’s for no better reason than the fact that applying strict rules (THEY’RE ALL WRONG’UNS!) is easier and more uniform than the more complicated (true) answer to the question being asked.

  15. Jorge Monteiro

    I believe that the biggest flaw in Hitman are the checkpoints (from what i’ve read).

    Maybe tomorrow i’ll get to play my pre-order, but i find it very hard not to classify Absolution as my personal Game Of The Year after Assassin’s Creed 3 came out glitched and with game-stop bugs (without speaking about the linearity of many missions. By the way haters… in Hitman : Absolution you must ADAPT to the game reaction to your actions, and that’s the simptom of a true beautiful videogame).

    The only thing i’ll very strict evaluating will be the AI. By way Howdle, how would you score it from 1 to 10?

    And to all the negative reviewers of the reviewer… i believe that every other website and magazines haven’t played 80h oh Hitman. And that would definitely be an opinion changer.

    Greetings from Portugal

  16. anon

    When you write hyperbole it comes out sounding silly and empty instead of like genuine praise. Work on that. Even if plied to provide a good review it would be counter-productive.

  17. Dan Howdle

    Part of the problem here is that what you’re reading is only the body text of a magazine review. On the pages themselves, it is packed out with other factual information about the game and the body text is really just the filling of the whole sandwich, so to speak. This being an issue I take seriously (I don’t want to misrepresent the content of the magazine here), I shall reconsider posting our reviews online in future.

    Thank you for your polite and constructive feedback.

  18. Shyster

    I’m sure it’ll also help to see the review shoe-horned between loads of Square Enix adverts too. That should give us an idea of how you arrived at that score.

    Or maybe we should look at the cover. Presumably Hitman’s on next issue’s cover as well – that’s how these deals usually work, right? For 10/10 I presume they’ll be some special treatment (foil?) paid for by Square? No? Wow, for 10/10 you should really be able to have swung that.

    This review reeks of money and PR. And against the rest of the reviews out there, makes X360 look dishonest and desperate.

    It really must hurt to have to write reviews like this and give high scores to secure the future of advertising and PR, rather than because it’s deserved. And then to defend it as well… Why not just quit, like everyone else in your sham crippled company is doing.

    Be one of the good guys. One of the people who stand up to the politics an say no. This is no way to live.

    The worst thing is, Dan, you’re such a passionate gamer and you’re great at engaging with the community… And now as editor you’re starting to be turned towards the dark side. Don’t let the politics ruin you.

  19. Shyster

    Sorry Dan.

    That last comment was probably a bit harsh. I’m just sick of seeing this industry being chewed up by PRs and ad men. And I’m sick of the way good journos – people who got into the biz simply to write about the games they love – get their hands tied and are forced to become PR tools.

    I’ve been there and I know exactly what your 10/10 means. I know it’s hard, but take a look around at those within your company, think about its future. Don’t bury your head in the sand.

    In my opinion, your time on nowgamer showed how effective you are working on an online publication. You clearly understood online better than anyone else on it at the time or has done since. So my advice: leave Imagine and its under-performing soon-to-be-dead magazines behin. Get a job at IGN, EuroGamer – you’re definitely good enough and you deserve better than a career defending indefensible 10/10 scores.

  20. Leave20intheashtray

    The score of 10/10 surely implies perfection? Could this game not be improved?

    It made me laugh but the comment above of ‘Dorito Dust’ shows the general cynicism and contempt for potential ‘journalistic’ nepotism.

    Whether reviewed independently or as part of the franchise, the narrative/tone, disastrous ‘hide in plain sight’ mechanic and linear ‘creative/signature kills’ ruin a good future model.

    **Pressing A and waiting for an NCP to drop a cigarette or go for a whizz, isnt much creative. I gave up on this game, when looking for an ignition source to detonate a gas leaking stove, the internets told me I had to SHOOT IT?! Really, thats the best they could do?!**

    A review that highlights the agreed good points on offer but passes over the obvious flaws, evident after the first few hours of gaming, cannot be classed a review but an advert.
    The fact that the flaws are not addressed at all, gives the impression the reviewer knows about them too.

  21. Monkeyboy

    Having played quite a lot of this game now, it feels like a definite step backwards from Blood Money. With Blood Money, whether by design or accident, IO Interactive hit upon something that’s quite unique to videogames. It’s episodic nature made you feel like you were an actual jobbing hitman, who got his assignment, arrived at his destination, observed the lay of the land, and made the hit as cleanly as possible. You’re just doing this over and over, but there’s a simple beauty to the routine. Basically, you’re a professional with a reputation as the world’s most dangerous hitman to uphold. Your livelihood depends on it.

    The narrative was, by far, the least important thing. Books and films need narrative. Games don’t. Some do, RPGs for example, no matter how bad they might be sometimes. But Hitman doesn’t need so many cutscenes that go nowhere, so many plain nasty — and ultimately tedious — characters that look as they’ve been picked up off the cutting room floor of a GTA game.

    Absolution strikes me as not very confident, cowardly even, cribbing so much from other games, that’s it’s lost a sense of identity. There seems to be little understanding of what a Hitman game is or could be. Whilst I realise that developers have to make money, it seems a shame that they have to hang it off the back of a poorly conceived, badly written story to even stand a chance of breaking even.

    Videogames are better than this.

  22. Vincent

    I was just scrolling the scores on metacritic. I uninstalled the game moments ago, due to its pitiful gameplay and design decisions that no mother can love. The checkpoint system is ridiculous on a purely objective level, as are the load times, quick time events, etc.

    The challenges themselves are superfluous. “Can you do the challenges we designed for you to be able to do, and play the same mission three to five times to get them all?”

    Yes. Yes, I can. I can, because you’ve designed it for me to be able to do so.

    At any rate, I just had to read the review which gave this piece of unadulterated garbage a 10/10.

    Doritos and Mountain Dew everywhere.

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