Whilst Tom handled our full, official review of HITMAN’s opening chapter on the Xbox One, I've been sneaking my way through Paris’ fashion elite on the PlayStation 4. Here are my thoughts, with a focus placed upon areas less trodden in the full review.
Some Absolution systems were kept and tweaked to great effect - hand-to-hand combat, improved gunplay, instincts mode - but even more integral are the features they decided to drop. I really can’t exaggerate what a positive step it was to remove the obnoxious location-based, manually-triggered checkpoints and on-screen score tracking. They had worked in tandem to quell any semblance of fun, the former discouraging experimentation through the threat of lost progress, and the latter reminding you of your ineptitude at every turn - the visual equivalent of a condescending narration: “Ooh, you shouldn't have done that, -100 points for being a big moron."
The return of manual saves at any location, and relatively frequent autosaves for us console players that forget, mean you’re never scared to try something outlandish. Scoring remains, but it’s calculated behind the scenes, as it had been previously, to give you an idea of how you performed post mission. Perfect!
Absolution's most redeeming feature, the online Contracts mode, returns and is an absolute hoot. Not going into it too much, as the mode was covered extensively in our review, it make locales endlessly revisitable and accommodates all manners of player.
Unfortunately, maintaining connection to the server - and with it access to the mode - can be an issue, the game irritatingly booting you back to the main menu and negating any unsaved progress when you fall victim to random chance. It wasn't nearly as big an issue for me personally as it was for our reviewer, however, the load times I do take issue with. Paris is an impressively large and seamless location, which is reflected in the often near minute long wait to explore it, and whilst delays are understandable in this instance, the noticeable lag during menu transitions is not. It’ll be naught more than a slight niggle for many, but perfectionists that like to load their save whenever things go south and habitual intel checkers alike should brace themselves for some serious downtime.
Contracts is an ingenious inclusion as replayability is key here, thanks to the newfangled episodic nature of HITMAN; a model which was noted to potentially draw new players in with a very reasonable introductory price point. I’d go a step further and say the release schedule actually benefits the gameplay experience greatly. With previous Hitman games, I, and assumably many others, would simply play through the campaigns and be done with them. This time around, I've played each of the locations tens of times to complete every challenge, discover every secret, take advantage of every assassination opportunity and generally eek out every last morsel of content. As such, I've spent longer in the two tutorial locations alone than most fully fledged areas from previous games in the series. Less is certainly more, as you’re encouraged to engage on a much deeper level with what content is present.
Agent 47 is back at his best, starring in an already substantial game that offers a masterclass in catering to your fanbase. Don’t let Absolution’s downfalls, an episodic release format, or any small technical issues put you off donning his iconic red tie - things can only get better from here.