Gaming is something that hasn't suffered too much during my blogging hiatus. For the most part, I've just been trying to work on that backlog of games in my Steam library that every PC gamer has, and for me, one of those games was Hitman Absolution.
The Hitman franchise was one I jumped into with Hitman 2; and while Contracts was an interesting follow up to Silent Assassin, Blood Money was what really endeared me to the series. Even though the story was pretty much non-existent in Blood Money, I loved the open nature of each mission environment, and it made the replay value of the game go through the roof for me. Not like KOTOR or Dragon Age replay value good, but still pretty impressive for a game where the premise isn't much more than a bald guy who kills people.
So about five years go by and there's a new Hitman coming out. I go to PAX that year, see it there and think, "Awesome! Graphics have come a long way since 2006. I wonder what they've put into the new game?" So I stood in the Square Enix area to watch their trailer. Did they feature any of the new gameplay mechanics? No. Did they setup the fact that there is actually a story to follow now? Nope. Did they show the improved graphics? No. It was a pre-rendered cutsceen-style trailer that showcased this:
They're called the Saints. Subtle, I know.
I understand why this particular approach is used when your fan base is made up predominately by straight males, but it was so blatant that I couldn't help but laugh a little. Needless to say, I didn't fork out the premium price on release date to see if the nun-inspired assassin squad thing went anywhere, but I did eventually pick it up during a Square Enix sale day on Steam.
It took me two moderately long sittings to play through the single player story, but you could probably grind it out in a day with some dedication. In short, it was ok. The main thing that turned me off was how you were made to interact with the environments. It was a much more linear play through, which isn't necessarily bad, but I always felt like the game was rushing me along. I never got the feeling that I was some master assassin that could complete a mission in any number of ways. Instead, I felt more like I was some assassin intern just stumbling from one situation to the next, only running into those best-option scenarios by chance. I appreciate that they still tried to give you options, but the pace felt too frantic to really understand and enjoy what those options were.
Don't worry, I'm a professional.
Still, it wasn't all bad. The graphics were a lot better than previous titles, and disguises played a much more important role in this title than anything previous. Actually, the whole character recognition mechanic that takes into account disguises, the kind of NPC and the weapon/object you're holding added a new layer to the game that was fun to plan around. The amount of objects to interact with and use also added depth to the gameplay, although I was a little upset about not really being able to choose your equipment load out. I understand how that fit into the story, but at the same time that nerfed some of that replay value I found in previous titles. Going into a level a second time with better equipment and getting a different experience was no longer in the cards.
I think in the end, if you're a fan of the franchise, you'll do what I did: buy it cheap, marathon and moderately enjoy the single player, think back to it with an element of fondness, but probably never play it again.