Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sneaky stab-y sneaky choke-y

I am a relative newcomer to the Hitman franchise, having only played this generation's previous release, so all the critical complaints of how Absolution betrayed its roots to be more accessible have no effect on me. I don't really care what it betrays as long as the end result is more entertaining than what it was before. Absolution mostly succeeds, but it also feels like everything that is tries to do Dishonored did better and with more style. I may be conflating two genres, but sneaky stab-y and sneaky choke-y seem pretty close together to me.

Absolution makes great strides in a choice that most people make without thinking: level of difficulty. There is easy and normal and then three level of professional. Most games would leave it at that, forcing the player to figure out on their own exactly what this means. No, Absolution is more complicated than that and its levels of difficulty require more explanation. Mind you, I still chose normal, but at least I knew what to expect and what I would be missing by not choosing one of the more difficult settings.

Normal difficulty does make playing the game like a third person shooter possible and I would be lying if I said that my play through has not devolved into that a few times, most notably when I killed every mother fucker in the orphanage. They were shooting nuns, for fucks sake, there were no innocents there. 47 never changed out of the priest's outfit, he just shot people in the head and moved on. It didn't feel like I was missing anything more than just skulking around corners. Other levels are so filled with choices that running around shooting would be a terrible waste. I still opt for the easiest choice (because I am lazy) but knowing that I could have poisoned a guy's drink instead of shooting him from the book depository window does make replaying a level easier.

Back to the comparison to Dishonored, both games have areas filled with optional things to do. Not quests, necessarily, but Easter eggs and bits of information about the game world. The difference is that I never feel compelled to find them in Absolution because Agent 47's personality is predetermined. This is a man who gets shit done, not a man who wanders about the sewers looking for the password to open a safe that may or may not have anything useful in it. Corvo is a blank slate and changes based on how the player handles things. 47 is cool with or without you. Honestly, he is too cool for you, me, and just about anyone else. I am not prepared to say that one is better, but so far Dishonored has been more thought provoking.

I wouldn't mind 47 gaining the ability to teleport short distances, but that is asking a bit much.

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