For those not familiar with the Hitman series, it’s a third person stealth game for the most part. You control Agent 47, a clone that’s been genetically engineered to be a perfect assassin, marked with a barcode on the back of his neck. At the start of a contract you’re given your target/s, and on your person and around the location you have multiple ways to assassinate your target. It can be the more straightforward method of sneaking around, using piano wire and silenced pistols. Using guns however attracts attention, so the challenge is to use disguises and less conventional items, or if possible even make the kill look like an accident. Once you’ve taken out your target it’s time to get away. Can you get out like a cool cat, or are you going to have to climb over the mountains of bodies you just made to get out.
Hitman: Blood Money
Let’s start with Hitman: Blood Money. This game came out just over a decade ago now. Technically it got a release on Xbox 360 just like Absolution. Blood Money was a ‘cross gen’ title (available on the PS2 and PS3), and they couldn’t look more different with one at the beginning and the other towards the end of the consoles lifespan.
While Blood Money is a beloved game, it hasn’t aged well as an overall package. It’s such a step back after having much better mechanics and controls in the most recent three Hitman games. Straight away the movies in either game do not feel like they’ve been given any treatment to make them look better. To be fair, most other HD remasters don’t clean them up either. Fortunately once you’re out of the movie the game does look cleaner, upscaled even. In Blood Money’s case, there doesn’t seem to be much of a case to have gone as far as the 4K treatment. Some characters in the game have more exaggerated features than the more plain looking people throughout the game. The most notable example being the target in the tutorial, he looks monstrous and not intentionally. While they do a good job of making everything run smoother at 60fps for both games, it can’t smooth out how much Blood Money has aged.
Something that Blood Money got right was the open world sandboxes you get to carry your contracts out in. Outside of the tutorial mission, the game opens up to the more open missions with a variety of different locations to sneak, blend in and knock out (and/or kill) a bunch of people. If you’re late to the Hitman series and jumped in with the new ones, then the structure of Blood Money will be more familiar to you over Absolution. There are multiple ways to take out your target, some indirect and some much more direct and up close. Getting detected through the games ‘suspicion’ mechanic can be a bit vague, and it can be hard to determine who was about to send everyone into alert. I’m no stranger to spending many minutes stealthily and discreetly getting past security, then all of a sudden a random guard will set off an alert and it turns into noisily shooting your way out leaving a mountain of bodies. This also shows how far franchise has progressed.
One of the improvements that was stated to be included in the collection was updated controls, Blood Money is the game where it’s needed. Straight away you’ll find that doing almost anything is clunky and unintuitive. I was quickly reminded how easy it was for everything to come undone because of the controls. If they did improve the controls, they’ve done it so stealthily you won’t even notice. I had really hoped the improved controls the collection was said to include would be to put the Absolution controls into Blood Money.
Absolution was generally dismissed as a bad Hitman game. In comparison to what all the other games in the series are, it’s not necessarily wrong. Instead of sandbox locations encouraging creative stealth and a variety of different methods, it was much more linear. Agent 47 is contracted to assassinate his former handler and winds up protecting a girl, and he is on the run from some very powerful people. This linear story leaned into a grindhouse aesthetic, while keeping Agent 47 in some pretty boring locations compared to Blood Money and the reboot. Having Agent 47 on the run instead of contracts in a variety of environments manages to strip out what people played the games for. I can understand they wanted to freshen up things and try something different, but it’s a shame they stripped out what makes it a Hitman game to do it.
It’s not all bad, Absolution introduces much better and intuitive controls, and weapon/inventory management. There is also ‘Instinct’, a meter that would deplete when you needed to get by people in the same clothes you’re disguised in. It would also allow you to tag and shoot multiple people, like you’re playing a late Splinter Cell. If something good came from Absolution it was the improvement in controls and movement.
Due to being a later game on the previous gen consoles, Absolution already looks decent. At the time there was even a HD upgrade download for the PC version, so it feels less of a graphical jump playing this on a PS4. That being said, it now looks sharper and has a silky smooth frame rate throughout and I do appreciate 4K visuals on the PS4 pro. I’m not sure if there was much work needed on the lighting, but something feels amiss as the lighting makes a lot of random objects shiny. It wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t for the fact that collectible items also happen to shine like that too.
End of the day, these two games offer some very different experiences. They both seem to represent the best and the worst elements of the Hitman franchise. The series soft reboot combined the better parts and made a much better game from it. It’s nice that these games are available on a current gen console, so you can go back and experience the games that informed the newer ones. If you missed these back in the day or if you just need your Hitman fix, it’s worth taking on this contract.