I played Absolution for the first time this weekend, and to my surprise, knocked off 18 of the 20 chapters in quick succession, despite not really being impressed by the game in a lot of ways. There's a lot that works, and a lot that doesn't.
- Unlocking mid-chapter checkpoints by yourself was a cool idea, a bit like mastery-unlocking new starting locations in 16/18.
- The dark tones of the world look really good, the escape from Terminus sequence was almost Uncharted level of impressive for me.
- There's several nice locations taking advantage of the American setting, like the cage match, gun store and courthouse.
- For some levels, the subchapter system made sense, such as for Blackwater Park (a pretty nice level all in all). The occasional smaller level focused not on an assassination was also a nice change of pace, like the aforementioned gun store.
- Overall, the sequence between the fire at Hotel Terminus and getting to the subway train was really good. I enjoyed being on the run, and they kept switching the gameplay elements and setpieces to maintain interest.
- Powers Boothe is a fine actor and a great voice for Travis.
What didn't work
- In practice, the checkpoints feel underutilized, since the subchapters inside each chapter are mostly fairly small. At the same time, a lot of times I found myself accepting pretty sloppy runs because a lack of checkpoints at a given location would have meant replaying the same 5 minutes over and over again trying to perfect it.
- The weird fanservice. Why does Chief Skurky have a dominatrix? Why oh why is the ICA's #2 pick for a high profile assassination… seven latex nuns? I guess they were maybe going for a kind of grindhouse exploitation flick feel, maybe?
- Individual chapters and subchapters often felt way too small and at the same time, like padding. The courthouse / jail level's only interesting bit is the start, the jail is too linear and you could have easily chopped a third off the middle without losing anything of value.
- Boring targets. There's too many targets I didn't care at all about, which was also exacerbated by the previous point of there being too much padding. There did not need to be seven Saints, especially since they were barely differentiated.
- For 16/18 player, the little differences. I don't mind Silent Assassin being harder, but not being able to throw wrenches at people's heads was a real bummer.
- Disguises kind of suck. They're only ever very useful at a distance, and I find myself constantly burning Instinct or crouching behind everything just to keep going. At several points, using them was actually a major liability compared to just being in your suit, and contrariwise, in many places not using a disguise felt really limiting. They didn't get the balance quite right.
Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to finishing the game tonight, Blake Dexter and Travis have it coming…
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