Notebookcheck

Hitman Absolution Benchmarked

Florian Glaser (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 12/12/2012

Stealth reincarnation. The time-honored Hitman series boldly leaps into the year 2012. The developer IO Interactive stays true to its principles, presenting with Absolution a classic clandestine adventure that holds to its roots. We fought through the first level and investigated how hardware-hungry the game is.

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Hitman: Absolution

For the original German review, see here.

If you take a look at Square Enix you'll see the financial crisis hasn't hurt every publisher. The company, previously primarily active in Asia, took over its limping competitor Eidos Interactive in 2009. In the process it gained big labels like Tomb RaiderDeus Ex, Thief and Hitman.

After the Hitman developer IO Interactive hazarded an excursion into the action genre with the Kane & Lynch game and its sequel in 2007 and 2010, the Danes are once again concentrating on their real strength: stealth. Strictly speaking Hitman isn't 100% stealth. While Thief and Splinter Cell primarily entail light-and-shadow play, the Hitman series involves considerably more variation, surpassing what normally comes under the term "stealth". Thus in Absolution we not only skillfully use our environment, but the power of illusion serves us as well. Guises play an essential role here.

May I introduce: 47, Agent 47.
May I introduce: 47, Agent 47.
The hitman must kill his former employer...
The hitman must kill his former employer...
...which carries unforeseen consequences.
...which carries unforeseen consequences.

Description

We deem the introduction to the new Hitman narrative a complete success. As Absolution starts off, the main character (a genetically enhanced clone) must eliminate his old employer, Diana. Why? Well, supposedly the woman compromised the company's own network and had all the agents busted. The bald man in a suit accepts the proposition, and makes his way over to Diana's safe-house. Only seconds into the game we have to smile to ourselves: instead of driving up in a dark limousine (or something of that nature), Hitman shows up in a brightly-colored ice cream truck (see image).

Absolution uses the first mission as an extensive tutorial. In the garden of the sophisticated property, not only do we learn the general controls, but we are also acquainted with some of the finer points. Among the most vital is the new covering system. With a click of the space bar Agent 47 huddles himself against numerous objects, like bushes, walls or crates. Great: if two objects are directly next to each other, you can use a key to switch your covering at lightning speed.

We come in peace! Or not?
We come in peace! Or not?
A good covering is the A and O.
A good covering is the A and O.
Of course bodies can be transported.
Of course bodies can be transported.
You can take an opponent as a human shield.
You can take an opponent as a human shield.
The rich detail is phenomenal.
The rich detail is phenomenal.
Now don't get caught.
Now don't get caught.

If you don't feel like sneaking around, you can also shoot your way through the compact levels with your gun drawn - but the real fun in Absolution can only be experienced if you operate in hiding and meticulously analyzing your surroundings. IO Interactive gives the gamer all sorts of options to have on hand.

Example: crouched, we approach a guard and eliminate him with the famous piano string. So that his patrolling associates don't suspect anything, we seize the body on the spot and drag it out of reach. As soon as we feel we're unobserved, we make Agent 47 switch out his clothing. As an "imitation guard" we can move much more freely and observe our opponents at close range. But be careful: opponents wearing the same outfit will see through our masquerade sooner or later, so we ought not to dance forever in front of the guards' noses. The danger of being recognized varies based on the level of difficulty.

Pros can ignore the visual assistance.
Pros can ignore the visual assistance.
It's easier to play with disguises.
It's easier to play with disguises.
There are many ways to dispose of bodies.
There are many ways to dispose of bodies.
Absolution offers a variety of diversionary tactics.
Absolution offers a variety of diversionary tactics.
Who'd a thunk? The Hitman is even free of vertigo.
Who'd a thunk? The Hitman is even free of vertigo.
That was probably the last day of work.
That was probably the last day of work.

On the topic of variety: the level of difficulty also influences other factors, like the number of opponents, the save-system (the game saves at points spread throughout the level) and the instinct mode. Wait a moment, what exactly is this so-called "instinct mode"? Well, it's a visual assistant that marks interesting objects, highlights opponents and their routes (even through walls) and better protects our cover. On the lowest level the instinct practically guides you through the whole thing. Whether the mode should be considered "cheating" is something each player can decide for themselves. We personally find it very useful.

Agent 47 of course also manages without artificial improvements. As our screenshots show, you can distract opponents, poison them, stow them away in boxes or closets, pull them out of windows and throw them over railings. Happy "accidents" cause the gamer-heart to leap especially high.

Annoying: we can only save at predetermined points.
Annoying: we can only save at predetermined points.
Of course the Agent wants to operate in secret.
Of course the Agent wants to operate in secret.
In some zones you should wear specific clothing.
In some zones you should wear specific clothing.
Our favorite activity: creative clean up.
Our favorite activity: creative clean up.
The little duck near the bath is an homage to the predecessors.
The little duck near the bath is an homage to the predecessors.
Nice idea: Absolution compares its own performance with the competition.
Nice idea: Absolution compares its own performance with the competition.

It's a shame that IO Interactive overloaded the controls a little bit. For the actions "take", "carry" and "use" there are three different keys. In this author's opinion, there's room for improvement here. In general Absolution is controlled rather slowly, which is actually desired. In comparison to Corvo from Dishonored, Agent 47 acts like a lame duck. The game-tempo is more like that of Splinter Cell and Thief. Further criticism: the visibility indicators are rather poor. The attentiveness of adversaries is sometimes difficult to assess.

However, it is impossible to find fault with the sound. The professional speakers and the awesome music bring us deep into the world and the story. In combination with the affectionately designed areas, we find ourselves in an almost unsurpassable atmosphere of suspense. Anyone who moves forward in the missions quietly and thoughtfully will be rewarded at the end of the assignment with good statistics. Thanks to the many secrets, achievements and activatable extras, Absolution offers enormous replay value.

The poor cook makes us feel sorry for him.
The poor cook makes us feel sorry for him.
First we poison him and hide his fancy hat...
First we poison him and hide his fancy hat...
...then he's deposited in the cupboard.
...then he's deposited in the cupboard.
Breaking into locks is part of our standard repertoire.
Breaking into locks is part of our standard repertoire.
A special mode marks enemies...
A special mode marks enemies...
...which upon being shot sail spectacularly through the area.
...which upon being shot sail spectacularly through the area.

Benchmark

We have to give IO Interactive high praise for the integrated benchmark. The sequence, lasting about a minute, shows a lively party under a wide-open sky with tons of fireworks and passers-by. Due to the large number of people emerging from every direction, the passage turns out to demand a fair amount of processing power. Depending on the level and the environment, the performance in a one-player game can be sometimes better, sometimes worse. Since we're talking about a pretty slow-moving third-person game, about 25 fps on average will do.

Settings

The Glacier 2 engine, developed by IO Interactive itself, provides exceptional picture-quality. That kind of sharp texture and high-class effects is hard to come by. In particular, the lighting (which can admittedly be a little exaggerated) leaves Agent 47 paused in wonder. In our opinion the visuals are even beyond the level of Max Payne 3. Or put another way: Absolution is one of the most beautiful titles of the year. As one would expect, the graphic opulence is accompanied by above-average hardware demands.

Lowest Preset
Lowest Preset
Medium Preset
Medium Preset
High Preset
High Preset
Ultra Preset
Ultra Preset
Discussion

IO Interactive put a lot of work into the setting options. That means that among other things, we can control the resolution, the refresh rate, the display mode and (on compatible systems) the 3D display. Most of the options can be found under the "Quality" tab. The developer filled a whole 11 option selections under this category. Anisotropic texture-filtering, tessellation, global illumination and SSAO are only a few of the many features. For anti-aliasing, both MSAA and shader-based FXAA are offered. For our benchmarks we're sticking to the four presets, "Ultra", "High", "Medium" and "Lowest". Excellent: the graphics options can be adjusted both inside and outside the game.

Lowest Preset
Lowest Preset
Medium Preset
Medium Preset
High Preset
High Preset
Ultra Preset
Ultra Preset

Nvidia graphics cards may tend to perform poorly due to the fact that Absolution belongs to AMD's "Gaming Evolved" program. The same phenomenon occurred with Sleeping Dogs, also released in 2012. Nvidia countered with the "the way it's meant to be played" program. Assassin's Creed III is an ideal counterexample.

Contracts make possible the creation of individual assignments.
Contracts make possible the creation of individual assignments.
There are 20 levels in total.
There are 20 levels in total.
True Hitmen only need the piano string.
True Hitmen only need the piano string.
The missions' descriptions are accompanied by music.
The missions' descriptions are accompanied by music.
Absolution keeps track of our activities very precisely.
Absolution keeps track of our activities very precisely.
The extras keep the level of motivation high.
The extras keep the level of motivation high.

Results

Using 1920x1080 pixels, quadruple MSAA anti-aliasing and the "Ultra" preset, most devices have to give up without much ado. Only the Radeon HD 7970M and the GeForce GTX 680M more or less manage these settings on the monitor. To play with high detail, double anti-aliasing and 1366x768 pixels there should be at least a GeForce GT 650M or GTX 660M in the notebook.

Cheaper, all-round notebooks containing a mid-range GPU on the level of the GeForce GT 630M will only be able to manage the middle preset at best. Processor chips like the Radeon HD 7660G or the HD Graphics 4000 already have trouble at the lowest preset and 1024x768 pixels. The old Sandy Bridge model HD Graphics 3000 unfortunately can do naught but surrender. Note: at the lower and middle settings, the CPU is often the limiting factor.

Benchmark Table: Hitman Absolution

Verdict

Those who cherish stealth-gaming should absolutely give Hitman: Absolution a closer look. The hours of puzzling over optimal strategies and plotting the perfect murder make it easy to forget reality. The developers prove that stealth games can be simultaneously modern (graphics) and classic (gameplay). If it had a nicer save-system and crisper controls we would have liked it even better. Even so, we count Absolution one of the highlights of the year.

Does he always have to look so grim?
Does he always have to look so grim?
The killer isn't totally unsympathetic.
The killer isn't totally unsympathetic.
The story is certainly an exciting one.
The story is certainly an exciting one.

Test Systems

Thank you once again to the company Schenker Notebooks (mysn.de), who provided us with our three main platforms:

  • XMG P502 (Core i7-3610QM, GeForce GTX 660M, GTX 670M, GTX 675M(X), GTX 680M & Radeon HD 7970M, 8 GB RAM)
  • XMG A502 (Core i5-3360M, GeForce GT 650M & HD Graphics 4000, 8 GB RAM)
  • Xesia M501 (Core i7-2630QM, GeForce GT 630M & HD Graphics 3000, 8 GB RAM) 

The GPUs below used the following drivers: Nvidia 310.61 Beta, AMD 12.11 Beta 8 & Intel 9.17.10.2875. 

from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502
from left to right: Schenker XMG A502, Xesia M501 & XMG P502

Overview

Show Restrictions
Pos      Model                                     Perf. RatingHitman: Absolution
 Hitman: Absolution (2012)
low
1024x768
Lowest Preset
med.
1366x768
Medium Preset
2xAF
high
1366x768
High Preset
8xAF 2xMSAA
ultra
1920x1080
Ultra Preset
16xAF 4xMSAA
 5NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI
100
123.8
118.6
108.6
97
 6AMD Radeon R9 Fury
76.2
95
89
80
77
 7NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
80.5
105.4
99.3
89.7
68.3
 11NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M SLI
88.2
113.1
108.3
99.3
76.2
 12NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
75.9
96
90
80.1
74
 15NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M SLI
52.9
67.2
62.2
54.4
53.1
 16NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
~55.375%
64.9
57.9
56.2
 17AMD Radeon R9 290X
~57.175%
66
60
58.52
 20AMD Radeon R9 M290X Crossfire
59.2
73.8
69.7
62.2
59.5
 21AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
~64.875%
76.4
68.1
65.4
 22NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M SLI
61.6
85.8
78.8
70.6
44.1
 24NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
69.7
90.22
90.73
80.243
543
 25NVIDIA Quadro M5000M
61.3
83.5
75.9
67.2
50.3
 29NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
73.4
106.952
102.352
85.552
40.952
 31NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M SLI
47.9
66
61.4
53.9
35.8
 32NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
53
73.2
68.5
62
36.9
 33AMD Radeon HD 7970
50.4
65.2
61.8
56.2
43.9
 44NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
45.6
61.42
572
49.33
383
 47NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
46.7
67.2
62.9
55.4
27.8
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 48NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
65.5
93.7
89.4
74.9
40.7
 49NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
55.6
79.7
75.4
64.7
33.83
 51NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX
~43.250%
55.4
34.4
 53NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
57.9
90.1
84.8
63.3
28.1
 55NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
42.7
60.6
56.8
48.62
28.452
 56AMD Radeon R9 M290X
45
60
56.3
49.4
37.3
 57AMD Radeon HD 8970M
35.9
54.2
49.3
32.52
27.452
 61NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
46.4
71.8
66.1
50.3
24.92
 62NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
46.7
67
62.4
542
29.42
 64AMD FirePro M6100
48.9
77
72
50
26
 65AMD Radeon HD 7970M
35.7
53.1
49.3
31.12
28.83
 67NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
58.4
95.4
89.2
57.8
27.1
 68NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX SLI
45.5
67.6
62.7
53.3
24.7
 71NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
52.4
80.72
77.62
56.652
25.952
 74NVIDIA Quadro K4100M
47.1
64
59
52
38
 75NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
47.6
78.4
73.2
46.652
21.752
 76NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
41.8
61.75
56.85
48.49
24.38
 79NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M SLI
~3975%
52.6
44.7
30.6
 82NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
43
72
66.4
41.4
19.3
 83NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
~35.375%
49.1
42.1
24.9
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 84NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
44.8
57.7
55.7
52.3
36.3
 85NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
31.2
48.85
44.65
35.856
14.256
 93NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
40.9
81.5
60.43
34.44
14.554
 101NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
41.5
72.7
60.2
40.6
18.4
 109AMD Radeon HD 7770
38.4
64.2
60.4
38.6
14.7
 110NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M SLI
39.6
68.4
59.7
35.8
19.1
 117NVIDIA Quadro K3100M
~34.450%
61
19
 120NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
36.8
69.2
59.4
30.62
12.652
 122NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
32.7
57
53
31
11
 123AMD Radeon R9 M275
23.2
40
36.5
20.7
10.5
 124NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
40
73.4
65.8
33.2
14.1
 130AMD Radeon HD 8870M
20.6
31.1
27.4
22.7
13
 135AMD FirePro M5100
42.2
79
68
34
16
 136NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
34.4
65
46
30
18
 142NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M
~28.175%
48.7
29.7
15.4
 143NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
34.6
70.1
52.7
27.6
11.5
 145AMD Radeon HD 8850M
~16.450%
21.4
18.5
 147AMD Radeon R9 M265X
30.7
50.5
45.952
30.92
14.52
 150AMD Radeon HD 8790M
27.5
49
44
25
10
 151AMD FirePro W4170M
29.7
45
41
32
18
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 158NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
26
49.74
35.54
22.254
133
 160NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
27.8
52.4
37.9
24.2
14.3
 161NVIDIA GeForce 940M
23.5
53.7
35.2
15.9
6.3
 167NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
25.6
45.8
40.4
22.9
9.9
 168NVIDIA Quadro K620M
28.5
55
37
26
14
 169NVIDIA GeForce 840M
22.2
45.293
35.53
16.63
6.7
 171NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
~32.375%
59.7
37.9
18.1
 174AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
23.2
44.5
35.9
19.5
8.4
 175Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
21.3
44.6
34.3
14.4
6.9
 177AMD Radeon R7 384 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
22.6
43.62
35.152
18.82
8.152
 178NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
22.6
51.83
29.83
17.23
7.33
 181NVIDIA GeForce 830M
~23.975%
38
32
15.2
 184NVIDIA Quadro K2000M
26.6
51.5
35.4
22.8
13.4
 187NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
~22.575%
40.8
27.7
12.2
 189NVIDIA GeForce 825M
~24.275%
44.9
28.5
13.3
 191AMD FirePro M4000
~19.975%
32.4
23.5
15
 200AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
~16.550%
20.5
19.5
 202NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
21
41.793
323
173
7.22
 204*NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
22.8
48.9
33.4
17.4
7.4
 205AMD FirePro M4100
~14.650%
26
8
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 206AMD Radeon HD 8750M
14
22.7
20.1
15.7
6
 208AMD Radeon R7 M270
20.9
40.12
32.952
17.052
7.552
 209AMD Radeon R7 M265
17.3
28.792
24.852
18.152
7.96
 213NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
20.6
403
31.53
173
7.452
 214AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
~13.875%
19.8
17.5
11.6
 229NVIDIA GeForce 920M
19.1
42.5
28.7
13.6
5.3
 230AMD Radeon R6 M340DX
13.3
26.1
21.4
10.5
4.4
 234AMD Radeon R7 M260
~15.775%
22.2
20.8
12.7
 243AMD Radeon HD 8670D
18.7
39.5
27.2
14.5
6.4
 247AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
~1525%
18.58
 249AMD Radeon HD 8730M
~11.775%
15
14
12
 251NVIDIA GeForce GT 635M
~22.975%
42.5
26.9
12.7
 268AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
~17.875%
25.2
22
15.9
 269AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
9.5
13.4
12
9.4
8.1
 271AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
~14.775%
23
20.1
9.4
 272AMD Radeon HD 8670M
~15.475%
26.27
16.62
11.91
 273AMD Radeon R6 M255DX
~13.275%
19.6
18.1
9.3
 274AMD Radeon HD 7660D
18.9
39.352
29.452
13.552
6.432
 292AMD Radeon HD 8650G
13.6
25.53
223
10.43
5.6
 293AMD Radeon HD 7640G + HD 7670M Dual Graphics
~14.775%
19.9
18.7
13.4
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 294*AMD Radeon HD 6620G + HD 7670M Dual Graphics
~14.175%
19.6
17.6
12.7
 296AMD Radeon HD 7670M
~10.875%
15.9
13.6
8.7
 297NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
18.4
40.93
273
13.53
5.12
 298AMD Radeon HD 7560D
17.8
38.5
27.8
12
5.6
 303AMD Radeon R5 M255
~17.625%
21.85
 305NVIDIA GeForce 820M
17.2
38.352
25.652
11.9
4.9
 308NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
~17.175%
31.7
20.7
9.1
 310AMD Radeon R5 M240
~12.975%
19
16.7
10.2
 316AMD Radeon HD 8450G + Radeon HD 8570M Dual Graphics
~7.250%
9.4
8.1
 319NVIDIA Quadro K610M
18
38.8
23
14.5
7.5
 320AMD Radeon HD 8550M
~8.375%
11.1
9.4
8.8
 321Intel Iris Graphics 5100
13.4
29.2
21.4
8.5
4.2
 323*AMD Radeon HD 8610G
~9.175%
16.4
10.7
5.6
 326Intel HD Graphics 4600
~11.675%
20.32
13.752
7.32
 328Intel HD Graphics 5500
~10.475%
18
12.9
6.2
 333NVIDIA GeForce 710M
~2550%
37.9
22.9
 334AMD Radeon HD 7660G
12.2
22.7
20.2
10.6
3.7
 337Intel HD Graphics 5000
~12.775%
22.3
15.7
7.3
 350ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
14.5
28.3
24.6
10.3
4.6
 353AMD Radeon HD 8550G
13.6
24.8
22.4
11.2
5.2
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
low