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                                     Hitman: 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
 2NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI
123.8
118.6
108.6
97
 3AMD Radeon R9 Fury
95
89
80
77
 4NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
105.4
99.3
89.7
68.3
 8NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M SLI
113.1
108.3
99.3
76.2
 9NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
96
90
80.1
74
 11NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M SLI
67.2
62.2
54.4
53.1
 12NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
64.9
57.9
56.2
 13AMD Radeon R9 290X
66
60
58.52
 15AMD Radeon R9 M290X Crossfire
73.8
69.7
62.2
59.5
 16AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
76.4
68.1
65.4
 17NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M SLI
85.8
78.8
70.6
44.1
 19NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
90.22
90.73
80.243
543
 21NVIDIA Quadro M5000M
83.5
75.9
67.2
50.3
 25NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
106.952
102.352
85.552
40.952
 28NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M SLI
66
61.4
53.9
35.8
 29NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
73.2
68.5
62
36.9
 30AMD Radeon HD 7970
65.2
61.8
56.2
43.9
 39NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
61.42
572
49.33
383
 42NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
67.2
62.9
55.4
27.8
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 43NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
93.7
89.4
74.9
40.7
 44NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
79.7
75.4
64.7
33.83
 46NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX
55.4
34.4
 48NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
90.1
84.8
63.3
28.1
 50NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
60.6
56.8
48.62
28.452
 51AMD Radeon R9 M290X
60
56.3
49.4
37.3
 52AMD Radeon HD 8970M
54.2
49.3
32.52
27.452
 56NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
71.8
66.1
50.3
24.92
 57NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
67
62.4
542
29.42
 59AMD FirePro M6100
77
72
50
26
 60AMD Radeon HD 7970M
53.1
49.3
31.12
28.83
 62NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
95.4
89.2
57.8
27.1
 63NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX SLI
67.6
62.7
53.3
24.7
 66NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
80.72
77.62
56.652
25.952
 69NVIDIA Quadro K4100M
64
59
52
38
 70NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
78.4
73.2
46.652
21.752
 71NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
61.75
56.85
48.49
24.38
 74NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M SLI
52.6
44.7
30.6
 77NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
72
66.4
41.4
19.3
 78NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
49.1
42.1
24.9
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 80NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
48.85
44.65
35.856
14.256
 88NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
81.5
60.43
34.44
14.554
 96NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
72.7
60.2
40.6
18.4
 102AMD Radeon HD 7770
64.2
60.4
38.6
14.7
 103NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M SLI
68.4
59.7
35.8
19.1
 110NVIDIA Quadro K3100M
61
19
 113NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
69.2
59.4
30.62
12.652
 115NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
57
53
31
11
 116AMD Radeon R9 M275
40
36.5
20.7
10.5
 117NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
73.4
65.8
33.2
14.1
 123AMD Radeon HD 8870M
31.1
27.4
22.7
13
 128AMD FirePro M5100
79
68
34
16
 129NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
65
46
30
18
 135NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M
48.7
29.7
15.4
 136NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
70.1
52.7
27.6
11.5
 138AMD Radeon HD 8850M
21.4
18.5
 140AMD Radeon R9 M265X
50.5
45.952
30.92
14.52
 143AMD Radeon HD 8790M
49
44
25
10
 144AMD FirePro W4170M
45
41
32
18
 151NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
49.74
35.54
22.254
133
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 153NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
52.4
37.9
24.2
14.3
 154NVIDIA GeForce 940M
53.7
35.2
15.9
6.3
 160NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
45.8
40.4
22.9
9.9
 161NVIDIA Quadro K620M
55
37
26
14
 162NVIDIA GeForce 840M
45.293
35.53
16.63
6.7
 164NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
59.7
37.9
18.1
 167AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
44.5
35.9
19.5
8.4
 168Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
44.6
34.3
14.4
6.9
 170AMD Radeon R7 384 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
43.62
35.152
18.82
8.152
 171NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
51.83
29.83
17.23
7.33
 174NVIDIA GeForce 830M
38
32
15.2
 177NVIDIA Quadro K2000M
51.5
35.4
22.8
13.4
 180NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
40.8
27.7
12.2
 182NVIDIA GeForce 825M
44.9
28.5
13.3
 184AMD FirePro M4000
32.4
23.5
15
 193AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
20.5
19.5
 195NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
41.793
323
173
7.22
 197*NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
48.9
33.4
17.4
7.4
 198AMD FirePro M4100
26
8
 199AMD Radeon HD 8750M
22.7
20.1
15.7
6
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 201AMD Radeon R7 M270
40.12
32.952
17.052
7.552
 202AMD Radeon R7 M265
28.792
24.852
18.152
7.96
 206NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
403
31.53
173
7.452
 207AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
19.8
17.5
11.6
 222NVIDIA GeForce 920M
42.5
28.7
13.6
5.3
 223AMD Radeon R6 M340DX
26.1
21.4
10.5
4.4
 227AMD Radeon R7 M260
22.2
20.8
12.7
 236AMD Radeon HD 8670D
39.5
27.2
14.5
6.4
 240AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
18.58
 242AMD Radeon HD 8730M
15
14
12
 244NVIDIA GeForce GT 635M
42.5
26.9
12.7
 261AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
25.2
22
15.9
 262AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
13.4
12
9.4
8.1
 264AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
23
20.1
9.4
 265AMD Radeon HD 8670M
26.27
16.62
11.91
 266AMD Radeon R6 M255DX
19.6
18.1
9.3
 267AMD Radeon HD 7660D
39.352
29.452
13.552
6.432
 285AMD Radeon HD 8650G
25.53
223
10.43
5.6
 286AMD Radeon HD 7640G + HD 7670M Dual Graphics
19.9
18.7
13.4
 287*AMD Radeon HD 6620G + HD 7670M Dual Graphics
19.6
17.6
12.7
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 289AMD Radeon HD 7670M
15.9
13.6
8.7
 290NVIDIA GeForce GT 630M
40.93
273
13.53
5.12
 291AMD Radeon HD 7560D
38.5
27.8
12
5.6
 296AMD Radeon R5 M255
21.85
 298NVIDIA GeForce 820M
38.352
25.652
11.9
4.9
 301NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M
31.7
20.7
9.1
 303AMD Radeon R5 M240
19
16.7
10.2
 309AMD Radeon HD 8450G + Radeon HD 8570M Dual Graphics
9.4
8.1
 312NVIDIA Quadro K610M
38.8
23
14.5
7.5
 313AMD Radeon HD 8550M
11.1
9.4
8.8
 314Intel Iris Graphics 5100
29.2
21.4
8.5
4.2
 316*AMD Radeon HD 8610G
16.4
10.7
5.6
 319Intel HD Graphics 4600
20.32
13.752
7.32
 321Intel HD Graphics 5500
18
12.9
6.2
 326NVIDIA GeForce 710M
37.9
22.9
 327AMD Radeon HD 7660G
22.7
20.2
10.6
3.7
 330Intel HD Graphics 5000
22.3
15.7
7.3
 343ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5650
28.3
24.6
10.3
4.6
 346AMD Radeon HD 8550G
24.8
22.4
11.2
5.2
 349NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M
35
25.8
14.9
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 352AMD Radeon HD 7640G + HD 7610M Dual Graphics
19.8
18.7
10.3
 353AMD Radeon HD 7610M
38
23
8
4
 363Intel HD Graphics 4400
18.672
13.6
 365NVIDIA NVS 5200M
36.952
20.952
10.82
 367AMD Radeon HD 7550M
30.4
18.4
7.3
 375AMD Radeon HD 7600G