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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

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
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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
 12NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 (Laptop)
95.2
88
77.3
69.852
 17NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M SLI
123.8
118.6
108.6
97
 18AMD Radeon R9 Fury
95
89
80
77
 20NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
105.4
99.3
89.7
68.3
 27NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M SLI
113.1
108.3
99.3
76.2
 35NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
96
90
80.1
74
 42NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M SLI
67.2
62.2
54.4
53.1
 43NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M SLI
64.9
57.9
56.2
 44AMD Radeon R9 290X
66
60
58.52
 47AMD Radeon R9 M290X Crossfire
73.8
69.7
62.2
59.5
 48AMD Radeon HD 8970M Crossfire
76.4
68.1
65.4
 49NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M SLI
85.8
78.8
70.6
44.1
 51NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
90.22
90.73
80.243
543
 52NVIDIA Quadro M5000M
83.5
75.9
67.2
50.3
 58NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
106.952
102.352
85.552
40.952
 60NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M SLI
66
61.4
53.9
35.8
 61NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
73.2
68.5
62
36.9
 62AMD Radeon HD 7970
65.2
61.8
56.2
43.9
 70NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (Notebook)
79.1
73.9
66.8
41.8
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 75NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M
61.42
572
49.33
383
 78NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti
67.2
62.9
55.4
27.8
 79NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
93.7
89.4
74.9
40.7
 80NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M
79.7
75.4
64.7
33.83
 82NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX
55.4
34.4
 87NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
90.1
84.8
63.3
28.1
 89NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M
60.6
56.8
48.62
28.452
 90AMD Radeon R9 M290X
60
56.3
49.4
37.3
 91AMD Radeon HD 8970M
54.2
49.3
32.52
27.452
 95NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M SLI
67
62.4
542
29.42
 97NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M
71.8
66.1
50.3
24.92
 99AMD FirePro M6100
77
72
50
26
 100AMD Radeon HD 7970M
53.1
49.3
31.12
28.83
 105NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M
75.33
71.33
48.154
25.954
 106NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
95.4
89.2
57.8
27.1
 107NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX SLI
67.6
62.7
53.3
24.7
 116NVIDIA Quadro K4100M
64
59
52
38
 119NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770M
78.4
73.2
46.652
21.752
 121NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M
61.75
56.85
48.49
24.38
 124NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M SLI
52.6
44.7
30.6
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 127NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX
72
66.4
41.4
19.3
 128NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M SLI
49.1
42.1
24.9
 130NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M
59.62
572
49.652
31.22
 133NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M
48.85
44.65
35.856
14.256
 142NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M
81.5
60.43
34.44
14.554
 150NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M
72.7
60.2
40.6
18.4
 156AMD Radeon HD 7770
64.2
60.4
38.6
14.7
 157NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M SLI
68.4
59.7
35.8
19.1
 164NVIDIA Quadro K3100M
61
19
 167NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX
69.2
59.4
30.62
12.652
 169NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M
57
53
31
11
 170AMD Radeon R9 M275
40
36.5
20.7
10.5
 171NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M
73.4
65.8
33.2
14.1
 177AMD Radeon HD 8870M
31.1
27.4
22.7
13
 182AMD FirePro M5100
79
68
34
16
 183NVIDIA Quadro K2100M
65
46
30
18
 189NVIDIA GeForce GT 755M
48.7
29.7
15.4
 190NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M
70.1
52.7
27.6
11.5
 192AMD Radeon HD 8850M
21.4
18.5
 194AMD Radeon R9 M265X
50.5
45.952
30.92
14.52
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 197AMD Radeon HD 8790M
49
44
25
10
 198AMD FirePro W4170M
45
41
32
18
 204NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M
49.74
35.54
22.254
133
 207NVIDIA GeForce 940MX
61.33
38.33
25.13
10.83
 208NVIDIA Quadro K1100M
52.4
37.9
24.2
14.3
 209NVIDIA GeForce 940M
53.7
35.2
15.9
6.3
 219NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
45.8
40.4
22.9
9.9
 220NVIDIA Quadro K620M
55
37
26
14
 221NVIDIA GeForce 840M
45.293
35.53
16.63
6.7
 223NVIDIA GeForce GT 745M
59.7
37.9
18.1
 227AMD Radeon R7 512 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
44.5
35.9
19.5
8.4
 228Intel Iris Pro Graphics 5200
44.6
34.3
14.4
6.9
 229AMD Radeon R7 384 Cores (Kaveri Desktop)
43.62
35.152
18.82
8.152
 230NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M
51.83
29.83
17.23
7.33
 233*Intel Iris Graphics 550
35.5
26
21.8
13.6
 234NVIDIA GeForce 830M
38
32
15.2
 240NVIDIA Quadro K2000M
51.5
35.4
22.8
13.4
 243NVIDIA GeForce GT 735M
40.8
27.7
12.2
 245NVIDIA GeForce 825M
44.9
28.5
13.3
 247AMD FirePro M4000
32.4
23.5
15
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 256AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8750M Dual Graphics
20.5
19.5
 257NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M
41.793
323
173
7.22
 258NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M
48.9
33.4
17.4
7.4
 260AMD FirePro M4100
26
8
 261AMD Radeon HD 8750M
22.7
20.1
15.7
6
 263AMD Radeon R7 M270
40.12
32.952
17.052
7.552
 264AMD Radeon R7 M265
28.792
24.852
18.152
7.96
 268NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M
403
31.53
173
7.452
 269AMD Radeon R7 (Kaveri)
19.8
17.5
11.6
 287NVIDIA GeForce 920M
42.5
28.7
13.6
5.3
 288AMD Radeon R6 M340DX
26.1
21.4
10.5
4.4
 294AMD Radeon R7 M260
22.2
20.8
12.7
 307AMD Radeon HD 8670D
39.5
27.2
14.5
6.4
 311AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri)
18.58
 313AMD Radeon HD 8730M
15
14
12
 315NVIDIA GeForce GT 635M
42.5
26.9
12.7
 332AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
25.2
22
15.9
 333AMD Radeon HD 8650G + HD 8570M Dual Graphics
13.4
12
9.4
8.1
 335AMD Radeon HD 8550G + HD 8670M Dual Graphics
23
20.1
9.4
 336AMD Radeon HD 8670M
26.27
16.62
11.91
Pos      Model                                     Hitman: Absolution
lowmed.highultra
 337AMD Radeon R6 M255DX
19.6
18.1
9.3
 338AMD Radeon HD 7660D
39.352
29.452
13.552
6.432
 356AMD Radeon HD 8650G
25.53
223
10.43
5.6
 357AMD Radeon HD 7640G + HD 7670M Dual Graphics
19.9
18.7
13.4
 358*AMD Radeon HD 6620G + HD 7670M Dual Graphics