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IO Interactive is a developer best known for the Hitman series, although they have produced a handful of other games in their career as well. Fans of the Kane & Lynch series, for example, should also be familiar with IO's work. In a statement made from the company to Develop, we're now learning that parent company Square Enix laid off almost half of the staff at IO. Previously, they had been working on multiple franchises alongside the next Hitman game, but now they are to focus all their attention on Hitman. Some of those laid off from cancelled projects will be relocated within the company to other positions. Here is the official statement that Square Enix shared: "The studio will focus resolutely on the future vision for the Hitman franchise and is in pre-production on a new triple-A Hitman project. However we have taken the difficult decision to cancel other studio projects and initiatives at IO and reduce the workforce in this studio, which will impact almost half of the employees currently at IO, as we make internal adjustments to face the challenges of today“s market. For those affected, we are extremely grateful for the hard work which they have contributed, and where it“s possible and appropriate to relocate staff to open positions at other studios within the group, we will try to do so. We are also reaching out to other companies for outplacement opportunities. We sincerely wish them well in their future careers." Hopefully those laid off from IO Interactive shall see their positions reinstated in other areas of the company or find jobs with other developers soon.
Developer: Io Interactive Publisher: Square Enix Platforms: PC, XBOX 360, PS3 Release Date: November 20, 2012 ESRB: M This review is based on the PC version of the game. A download code was provided by Square Enix for review. Few action-stealth game franchises have had an impact as large on the games industry as the Hitman series. With the enigmatic (and bald) anti-hero known only as Agent 47, developer Io Interactive has crafted a bold series focused on eliminating those who seek to threaten the world's safety. Working under the shadowy Agency, 47 has become a legend among gamers. But time hasn't been kind to the assassin, and Io has struggled to find its rhythm with flawed titles like Kane and Lynch. Can Hitman: Absolution reinvigorate the stealth genre and resurrect Io's classic franchise? Absolution begins with a solemn contract; eliminate Diana Burnwood, 47's former Agency handler and friend. Diana has been marked as a traitor by the Agency's new head, Benjamin Travis. 47 is sent in to deal with the matter personally and kills Diana. During her last breaths, she tells 47 about a special girl named Victoria hidden within her house. Victoria, who initially appears as a fragile young girl, is slowly revealed to be far more than meets the eye. I won't spoil the straightforward plot for you, but suffice it to say that the Agency and a number of criminal scuzzballs take an avid interest in Victoria's abilities. 47 takes it upon himself to defend the girl from all manner of nasty villains. Leading the bunch is the charismatic, psychotic Blake Dexter. Blake is as disgusting as folks get, pushing 47 to the limits of his scarce humanity. He often manipulates the police and his own private security forces to prevent 47 from protecting Victoria. Across 20 diverse levels, 47 will have to outwit Blake's men, powerful Agency hit squads who are gunning for 47's head, and regular law enforcement officers. How the suit-clad assassin accomplishes his mission is up to you. Choice is Absolution's finest feature. Each of the 20 levels is a microcosm of stealth and action gameplay. You can sneak about, snuff out guards, disguise yourself, and remain completely undetected by blending in with crowds and hiding in cover. If you prefer a more direct approach, Io has you covered. Absolution boasts a much-improved combat system, including an Instinct Kill system that marks targets for cool, slow-mo gunfights akin to Splinter Cell: Conviction. 47 is also skilled with melee weapons, each of which have their own unique animations and limitations. Figuring out how to take out each of Absolution 's primary targets is as entertaining as the combat and stealth mechanics. Every opponent can be eliminated through environmental manipulation, long-distance sniper rifles, or one of Absolution's many other firearms. Going the direct route isn't always the smartest as the game's AI is pretty good at making your life miserable on the harder settings. NPCs often check for your last known position and search areas on random patrol routes, making each encounter slightly different. On the higher difficulties, you'll also encounter more enemy targets and patrols, meaning a solution on Easy or Normal might not work on Purist. You may also miss out on the numerous pieces of evidence and hidden disguises scattered throughout the missions. On the easier modes, 47 has the Instinct ability which helps to identify secrets, enemies, patrol routes, and mission objectives. While veterans of the series may cry foul over Instinct's simplification of stealth, the harder difficulties should be more than sufficient. Instinct won't do much for players, especially on Hard and Purist, where every guard is a potential game-over scenario. Hitman: Absolution is largely a singleplayer affair and should take roughly 10-12 hours to beat. The narrative, while not revolutionary, does a solid job of introducing the great cast of characters and set-piece missions. In many ways, the mission-plot structure is reminiscent of Dishonored. The plot is only to service the great gameplay. If you're looking for online play, Absolution also offers Contracts. As the name implies, Contracts is a stand-alone game mode where players can create hits based on NPCs and pre-existing levels. Individual mission success conditions can be created, including weapon use and disguises. Completing Contract missions rewards players with money to spend on upgrades to 47's arsenal and abilities. It's a fun distraction and gets you straight into the action, though the editor isn't particularly deep. You can also complete Contracts from other players, many of which have bizarre and entertaining scoring conditions. Io did a great job updating the gameplay mechanics to modern day standards, but the technical aspects have suffered a few hits. The visuals are, in a word, beautiful. The Glacier2 engine is able to render massive crowds and detailed environments with ease. Unfortunately, I ran into a number of minor performance issues at random intervals. One sequence actually crashed my game as Absolution failed to render a scene correctly. Other visual oddities include clipping and some rough animations. All in all, however, Absolution looks remarkably good and features incredibly diverse environments. Enemy AI can also be fairly idiotic on the easier difficulties. I would kill several guards, only to have their buddies walk past me in front of my crosshairs. In other instances, they completely overwhelmed me from positions that were completely empty seconds before. It's a quirky, if noticeable inconsistency. The audio is equally as strong, featuring a great dynamic soundtrack by Jesper Kyd, and strong voice overs. The weapon effects are serviceable but nothing special. I did appreciate the attention to detail, especially in terms of how sound interacts with environments. Inside buildings, sound echoed off of walls and had a noticeably tin-can quality in metal hangars. Io nailed the immersion aspect well; you really feel like you're Agent 47 stalking your prey through each of Absolution's missions. When I heard a new Hitman game was coming out, I was understandably wary. Io Interactive has had it's fair share of ups and downs as of late. I worried that they wouldn't be able to deliver a solid product. I was right about one part. Hitman: Absolution isn't a solid game; it's an excellent title with a few annoying flaws. And given how much polish is already evident in the final product, Io will likely fix the few performance and visuals bugs that remain. Is Absolution the best entry in the series? For hardcore fans of the Hitman franchise, probably not. But few games offer the sheer amount of unique kill and stealth options that Absolution does. Io's latest release is the most visually diverse, content-rich title in their portfolio. Bolstered by the fun Contracts multiplayer mode, Hitman: Absolution is a great entry in any gamer's library. It's rich in content and offers numerous solutions to any problem. Pros: + Strong production values + Memorable cast of characters + Diverse missions and choices + Contracts mode offers replayability Cons: - Some lingering bugs present - AI can be silly at times Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great If you're a fan of the Hitman series or a newcomer, there's no better place to start than Absolution.