We’ve played the games, we’ve measured up the assassins, and now, we’re putting them head to head. Which game was the best?
This one is a tough call. All three games were pretty stunning in their own ways. Dishonored offered a precise, stylized vision of another world. Hitman: Absolution offered a grim, dark, and sleazy look at the underbelly of society. Assassin’s Creed III fully realized its historical era right down to period details.
In the end we’re calling this a three-way tie. Each were trying to do something so wildly different from the other that it’s just not fair to compare them.
Sound and Sound Design
Hitman: Absolution and Dishonored tie this one, although it must be said Agent 47 gets the better score. What really sells it are the incidental conversations both games love throwing at you: One of the pleasures of the game is getting close enough to hear what the guards are thinking about, and both games are willing to throw a curveball at you: A man in a strip-club being wheedled into staying at his bachelor party by his pathetic friend, a closeted soldier breaking up with his boyfriend, a man pathetically deluded into thinking a prostitute loves him. Dishonored also had the creepy heart, but it generally gets repetitive unless you’re pointing it at someone.
It gives both games a powerful sense of life, and make the experience that much richer.
While none of these are classics of literature, Dishonored wins the prize easily. This is largely due to the failings of the other two more than the merits of the game: Assassin’s Creed III and Hitman: Absolution have broader plots that are pretty much rubbish.
The latter is particularly frustrating because the incidental conversations you overhear are actually better than the actual plot of the game: One level walks you through a murder mystery before paying it off during a sequence where you use the victim as a distraction. In the details, it’s by turns witty, uncomfortable, even tragic. In the broad strokes, it’s idiotic. It makes you wonder what happened.
Hitman: Absolution wins pretty much by default. Not that Dishonored had a bad control scheme, but there were some aspects that were just clunky: Swordfighting with the two right bumpers is oddly uncomfortable and counterintuitive. Some rhythm-based combat would not have gone amiss.
Assassin’s Creed III, on the other hand, is mired in the previous decade. Why am I holding a button to climb things?
Agent 47, though, has smooth, precise controls that work equally well on keyboard and mouse and gamepad, so he wins the prize.
Dishonored edges this one, but only just: All three are incredibly fun. It’s really the fact that what you do in one level affects the game as an organic whole, and not just the Chaos stat tracking your kills. Items and tools you find in one level, or actions you take in another, can be important two or three levels later. Hitman: Absolution has this to some degree, and it offers in some areas an absurd amount of choices and a wide variety of missions. Meanwhile, Assassin’s Creed III is a fun little brawler with a lot of toys to play with, and a bunch of other games crammed in. But Corvo’s adventure is the most coherent.
Agent 47’s, though, is the one you’ll keep coming back to.
Part of it is just the sheer number of challenges. There are ten to twenty challenges for each level, ranging from collecting all the disguises to killing all the enemies on the floor to firing up a movie projector. The levels can be overly linear at times, but demand to be replayed just to find all the little details and figure out all the riddles. And, of course, there’s that Silent Assassin rating to earn.
Dishonored offers a lot of choices in dealing with individual enemies, and being able to ruin, rather than kill, your target is a nice touch. But ultimately it’s binary to finish the level: Kill the guy or don’t kill the guy, and there’s only really one or two ways to do both. With Dishonored the pleasure is in getting there. Hitman you can shoot him, strangle him, drop boxes on him, blow him away from a distance, trap him in a bomb blast, snap his neck, push him down a shaft, poison him, light him on fire… The choice is yours, and it’s glorious.
Dishonored wins this one by a mile. Assassin’s Creed III barely has stealth in it; it’s just climbing stuff and stabbing stuff. Hitman: Absolution does offer stealth and it can be a lot of fun to sneak around enemies, but too often it’s a bit frustrated by its level design and 47’s seeming inability to jump; there are several sections of the game that are essentially overly on rails.
Dishonored had a bit of the same problem, which we’ll get to in a minute, but the levels were lovingly designed to give you options. You can freeze time and stroll past patrols, you can sneak in through the sewers, you can swim under bridges, you can hop from light pole to light pole… Of all the games, this is by far the sneakiest.
This one goes to Assassin’s Creed III. Dishonored and Hitman: Absolution offer some superbly design levels, although some are more linear than others, but they’re essentially a series of lovingly crafted dioramas. The former offers far more leeway than the latter, and both reward exploration enormously, but neither are what you’d call free-roaming games.
Assassin’s Creed III, on the other hand, offers a few enormous, gorgeous sandboxes to play in. While there’s a distinct lack of ability compared to the other two, it’s hard to argue with a game where you can jump from tree to tree or leap through windows to escape the guards.
So overall the winner would be… Dishonored. All three games have their merits, all three games are incredibly fun, but it’s Corvo who has the best game.