This time, it's personal.
Agent 47 makes a killing return
It's been a while since we've seen Agent 47. Over six years in fact. From the release of Blood Money in 2006, it seemed like the bald-headed Assassin had gone into retirement. Thankfully, IO Interactive hadn't walked away from the ruthless killer. While it's been a very long haul, the wait has certainly paid off. Hitman Absolution is one of the best, if not the best in the series. There's no denying it's the most ambitious Hitman game yet. It's far bigger than Blood Money. Not just in a gameplay aspect, but story aswell. It's more expansive in scale, and there's many new features. It does feel different to it's predecessors, but it still keeps the core stealth mechanic that made the series a success.
Absolution takes place after the events of Blood Money. Agent 47 is much older, and his assignment is more personal than ever. (Spoiler) He is first contracted to find and kill Diana, who fans of the series will know. It soon comes to light that 47's organisation can no longer be trusted. He is betrayed, leaving him to work alone and unravel the truth. Throughout the game, 47 is also trying to protect a young. girl. It explores a different side to 47 that we haven't seen before. He ends up risking his life for her. The whole narrative is completely gripping from the start. The voice acting is stellar, the visuals are beautiful and the soundtrack hits all the right notes.
Absolution goes down a more linier route, compared to it's predecessors. Each level is split up into sections, and some are scripted events. At times, you will need to do down a certain path, offering a more cinematic experience. But there's still plenty of freedom within the levels. The series is known for it's player choice, and it's no different in Absolution. Every level can be tackled in different ways. If lurking in the shadows, strangling your targets with a fibre wire, then hiding their bodies in a closet is your thing , you can. Or you could simply go in guns blazing, it's entirely up to you.
Playing it stealthy can be a more satisfying experience. This is what the levels are designed for. It wants you to move at a slow pace, examining the areas as you go. Each level offers multiple ways of eliminating your targets, and patience is require when killing your targets creatively. You could just shoot your targets at point blank, but there's far more interesting ways of execution. For example, one level could give you a choice of sniping your target from a tall building, or blowing him up with a car explosion. There's so many ways to discover, and it adds a great layer of replayability.
The new Instinct mode makes great use of this. By simply holding down the RB button, 47 is able to scan the area with an X-ray like vision. This shows up civilians and targets throughout the environment. It also lets you find your targets movement paths, which is presented in a long fiery trail. This is great for finding out the best possible area for eliminating your target discreetly. The instinct feature is a neat addition that will help the more casual players. If you want a more hardcore experience, the option can be switched off in-game, or tweaked to your liking.
Throughout the game, a scoring system rewards you on how well you complete a level. Executing enemies at certain opportunities will increase your score. While killing innocent people or going to a forbidden area will decrease it. It's a neat addition that gives the stealth players something to try and achieve. It shows you that there is a correct way of playing each level, but stealth isn't required.
Compared to Blood Money, there's no option to select equipment and weaponry between missions. This might be disappointing to some, but the new Contracts mode makes up for it. Contracts allows you to revisit areas from the story mode, then set up your own contracts. You can mark your own targets, then go kill them. This will then earn you money, allowing you to purchase and upgrade weaponry. Contracts is also great on a competitive level. Each contract you make can be shared with your friends, allowing them to try beat your score.
Hitman Absolution is a suprising return for Agent 47. While some may find the more linier approach off-putting, others will simply adore it. It's new features are great for newcomes, while still keeping the core fans happy. Player choice is the most impressive part of Absolution. Not many games allow you this freedom. It's bigger than ever, making it a delight to replay.