Hitman they say is the original Assassin. That maybe so but it's a few years since we've seen him in action and many games have come and claimed that title for themselves. Absolution puts Agent 47 right back in the thick of it, ready to fight for that title back again.
The core essence of Absolution is about taking out that target while observing and learning their habits in order to execute the most appropriate kill method. You will not only need to understand your target but also the surrounding environment and how best this environment can help with your current objective.
Maybe the target regularly travels down a narrow alleyway and one day overhanging rigging "accidently" falls and kills him, or on a crowded station you nudge into him just as the train approaches. Generally there are numerous available methods to perform the kill. It is up to you to determine which is the most effective and will gain the most impressive score.
Each successful level ends with a final score and this helps to spur you on to repeating the mission and maybe working out a new more advantageous method of assassination. Formulating and ultimately pulling off a successful plan is very rewarding and this normally leads to subsequent missions becoming more elaborate and creative.
The strength of Absolution lies in the openness of the kill mechanics. The scoring system will keep you honest and help you focus on the target rather than just bursting in all guns blazing. There are side objectives that can be included in your main mission and often these will hint towards a good starting point in how to complete the kill.
In order not to alert suspicion most of the time Agent 47 will be disguised in normal everyday clothes - although you can perform missions straight up and full-on in your classic Agent 47 suit if you prefer. These disguises hold up very well but are easily detected by people wearing the same clothes as you so you need to adapt to the situation.
A system called Instinct allows you to look through walls and detect the movements of targets and other players. It also helps to alert you to people who will see through your disguise. This system needs to be topped up after use and this is done by performing certain acts like disposing of bodies or hiding your tracks.
At higher difficulty levels the Instinct system is altered to make the game more challenging and a lot of the prompts and hints are less helpful or removed. This provides you with complete control over the creative process as you'll need to come up with kill plans all on your own.
Although the flexibility and openness of Absolution is a great plus, it is hindered by the underlining story that runs through the game. The plot is fairly thin and non-descript but does require you to action a certain way at certain points.
Agent 47 is trying to protect a girl from some bad guys. Most of whom he is familiar with from past experiences. The problem is that at certain times in the game you just end up trying to avoid these guys, hiding in the shadows or behind cover, waiting until a gap in their defences opens up or you are able to quietly take one or two of them out. It takes away from the cooler planning phases of the game and really isn't that necessary.
Absolution really comes into its own in the Contract mode. Here you pick a level and more or less design a contract for others to download and act out. You set the target and the success criteria and how others will be scored. Obviously you can download and act out other people's contracts as well.
This is an excellent feature and one that will give the game longevity far beyond the standard campaign or multiplayer modes.
Absolution does a lot of things very well and Agent 47 is a very cool protagonist. The Hitman series always had a lot of fans and this game will be a big hit with them. It's not without its issues and it does feel flat in places. Although it may not have won back its crown this year I expect the Hitman series to continue and maybe without such a big gap next time.