Being a fan of Hitman 2: Silent Assassin, Hitman: Contracts, and of course the deep but fairly accessible fan favorite - Hitman: Blood Money on the PS2. I was surprised when I first heard that a new Hitman game was announced especially after I thought IO- interactive pulled the plug on the entire series. It is almost like in all of the games- usually the main antagonist would think that Agent 47 is dead or some legend, but then soon discover the Hitman. So I was very excited for this game to come out after six year of mostly playing so-called GOTY shooters(that require no real critical thinking as required in the Hitman games- I have to add this red herring Hitman: Blood Money was so intense it made my palms sweat). So does Hitman: Absolution live up to the series cult classic status? Yes. To me this game is so well-balanced so pure that no critic could give this game a perfect score because it reflects themselves and usually people could like themselves only to a certain point. Maybe that is not the case, but the point is that Hitman: Absolution is definitely its own special thing and the perfect treat for fans. Now on to the review...
You are off to kill your first contract WONTREVEALSPOILER who compromised the agency (Hitman worked for) for some reason. The gameplay is at WONTREVEALSPOILER's mansion and the contract was placed by the now on the run agency. I find that the beginning could be a little troublesome for newcomers of the series. You would be asking who, what, when, what the hell do I do questions about the gameplay and story. The who, what, when are not as bad as newcomers playing Metal Gear Solid 4 but it would help if you played Hitman: Contracts and Blood Money. The opening tutorial did not make the game fresh for newcomers like Blood Money. But for experienced Hitman players, who cares about the tutorial?
If you are new to the series it is important to know that there are more than one ways of completing a mission. It is thrilling to play the game to maintain the highest score (known as the Silent Assassin rating). The new addition to this rating system is that you get to compare scores to the average World or U.S. score and get to see the highest scores a single person achieved per mission. And yes this is very well integrated in the single player game. This is the best scoring system out of all the Hitman games. The re-playability is so high it made me want to replay a mission every time I get spotted so I could compete in the rankings. I played the game twice and now almost finished with my third play-through and I still want more. The game gives the player a good sense of confinement in an open-world environment. This is what I believe most modern games can learn from. Every level is broken into pieces (though rather large pieces I might add) which enables the player to experiment with new ways of infiltrating or assassinating a target. The level of balance in the game alone is genius and unlike anything I have played before.
This is a stealth action game. Well experienced players rarely need to use weapons like (guns or explosives) but you could choose how you want to play. The Hitman is always equipped with his trademark silver-ballers, fiber-wire (for silent kills), and sometimes a beer bottle. You can pick up random stuff depending on your environment like a wrench, chef's knife, screwdriver, other nice weapons etc... You can dress up in disguises also to fool people. An IGN review pointed out that the new edition to the disguise system is flawed but in my opinion it is more realistic and inspired from elements of Silent Assassin. Like if you are dressed as a cop and then would walk closely to other cops they would soon recognize you as not being one of them unless you use your instinct mode to cover your face or use a trouble area to blend in (standing next to a carton of donuts- to make yourself look like you are eating donuts). A cool feature from Blood Money is that you get to throw objects (non-weapons or a knife) to distract people so you can sneak past them, is also in Absolution. Another big difference in the game is that viewing the maps are gone (and replaced with instinct mode). This may or may not be a big deal to some Hitman players but more important to other Hitman players. To me I did not see it as a big deal.
Graphics are on par and there is nothing visually distracting. The soundtrack is strong and haunting like the previous Hitman games but I would like to hear Jesper Kyd's rendition of the Hitman: Absolution soundtrack.
Overall the game feels like Silent Assassin in the story department (sometimes aesthetically), Contracts in the aesthetic department, and Blood Money on steroids in the gameplay department. It is a very fine blend of these elements and to me this is the overlooked game of the year.