Hitman Absolution review

  • Varied missions with seemingly limitless options
  • Sleek, sexy style
  • Bountiful improvements to the basic gameplay
  • A sometimes muddled story
  • That there aren't enough traditional levels
  • Seriously, what’s up with the bloom lighting?

Hitman’s past has been as cold and calculated as its murderous anti-hero, each game cloned from the last to create a technically better sequel with technically better mechanics. Absolution defies this tradition. It’s a sexy, stylish Hitman game, where groups of leather-clad nun assassins sport cool crew names like “The Saints,” and southern tycoons speak in soundbites and say things like “Yeehaw” before slapping their knee and spitting out chewing tobacco. It’s as if Quentin Tarantino made a Hitman game--so thick with pulp that you’ll struggle to swallow, but so sweet and delicious that you’ll have a hard time giving it up.

Agent 47 began his previous missions in a finely-pressed suit and tie, sleuthing down hallways and splattering brain matter in every direction before dusting off his suit (or whatever outfit he had acquired) and continuing his hit. In Absolution, he’s taken the tie off and undone the top button, assuming a more casual appearance that better fits the attitude of the entire game. Bloody bandage over his signature barcode tattoo, he finds himself in a different sort of experience than fans are used to, with varied missions that dance between traditional assassinations and stealth action segments. This mix works together to tell a more complete story, one that sees Agent 47 unraveling a conspiracy involving a slew of interesting, memorable characters--and a bunch of walking dead men.

Check out our Hitman Absolution video review

Though the cartoonish personas Agent 47 comes into contact with are unanimously interesting, the story struggles at times, often failing to make cohesive connections between missions. Some make sense, weaving into the narrative well, but others seemingly come out of nowhere, feeling like side jobs as opposed to actual plot progression. This being the case, the plot can be confusing and muddled if taken one segment at a time. On the whole, though, once the credits roll you'll likely have no problems connecting the blood-soaked dots.

Not that you’ll mind when you’re actually in the act of hunting a target. When it comes to proving why Agent 47 is the best in the business, the missions in Absolution are as varied and strong as they’ve ever been. Whether you’re marching through the crowded streets of Chinatown or sneaking through a millionaire's well-guarded penthouse, you’re frequently given a large number of options when it comes to approaching a target. Absolution continues Hitman’s tradition of open-ended gameplay, accommodating the silent assassins and blatant sociopaths among you.

Many levels present multiple targets that you’re able to take on and take out in any order. How you execute the mission affects the small sandbox worlds they inhabit, creating multiple paths with each assassination. Do you use explosives to blow up a car and kill a dozen bystanders, or do you meticulously plan out every move to make sure your only bullet is spent between the eyes of your target? Or do you just murder everyone? Absolution rewards you with points based on your execution, and though earning points unlocks passive upgrades, they’re never important enough as to deter you from playing the way you want.

Other missions are more akin to what you’d expect to find in other stealth series, giving you multi-staged arenas with a focus on infiltration as opposed to outright assassination. This was a risky move, threatening to provide a disjointed feel, but instead the varied mission types expand Absolution’s scope, allowing it to be more than your typical murder simulation. Sure, killing a strip club owner is fun and all, but so is sneaking through a crowded train station, or running across police-covered rooftops. That said, you’ll likely wish for more assassination missions and less stealth segments by the time the game’s over.

Both types of levels are upgraded by a suite of changes and improvements to the basic fabric of Hitman, enhancing the gameplay in almost every way. Being able to feign surrender, crawl through vents, and take cover behind nearly every object adds more tools to the Hitman’s arsenal, but the largest change comes with the addition of Instinct Mode. Agent 47 can use his enhanced senses to survey the surrounding area, showing silhouettes of obscured guards and nearby objects of interest.

It’s a large shift away from how Hitman games have played in the past, but should allow those who haven’t been able to get into the series before to slide in unencumbered. Also folding into Instinct Mode is Point Shooting, an element that allows Agent 47 to freeze time and tag enemies for quick execution. It’s remarkably useful, and extremely satisfying when you’re able to clear an area of foes in a quick ballet of death--there’s nothing more badass than seeing Agent 47 standing in a room full of fresh corpses.

Watch this Pop-up Demo to find out cool information about the game

These tools are even more useful when playing the asynchronous multiplayer mode, Contracts. You’re tasked with killing anyone you want in any of the game’s missions to set a bar, and then others are invited to attempt to replicate--or best--your attempt. It’s a dark, murderous game of H.O.R.S.E., scoring you on your actions and ability to be the best possible Hitman. One-upping friends or strangers on leaderboards and creating challenges is extremely fulfilling, and should give you plenty to do once you’ve finished the campaign.

Hitman’s temporary hiatus did worlds of good for the franchise, and Absolution is one of the strongest entries in the series to date. It shows true evolution, moving Agent 47 forward and playing up his enhanced abilities well, both when it comes to hitting a well-placed shot to the head of a scummy target or stealthily moving through a building full of police. The changes to the formula could have spelled disaster if they were executed poorly, but that’s not an issue--execution has never been an issue for Agent 47, has it?

More Info

Release date: Nov 20 2012 - Xbox 360, PS3, PC (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: IO Entertainment
Franchise: Hitman
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000
  • brazmanoqk - November 20, 2012 5:37 p.m.

    I'm enjoying it so far but I'm finding the changes a little frustrating; I can't play it like I played Blood Money, I can't play it like I play SC:Conviction and I can't play it like I play Arkham City. I guess it'll just take some practice to get the right approach.
  • anniesboobs - November 20, 2012 2:37 p.m.

    Never played a hitman game but looking forward to pick this one up.
  • zombi3grim - November 19, 2012 9:08 p.m.

    It seems to me alot of people who are harping on this game need to let go of the past and let the series move on. Judge the game for what it is, not by previous entries. The game alone seems incredibly fun and judging by the great reviews, Im deff. picking this up.
  • Sjoeki - November 19, 2012 11:22 a.m.

    Can Contract mode contain spoilers if you haven't finished the Absolution part of the game? I know it uses the same levels and have not tried it yet cause I don't want to spoil something for myself.
  • GaryTheGuidoHunter - November 21, 2012 5:53 p.m.

    Kinda! It doesn't give away story elements but you do kind of want the surprise of "Where will 47 end up next?" and that's taken away in Contracts as you see all the levels you will go to in the game.
  • Rhymenocerous - November 19, 2012 7:19 a.m.

    I think the linear stealth segments and more simple levels may seem like a sad "sign of the times" initially, but they help make the series more (shudder) accessible to newcomers, and therefore gain more fans for the franchise. Then, in the NEXT Hitman game,the focus will return to the more open-ended assasinations of old, but now with a larger fanbase instead of just us original fans. Unless 47 really does die this time...Doubt it though.
  • Rhymenocerous - November 19, 2012 8:52 a.m.

    Just found out you can fit sniper rifles in your jacket. What the Hell... I loved the old briefcase method, it felt like Leon (The Professional).
  • niederman - November 19, 2012 10:15 a.m.

    i too feel and felt this way. briefcase with sniper rifle assembly always felt so awesome
  • majamaki - November 18, 2012 7:33 p.m.

    Great review, love this line: It’s as if Quentin Tarantino made a Hitman game--so thick with pulp that you’ll struggle to swallow, but so sweet and delicious that you’ll have a hard time giving it up.
  • GR HollanderCooper - November 19, 2012 5:18 p.m.

  • IndridCold - November 18, 2012 4:25 p.m.

    great review, passing my time before i can get my hands on the game by reading reviews has been frustrating. Many people are just compairing it to some faded memory of Blood Money, it looks like you went into the game with an open mind and enjoyed it. I can't wait to do the same
  • winner2 - November 18, 2012 5:53 a.m.

    That's a nice surprise, I hope I can get it soon. Nice review too.
  • Ultima - November 18, 2012 5:32 a.m.

    From the PCGamer review (66%): ‘Disaster’ is a strong word, which is good because we need one. Absolution is a disaster. It’s almost the polar opposite of Blood Money: instead of sidelining the story to focus on big, open-ended assassination missions, it sidelines assassination to focus on telling a long, linear, and embarrassingly bad story. In game terms, that means most of its levels task you with reaching and opening a particular door. If it was called Doorman: Absolution, it would be much less disappointing.' Currently, though, Absolution is not worth buying. If they can somehow patch in a save function, and if players do interesting things with Contracts, it will be. Until then, I’d wait for a preposterous Steam sale. That’s something I never thought I’d have to say about a Hitman game. I desperately hope the reaction to it is strong enough to convince the developers to change direction, because I couldn’t stand to watch the series die like this. (Comments please....)
  • HitmanSB07 - November 18, 2012 7:12 a.m.

    I believe the reviewer in question also gave Max Payne 3 a 55/100 and praised the Mass Effect 3 ending. The man is obviously insane.