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


  • PureSophistry - November 18, 2012 5:28 a.m.

    Great review- I agree
  • 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.
  • Redeater - November 18, 2012 8:05 a.m.

    Max Payne 3 a 55? Regardless of what you thought of the story the gameplay was almost flawless so it deserved at least a 7. Get that man a straight jacket.
  • Balaska - November 19, 2012 6:16 a.m.

    Max Payne 3 was poor. Max Payne 2 is still superior, especially story wise.
  • HitmanSB07 - November 19, 2012 8:32 a.m.

    Storywise maybe, but the writing was far better in 3. Not to mention the impeccable gameplay. Overall I think it's the best in the series.
  • JackiePB - November 18, 2012 7:42 a.m.

    The review should not be taken seriously; on the general side, all one has to do is look at the wealth of 4.5-5 star reviews the game has already garnered, and then look at the background of the one individual who gives it an unbelievably low score. (His background will speak for itself.) Specifically, most of what he stated in the review was completely inaccurate. He states that objectives are literally focused on opening doors and whatnot, when that is simply not true; while yes, you are tasked with exiting an area after this or that, that's the way it's always been. He also complains of the checkpoint system, when he clearly is trolling on an elite level, as the checkpoint system is defined entirely on the difficulty level, ranging from many checkpoints to zero checkpoints, dependent on the difficulty. Every reviewer is entitled to their opinion, however, Tom Francis' review is clearly biased, and quite frankly almost troll-like in its ridiculous and incorrect statements.
  • Ultima - November 18, 2012 7:06 p.m.

    Fairy muff. It does seem that most others are giving the game decent reviews and some of Tom Francis' complaints are not really justified. Maybe he is having his period at the time of review? Anyway, good I think I will give it a try then! I have been waiting ages for a decent stealth game, now I can stop replaying the old Splinter Cell games for a while...
  • Spiderman - November 19, 2012 8:02 p.m.

    Okay, maybe a little uncalled for. Let's leave Mr. Francis alone. Anyway, game looked good to me, I'm going to get it, see how it is! I haven't really played Hitman before, so there strategy of making it accessible clearly worked. Also: Enjoyed Max Payne 3 AND the Mass Effect 3 ending, so clearly everybody's tastes are not the same. New question! What sort of contract hit are you guys going to make!?
  • YourWorstEnemyGaming - November 18, 2012 11:34 a.m.

    Anyone who calls this game a "disaster" deserves to be locked up. I've just finished playing Absolution, and I can honestly say that it's near-perfect. At the VERY least, a tough critic might give it a 7.5. I can't even tell what kind of game the reviewer was playing. "Opening doors"? What? I spent most of my time playing one of the best stealth games ever, this guy is off his rocker.
  • bass88 - November 18, 2012 12:48 p.m.

    While I have read of some complaints of certain levels are just simply stealth opposed to traditional Hitman assassination levels (think the Japanese mountain levels in Hitman 2), the critics have called a very strong game. I'm slightly disappointed but as long as levels are open and stealth is preferred I will like this. Also, Tom Francis' review is slightly deranged as he makes plenty of factual errors and strange complaints. I agree with him in that it is disappointing that it doesn't follow the traditional Hitman design.
  • RedHarlow - November 18, 2012 2:10 p.m.

    To be fair, he was reviewing the PC version, which had a lot of serious performance issues as well.
  • bass88 - November 18, 2012 2:46 p.m.

    A lot of people on GameFaqs have claimed that they have not run into the problems Francis has mentioned. Make of that what you will.
  • larkan - November 18, 2012 8:42 p.m.

    Oddly enough, though the place is called PC Gamer, a lot of the people there really don't seem to know much about PCs, configurations, etc. Most of the guides they put up for building and pricing can be found just about anywhere online.
  • grappler51 - November 18, 2012 3:20 p.m.

    I'm really surprised about that, normally I trust PC Gamer's reviews but that's by far the lowest score I've seen for Absolution, it seems to be getting very good reviews everywhere else.
  • ohms - November 18, 2012 9:01 p.m.

    Ironically, PC Gamer and GameSpot are the only 2 places that I never taken their reviewed seriously. PCG is very well known for very bias opinion against console or console ported games (I'm not talking about PCG UK, though. I heard that they are far more open mind than PCG US). And at GameSpot, money can buy scores. That's why I don't really care much about their reviews.
  • Ravenwild - November 19, 2012 4:44 a.m.

    You know they're both owned by the same company right?
  • Ravenwild - November 19, 2012 4:46 a.m.

    PCG and gamesradar that is, not gamespot obviously.
  • Balaska - November 19, 2012 6:14 a.m.

    Amen. I want to play a Hitman game, not Splinter Cell: Bald Edition. One day all games will just be 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.

Showing 1-20 of 37 comments

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