After more than half a decade away from our consoles, Agent 47 has made a triumphant return. Developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix, Hitman: Absolution is the fifth game in the popular Hitman franchise.

Taking place as a semi sequel to 2005’s Hitman: Blood Money, Hitman: Absolution focuses on the franchise’s leading man, Agent 47 as he is tasked to eliminate his previous agency handler, Diana Burnwood who has gone rogue.

It is not important to know the background of the series as it is explained very clearly and concisely in the opening video of the game. The premise is then laid out in the first mission that doubles as a tutorial. When you reach the end of the tutorial, the plot for the game is set as you come across the (predictable) plot twist of the agency being rogue rather than Diana, consequently setting Agent 47 on his journey.

The plot works well and the cast of characters is great, ranging from one act characters that come and go to the overarching antagonist Blake Dexter. One of the main reasons why the characters resonate so much is due to the voice cast that the game has attracted. With David Bateson reprising his role as Agent 47 (thankfully and after a lot of hoo hah), the cast also includes Hollywood and TV stars such as Keith Carradine and Powers Boothe. These are great choices, both playing great characters.

However, when playing the game, the plot can sometimes be lost. This is not a bad thing and isn’t due to any reason such as poor storytelling, in fact the story is executed very well when compared to other games within today’s market. No, the reason the story can sometimes be put to one side and players can lose progression in continuing to the next level is due to the leaderboard aspect and challenges that each mission has to offer.

As with previous instalments of the franchise, there are multiple ways to eliminate your target. Although the game has perhaps been made more linear than previous versions, this again isn’t to the games detriment. The game feels more polished and structured. A mission will now be broken into segments normally involving an entry, an assassination and an exit. However, like previous Hitman titles, there are nearly limitless options in some cases to eliminate your target.

Each level has set challenges that a player can complete while attempting the main mission objective, ranging from completing the level without wearing a disguise, to assassinating the target in a certain way. To complete these challenges opens up the game to hours of replayability. If you then couple that with the leaderboards each mission offers, for both global and friends lists, the game has a massive draw to go back to a mission and find the highest scoring assassination method and encourages and rewards players to execute that perfectly.

Aside from the change in mission structure and addition of leaderboards, there are a couple more changes that Hitman: Absolution brings to the franchise. The first new feature is the instinct mode. Similar to the detective vision in the popular Arkham Batman games from Rocksteady Studios; Instinct mode lets players see where targets are on a map and also highlights the targets movement path so you can plot your course around this. At key points you can also use instinct to hide and blend into crowds.

Instinct mode is a great addition to the game and becomes a real challenge in the harder difficulty settings when it depletes faster and cannot be regained from certain tasks. The feature work wells to help newer players to the franchise navigate the mission more without being spotted and gunned down. Although the idea sounds like it is now easier to get a silent assassin ranking and not be spotted this is far from being true with increased AI and more challenging mission objectives than we have seen in previous Hitman titles.

The other main feature that Hitman: Absolution offers is the “Contracts” mode. Unlike other games, IO and Square Enix have decided to tackle the multiplayer aspect of the game in a different way than your standard deathmatch or co-op scenarios.

Hitman: Absolution Contracts lets players use missions they have unlocked through completing the campaign to set up their own assassinations and mission. The freedom of choice is vast with the player deciding on the targets, the exit, and any bonus objectives such as not being seen. In addition the player can choose mission specifics such as rewards for killing the targets with certain weapons or certain disguises. To create the contract the player must go through and execute the target and complete the contract as they would like to see it completed by others. Once set, they can send it to their friends to compete against.

Contracts mode then opens up hours and hours of gameplay for the player as you can search your friend’s contracts, your own or look at global ones that have been created and made publically available. At the time of writing, IO have been kind enough to share some of their own ideas, but beware, these can be a bit tricky. Overall though, there are thousands of contracts online with more and more being added every day.

The idea behind Contracts is amazing and the execution of it really does live up to the potential of the idea which I am happy to see. The only disappointing thing is that you have to have an online pass to access the mode (which comes with the game as default). I understand why more and more companies are doing this now, including multiplayer passes to reduce people trading in games and if you do a pick up a second hand copy of the game, you can buy the contracts pass from XBLA, but it is a shame this is needed. That is a different conversation for a different time though and no reflection on this solid and really enjoyable game.

In closing go and pick this game up. With the flood of FPS’s we have seen and the huge amount of titles launched before Christmas, Agent 47’s return should not be overlooked. There are two games I would recommend this year and Hitman: Absolution is one of them. A really enjoyable game that offers hours and hours of replayability whether through leaderboards and challenges in the campaign, or through the very awesome and cleverly conceived Contracts mode.

David Bevan

David has been a computer lover since a young age with fond memories of the NES which created a strong loyalty to Nintendo until Sony hit the market. Moving from Nintendo to a Playstation 1 and Playstation 2, the next generation of consoles saw him move his loyalties yet again, this time to the XBbox 360. David is often found playing games when not working or following his other passion of comics. David worked in the computer games industry for the last 7 years as a support manager for an MMORPG before taking a step away from the industry and living his passion for gaming through his achievement hunting in his spare time and through writing for our website.

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