18, Square Enix, Xbox (also PS3, PC) ****
Agent 47 is back, and for fans of the series it’s been a long wait. Five years to be exact.
So does the latest instalment of the popular series live up to its legacy? In some ways, yes. Agent 47 is just as ruthless in his kills and as stealthy in stalking his victims. Disguises and improvisation are a huge part of the game.
But the crucial difference is the narrative. Absolution brings in a story that moves beyond the silent kills and psychopathic tendencies. It’s a more personal side of Agent 47 that we’ve seen before.
The basic storyline is this: after shooting his former handler, Agent 47 takes on the role of protector to Victoria, who escaped from the agency.
This is where opinion gets divided on Absolution. Having a storyline means the open sandbox world of Hitman suddenly isn’t so open any more. But it’s not exactly linear either. You don’t feel as if you’re being forced to follow a particular path although, in reality, a lot of the time you probably are. Some of the levels are Hitman at its best, allowing you to wander crowded streets and take down targets in whatever manner you choose, so there are enough open elements to give you the illusion of freedom.
Absolution has something else that’s different: the addition of contracts, an online mode where you can create your own hits and share them with the online community. Level, target and weapons are all decided by the player, who also sets the rules for how the kill should be carried out, the length of time and witnesses. You can compete against friends in contracts, and successfully completing the challenge will earn you currency for buying weapons, disguises, upgrades and new techniques.
The move away from the completely open world may leave some hardcore fans of Hitman disappointed. And, yes, it may have been a slightly populist move to cram in the storyline. But overall, this is an enjoyable sequel.