This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to IO Interactive's stealth-action title Hitman: Absolution, which reviewers describe as "a distinctive game, both visually and mechanically." Hitman: Absolution currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Games Radar's Hollander Cooper gives Hitman: Absolution4.5 out of 5 stars. "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," he begins. "Absolution defies this tradition. [...] 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."
"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," Cooper praises. "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."
Cooper finds that Absolution offers a great amount of variety in its missions. "Many levels present multiple targets that you're able to take on and take out in any order," he recalls. "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?"
"Hitman's temporary hiatus did worlds of good for the franchise, and Absolution is one of the strongest entries in the series to date," Cooper assures. "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?"
Alex Navarro at Giant Bomb scores Hitman: Absolution at 4 out of 5 stars. "The good news for those interested in Hitman: Absolution, the fifth game in Io Interactive's contract killer franchise, is that this latest sequel still caters to your interests, no matter what they might be," he writes. "Be it elaborate or unassuming, stealthy or confrontational, your play style is represented in Absolution."
The plot marks a departure for the series. "Suddenly, everyone's out for 47's head, and he's on the run," Navarro explains. "It's a neat approach only somewhat kneecapped by the general stupidity of the plot. In order to get 47 into some of those situations, he has to do some remarkably dumb things that seem wildly out of character for him."
Absolution also introduces a new gameplay mechanic. "47 is also aided by instinct, a new, drainable meter that takes effect at the press of a button," Navarro notes. "Enacting instinct lets 47 see the enemies around him, even through walls and on other floors. [...] Instinct also fuels your 'point shooting' mechanic, which is essentially just the sort of 'point, tag, shoot' mechanic that's been showing up with increasing frequency in modern shooters. It's handy, though, albeit sometimes a bit too effective."
"Contracts is Absolution's multiplayer, and it is a minor gem," Navarro adds. "Asynchronously, players can compete against one another in missions effectively designed by the players. Sure, you're using the already included missions as templates, but you're picking the target. It can be anyone in a given mission, and the ways you can customize how players must proceed is quite cool."
"Though you don't need to get into Contracts to enjoy Hitman: Absolution, it helps," Navarro notes. "The campaign can be a lot of fun, but not every mission is a winner, and Io's hokey plotting does it no favors. Still, Absolution is a distinctive game, both visually and mechanically. It feels like its own thing, while still hewing toward many of the concepts people grew to like about this series over the years."
Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell rates Hitman: Absolution at 7 out of 10. "Hitman: Absolution is a slick, responsive and mechanically confident game -- and on occasions it's one of the most satisfying stealth games in a year that already includes Dishonored -- but a range of compromises to Hitman tradition mean it's still going to rub some people up the wrong way," he warns.
"There are plenty of times in Hitman: Absolution when all [its] systems come together in ghoulishly delicious harmony," Bramwell praises. "Played as a kind of grimly amusing series of cautionary tales where you skulk through the shadows implementing the caution, Absolution is enormous fun."
"Unfortunately, it slips from that level of fun rather often - usually when it's doing stuff in service to its tired and simple story, which for the first time in the series is pretty much impossible to ignore," Bramwell continues. "Agent 47 is trying to protect a young girl from his former paymasters and various arms dealers, and this means that in-between taking out people closely related to her past incarceration and current plight, you also have to spend a lot of time evading guards and trying to reach distant exits instead."
"This is where Absolution is weakest," Bramwell says. "It stops being about observation, planning and execution and becomes a simple game of hide and seek, and not a brilliant one either. You spend a lot of time crouching behind walls watching the mini-map and using the Instinct view to find gaps in enemy lines or opportunities to subdue and conceal their bodies."
"Amidst the inevitable and deserved grumbling about its awkward checkpoint system, small levels and weird obsession with its daft story, hopefully those who persevere with it will be rewarded by enough of those moments to make the whole thing feel worthwhile," Bramwell concludes.
"Reloading some of its best levels, turning off the hints and watching and waiting, it's much easier to remember what it is that makes Agent 47 so special. Hitman is a series to treasure for those moments, even if Absolution isn't its finest hour."