By Adam Tatelman, Contributor
I’ve never played a Hitman game before, but after hearing the franchise talked up by rabid fans, I expected a more original story than “chemically enhanced super-assassin Agent 47 goes rogue to protect girl with genetic quirk from government organization’s illegal science department.”
Absolution offers a limp pastiche of bad spy films, full of uninspired stereotypical characters, nonsensical elements, countless plot holes, and assassins dressed like dominatrix nuns. Those problems would condemn any game if it weren’t fun to play, and therein lies Hitman‘s absolution. The game offers endless options for infiltration: ever wanted to impersonate a judge and acquit a criminal as part of your cover? Poison some drugs and watch your mark inhale his doom? Opportunities like those are always available to the observant; keep an eye out as you stalk your prey through the massive-yet-linear maps and you may discover a knack for devious improvisation.
Unfortunately, the game tracks your score, subtracting points whenever your cover is blown or you kill a non-target. If you want to run and gun, prepare to be penalized with a point tally in the negative thousands. Absolution tries to force stealthy tactics into play, and then contradicts itself by offering up explosives and game mechanics blatantly copied from Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell: Conviction that lean towards action-oriented gameplay. “Instinct” allows you to observe enemy placement through walls, and “Point Shooting” stops time so you can mark your enemies and let 47 shoot them down for you. Being able to rig the game in this way only cheapens the experience.
Upon final judgment, great stealth gameplay offers the hackneyed story and plagiarized mechanics little salvation. Whether the game rises or falls depends on how forgiving you are.