I will start with some non-spoilers: with every new Hitman title that has been released, the controls have improved. In Absolution they were finally perfected. 47 has been granted new abilities, easier to master operating controls, and some great new features like "instinct mode", similar to Arkham Asylum's 'detective mode'. Graphics are obviously another huge improvement, as well as the AI of others, such as guards and pedestrians. All are much more realistic, and therefore bring a new level of challenge to the franchise. They also took away the map, which...while very helpful...was not very realistic to an assassin.
The game also features Hitman's first muliplayer mode: Contracts, not to be confused with the third game: Hitman: Contracts (I agree, a better name could have been in order). Contracts mode allows you make your own targets within each level, and challenge your friends to play them. It's like an assassin's game a H.O.R.S.E. Very interesting, and very cool.
The problems I have with the game are found with the plot. With that, let's head into spoiler territory.
The game begins with 47 tellings us that Diana betrayed the Agency, named names and what not, and has since gone rogue. Now under the direction of Benjamin Travis (Powers Boothe), the Agency has sent 47 to kill Diana, his sole handler, and now...since Absolution failed to feature an appearance from Agent Smith...the only other character to be featured in all five hitman games. When he does he discovers she was protecting a child named Victoria who Travis had created in a lab to become the ultimate killing machine (a la Agent 47). 47 gets Victoria to safety and calls upon an old friend Birdie (who we have never met before, mind you) to get more information of Victoria. He tells him where he can find Blake Dexter (Keith Carradine). Dexter gets away from 47 and he eventually has both Birdie and Victoria kidnapped. 47 spends the rest of the game trying to get Victoria back and kill Dexter, and eventually Travis.
The rest of the game.
Along the way, he decides certain people need to be killed...but these are few and with the game's new 'broken-down-level' format, seemingly far between. There are no real contracts in the game. 47 acts alone. Which is new, and different...but it didn't work. What made Hitman such a great series is that the player was allowed to be a hitman. In this game, you were just a man in search of redemption. (Oh, and big spoiler...Diana didn't really die.)
But wait a second...let's back it up to Blood Money for a second. Blood Money ends with 47 going rogue, unaffiliated with the agency. He speaks to a man in a brothel about seeing what he has to offer 'preferably in the back'. Then curtains close on the camera.
So...how the hell did we get to Absolution? There is a book, Damnation, that allegedly ties the two together...but gamers shouldn't have to read a 300 page book just to know what is going on, especially since it was released a month before the game was. Not that that isn't plenty of time to down 300 pages...but these arn't well-written, and as I gave up on it about 50 in...they don't appear to say how 47 got back to the Agency.
So there's that.
Absolution ends with Diana telling you, after your final mission (and low and behold, it really is an assigned, go-kill-this-person-for-money mission!) that the money has been wired to your account. So it appears 47 is back at the Agency, and back with Diana, and all is right with the world. But this game did a lot wrong to get there.
Sure, it was enjoyable, and it was certainly the most plot-based Hitman yet, and I like that about it...but the plot needs improvement for the next one. IO can get back to the format everyone loves while still adding in a thicker plot.
And hopefully it won't take them six years to do that.