There will be blood
With a plot as twisting and colourful as the wildest Hollywood thriller, Hitman: Absolution grabs hold of your imagination and doesn't let go.
Professional hitman Agent 47 works for the Agency, an international organisation offering expert assassination services to governments, intelligence agencies and corporate clients. Most of the Agency's targets are high profile criminals or groups thought to pose a threat to global security, and Agent 47 is skilled at dispatching them with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.
A consummate professional (complete with sinister barcode tattoo on the back of his naked scalp), Agent 47 never lets emotion cloud his judgement – but now he's been given the trickiest contract of his career. In recent months, Agent 47's long-term Agency handler, Diana, has disappeared – though not before wiping the organisation's files and throwing its business into chaos. Now Diana has been located, and the Agency wants her dead. Agent 47 is given the job, but the world of the contract killer is shrouded in shadow, where desire, ambition and greed collide and moral confusion is never far away.
Troubled by Diana's actions, Agent 47 begins to question his assignment – which makes him a target of his own employer and sparks a manhunt of epic proportions. Amid a maelstrom of murder, intrigue and doubt, soon only one certainty remains: Agent 47 will have to use every skill he's learned if he's to survive and uncover the truth.
The art of dying
Hitman: Absolution blurs the line between video game and action movie blockbuster with sky-high production values that ensure the experience is never less than sublimely polished.
Visuals are astounding from the outset, as Agent 47 embarks on a mission that will change his life within the grounds of a palatial estate. Everything is utterly lifelike, from the light flickering on lush vegetation to the endless, sunlit waters glimpsed as you scramble and skip between window ledges on the clifftop villa's outer walls. The character animation is fantastically fluid throughout – which is fortunate, because agility is integral to Agent 47's success as a stealth operative.
Within minutes of starting the first mission, you'll be stalking, creeping, rolling and garrotting your way through incredibly detailed surroundings filled with enemy guards to dispatch and useful items to acquire. And when your cover is blown and violence explodes, it's a pleasure to watch your stealth tactics merge seamlessly into fast and furious combat.
Similarly impressive is the sound, with a tense original score perfectly complemented by superb voice acting from a host of Hollywood big hitters, while options are comprehensive yet streamlined, ensuring that the complexity and depth of the game enhance rather than overwhelm the action.
Secrets and lies
To call the hero of Hitman: Absolution a man of mystery would be an understatement. Agent 47 is a strapping, shaven-headed killer with a special talent for dealing death. With a past as obscure as his future, it's compelling to watch his psychological development as he leaves the security of his amoral Agency training behind.
However, Agent 47 is by no means the only gripping character in a game filled with personalities as detailed and colourful as those in any movie. Among them are Benjamin Travis, the sweary, swarthy handler brought in to oversee Agent 47's actions, and Birdie, the creepy underworld informer with a penchant for pigeons and an insatiable appetite for cold, hard cash.
Perhaps most fascinating is Victoria, the young girl abducted from the Agency by Diana, whose vague origins and apparent innocence belie her importance to the Agency's financial future. Who is Victoria, and why will the Agency kill to recapture her? Why was Diana prepared to die to free Victoria from the Agency's clutches – and is Agent 47 ready to do the same? With characters this compelling and a script this juicy, you'll have a hell of a lot of fun finding out.
Kill or be killed
The action in Hitman: Absolution is infinitely flexible and responsive, meaning that you're free to choose your own style of play as you progress through the story.
The game blends free-roaming adventure with structured set pieces as you guide Agent 47 through a diverse range of incredibly detailed environments, creeping, leaping and slaughtering your way to the heart of the mystery.
Enemies are everywhere, and it's up to you to choose how to take them down. Operating like a true contract killer, silently and by stealth, will pay dividends, allowing you to infiltrate enemy quarters unseen and locate your targets without stirring up unnecessary bloodshed. But if the urge to go on the rampage overtakes you, Agent 47 is equipped with an ever-growing selection of deadly weapons that render him more than capable of triumphing out in the open.
Useful items and info abound throughout the game (as well as a host of unlockable assassin techniques), so it's important to keep your eyes peeled – though Agent 47 has something even better than his senses to help him succeed in sticky situations. Engage his finely honed hitman's instinct and you can anticipate enemy movements in the near vicinity, as well as chaining together multiple attacks and to take on several enemies in lightning-quick succession.
Hitman: Absolution offers a stunning, darkly humorous and hyper-real take on stealth action that's as easy to get to grips with as it is tough to master – and when you think you've uncovered the game's every secret, you can even set your own challenges for fellow fans online. Lethally good fun.