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Hitman: Absolution on PC, Xbox 360, PS3 This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Released last November, Hitman: Absolution is the newest title in Io Interactive's Hitman franchise. Absolution is also the first title in the series since Blood Money in 2006, one year before Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed series debuted and took the stealth gaming crown. Can Agent 47 retake the crown Hitman held for so long, or is AC still king? Not only is Hitman still good, but Absolution is easily the best stealth game in recent years, adding new mechanics and an amazing story to the classic franchise. Taking place an unknown amount of time after Blood Money, Absolution has players in the role of clone assassin Agent 47. At the beginning of the game, 47 is assigned to kill Diana Burnwood, his former handler who went rogue. However, Diana tells 47, in her dying moments, to protect a girl named Victoria, who has mysterious ties to 47 himself. Soon, the Agency goes after 47 and Victoria, with plans to kill 47. The story is much darker and all around better than previous titles, where the story was really just the framework for various missions. As for the gameplay, its been changed a lot from the previous titles. The game takes a traditional third-person shooter perspective, making combat and stealth a lot easier. Also, due to the fact that 47 is on the run, you can no longer select and upgrade your weapons before each mission. New mechanics have also been added, such as Instinct mode. Instinct acts like Arkham City's Detective mode and Assassin's Creed 2's Eagle Vision, allowing 47 to see enemies and important objects. Being in Instinct also allows you to use the new point shooting ability, not unlike a similar ability in Ubisoft's Splinter Cell: Conviction. Instinct also allows you to use the Blend mechanic for when you're in a disguise, allowing you to pass by enemies in the same uniform. The final new mechanic added in a useful cover system. The cover system is useful in combat, and even more so when using stealth. The single-player (marked on the main menu as "Absolution") is 20 missions long and can take up to 12 hours to beat. But there are many reasons to return to the single-player campaign, ranging from playing on another difficulty setting (there are 5 total) and replaying levels for a higher ranking. Then there's Contract mode, Absolution's "multiplayer" mode. Contracts allows you to start up one of the 20 missions, pick out targets to kill, and decide what weapon to kill with and disguise to wear. All of this is done using Io's ingenious play-to-create system. Along with creating contracts for others to play, you can play other user-created contracts and even challenge your friends to beat a certain contract better than you can. It's a great addition to an already amazing game, and is sure to occupy hundreds of hours of your time. So, was the 6 and 1/2 year wait for 47's return worth it? Yes, yes, yes. A million times yes. Not only is it the best Hitman title, but Absolution is easily the best stealth game in recent years.

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