Look, I know that the Hitman games are open to various play styles, but they have always rewarded stealthy and cunning play over every other approach. Giving 47 the ability to slaughter everybody in a room in a few seconds seems wildly out of place with this ethos.
Contracts mode, on the other hand, is right up that particular alley of expertise. In this connected and online world, we are all supposed to crave the Xbox Live and PlayStation Network experience, but that doesn't really fit with Hitman. Sure, it's been made to work in another stab-em-up franchise, but when everybody wants to play as Agent 47 it just won't fit.
So then, Contracts mode is an online challenge-setting mode of play that doesn't require you to be online at the same time as your peers. It's a mode I could really get into. Any player can set a challenge and upload it to the network and any player can take each challenge.
If you want other people to kill the cop in the alley with an axe while wearing the food vendor's costume, you have to do it first. Save your contract and anybody else can give it a go. The challenge is to do it faster or better than you did. If you weren't spotted then the "don't be spotted" condition is added to the contract, or the "don't change disguises" condition is added if you completed the hit in 47's suit.
Completing a contract rewards you with a fee that is based on how well you did and how difficult the contract was judged to be when you first set it up. You are then ranked by your performance and all sorts of leaderboards are derived from your scores, including ranking countries by the performance of people who live there. It has the potential to be an excellent addition to the Hitman games and one that will almost certainly be adapted by other stabby, killing games.
The new ideas presented in Hitman: Absolution are mostly good, but the execution is lacking in places. Splitting the levels into non-returnable areas forces a linearity to the proceedings that is both unwelcome and the source of many of the frustrations this game is afflicted with.
That said, I have very much enjoyed playing through the single player story and look forward to enjoying Contracts mode for quite some time to come.
+ Open-ended gameplay
+ Wide variety of weapons
+ Very promising Contracts mode
- Frustrating level segmentation
- Too much story, to the detriment of the game
SPOnG Score: 8/10
Look for a follow-up piece in a few weeks, after Contacts mode is made available to the public.
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Iím psyched to hear that the AI is good, because that can make or break a stealth game. From everything Iíve seen it looks like this could be a great game; Iím just a tad nervous about the story and the absolution angle. Is this going to be a gentler, kinder Agent 47? I hope not. That worry is the only thing keeping me from breaking my game-buying rule and picking it up on release day, but after being disappointed by several other highly anticipated games recently, I think Iíll hold out to rent it. I actually got my game-buying rule from one of my coworkers at DISH. Now I donít buy a game without first thoroughly being able to play-test it. So I rent all my games through Blockbuster @Home first, and if itís short or I donít like it, I donít buy it at all. Itís saved me a sizeable amount of money just in the past six months or so. Iíll put Hitman: Absolution in my Blockbuster @Home queue now so Iíll get to play it soon enough, especially since I still need to finish Dishonored and Assassinís Creed 3 (thatís a lot of games about assassins, isnít it?).