It's not exactly the Hitman you remember, but it's still good fun
It's been a while since the last Hitman game and since the outset people haven't had entirely high hopes for Absolution. A lot of the early promotional material made it look more like a shooter than the murder sandbox we know and love. And then there were sexy leather clad nuns parading about, which most thought kind of stupid and ill-fitting the tone of Hitman.
On the former I've got to say that I believe for the most part Absolution succeeds in providing us with open ended death puzzles and isn't as linear as you might have heard. It certainly isn't as free as Blood Money was, but there are plenty of sandboxes in which to get your Hitman on - the linearity generally comes between these sandboxes, in which you'll follow a mostly straight path from sandbox to sandbox. And while those paths all lead to the same destination there's enough forks in the road to make it interesting.
As far as sexy nuns go well, it might be stupid but it's my brand of stupid.
In fact a lot of the characters were about as dumb as that, but I feel like it kind of conjured the atmosphere of a decent exploitation flick. Gun toting nuns, genetically engineered mutants for you to cage fight, evil scientists, villainous Texan Oil Baron types - it's all very cheesy and over the top, but I personally found it enjoyable.
As far as gameplay mechanics go it'll feel familiar to long time fans of the series.
You'll sneak around and shoot guys. Occasionally that'll warrant a disguise.
And in this entry of the game they aren't quite as useful, you could argue.
If you're dressed as a cop and you stand in front of a cop too long which is only a couple of seconds really, then they'll see through your disguise and you'll be in some amount of trouble. Disguises are only especially effective on the people you aren't disguised as, which I feel makes some amount of sense. I mean if you're a cop chances are you're familiar with the guys you're working with, so having some new bald guy suddenly rock up in uniform is probably gonna look more than a little suspect. But random Joe blow? All he'll see is a cop and unless you're being overly hostile he'll just ignore you completely.
Now there's a new mechanic called Instinct which is a bar that funds a lot of your abilities.
It fills with successful completion of mission objectives, at certain check points, a little bit whilst hiding and a little while making stealthy take outs. It can be expended in a Splinter Cell-esque Mark & Shoot mechanic or more typically, it can make you able to walk around in front of folks who might try to see through your disguise
It's a little dumb that all he does when you use this ability is tilt his head down, apparently that simple act is enough of an effort that it requires a bar - but one somewhat poor mechanic doesn't break what I feel to be a solid entry in the Hitman series.
I suppose I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Contracts mode which is probably the highlight of the game.
It's basically a mission creator. To create a mission you pick one of the games sandbox environments to play in and you can mark up to three guys to kill in this contract. By doing it yourself you dictate how the hits need to be pulled off, certain bonus conditions that can be fulfilled - such as not being seen - and then where to exit. The better you do the more money you earn and with money you can unlock new costumes and weapons to use in these custom contracts.
Whilst the campaign clocked in for me at a solid 14 hours, I'd say Contracts has the potential to add upon that significantly. Also whilst most dread to think about it so soon after the games release I'd say if they have any plans for DLC, Contracts is a pretty good place to invest their resources - there's certainly plenty there already but I'd probably pay for more levels to set my created missions in! But yes, if all you really wanted from Hitman is more stealth puzzles to partake in then Contracts ought cover you well and good!
Between the entertaining campaign, the allure of new hits to partake in Contracts and just a generally good feel to the gameplay I personally reckon Absolution succeeds more than it fails and is well worth a look. Just don't come in expecting it to be another Blood Money.