Hitman games have always been about options; this is one of the things it has consistently gotten right. Although sometimes hampered by clunky gameplay or movement, the sheer variety of ways to complete a mission has always made the franchise an interesting one. As the first entry in the series since Blood Money in 2006, IO Interactive have had plenty of time to try and perfect the formula whilst giving it the engine the ingenuity deserves. The signs are encouraging.
Firstly, Absolution looks fantastic. Everything is sharp, clean and clear, yet full of enough detail and quirks to make the environments (essentially small arenas) feel alive. At the start of the mission, various hints are given as to how to complete it, but these can be ignored or even turned off. Using your 'sense' (think Bat Vision), Agent 47 can scout areas for hostiles and the main target, as well as interactive objects. This is a nice and useful feature, but could be somewhat divisive. Also included is a slow-down shooting mode, akin to that of Red Dead Redemption although it doesn't work nearly as well.
Although fine in theory, the actual mechanic is flawed, meaning that you often end up hitting the same person three times rather than the guy to his side too. Likewise, it takes into account the range of a weapon far more than normal gameplay does, resulting in not being allowed to shoot enemies in slow-mo you would otherwise. Likewise, the main shooting mechanic is a bit too sensitive; cross-hairs sling around as if in a bee-hive, darting everywhere when you just want precision. The indirect result is to rely on non-shooting methods to finish the job; a pleasant if unexpected result.
On a more positive note, the rest of Absolution is very promising. The engine is very solid. Unlike previous games there was no problem with context sensitivity, whilst the clear prompts meant there was no ambiguity about what you could or could not do. As for what you could do, there are an extraordinary amount of ways to assassinate your target. I used a different method each time across a number of playthrough, ranging from blowing up his car, poisoning his food, poisoning his drugs, sniping him, strangling him whilst disguised as his dealer to just plain old shooting him as he stood in a plaza. My friend assassinated him using a teetering concrete block, something I had not even noticed was there in the level. I am sure there were other ways, too, which makes you feel like an Assassin in a candy store. That's not to say it's easy though; guards are vigilant and disguises must be changed. It often boils down to trial and error, but this just keeps you coming back for more.
Despite the slightly off slow-mo shooting, Hitman is well designed and fun to play. The missions and environments are interesting and alive (although the crowds are a bit strange, staring at Agent 47 despite his having done nothing), whilst the sheer variety of assassination methods will ensure masses of replayability. Judging by the demo, there is every chance that this could be brilliant.