Hitman: Absolution is a wickedly smart, darkly enjoyable video game, one that's as generous to players as its protagonist is merciless to his victims. You'll stab, strangle and shoot your way through level after level, sometimes grimacing, sometimes scowling, sometimes laughing. When all is said and done, you'll probably need a shower.

To play Absolution is to view the world through the eyes of a psychopath, a remorseless killer who snuffs out life with the the efficiency, precision and emotion of a fine German automobile. Just about everyone in this grotesque place is in need of a good killing, and hawk-faced murder machine Agent 47 is the man for the job.

Absolution picks up the Hitman story where the last game in the series, 2006's Blood Money, left off. Let's pause before we talk about the story: Yes, the last Hitman game was released more than half a decade ago. That's a long time between sequels, even in the relatively slow-moving video game world. But that extended time in development likely accounts for a lot of what makes Hitman such a sprawling, interesting game.

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