A scene from "Hitman: Absolution."

A scene from "Hitman: Absolution." Credit: Square Enix

In Hitman: Absolution, Agent 47 is entrusted with the safety of a young girl named Victoria, and the cloned assassin's icy exterior melts a bit when he realizes she may have been subjected to genetic experimentation in the same way he was. This leads 47 to do what he does best: eliminate targets. Only this time, it's not about money. Agent 47 wants answers, and he'll even cut the bar code off the back of his head to get them.

Despite 47's affection for Victoria, Absolution isn't exactly heartwarming. Of course, it's violent, and it's laced with M-rated black comedy, like an already notorious nuns-with-guns set piece. And contract killing remains a cold-blooded business.

Taking out targets is all about choice, making the stealth elements the real meat of the game. Sure, it's fun to blast away at a group of hired thugs, but satisfaction in the Hitman series is all about taking out the target without alerting anyone except the target.

Once a mission is completed, you can choose to play through it again and take a different approach. Completing all the challenges is not easy, making for a very high replay value.

It has been six years since Danish studio IO Interactive delivered the previous Hitman, but it has been worth the wait.

RATING M for Mature

PLOT Agent 47 is back on the job

DETAILS PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, $60; PC, $50

BOTTOM LINE A well-executed thriller

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