I disagree about the tone being better in Absolution - But I also have less and less fascination with this "darkness" everyone else seems to be obsessed with lately. I think the new game has a grander atmosphere that invokes the globe trotting, borderline operatic feeling last seen in Hitman 2 - Certainly more so than any of the other games. Bright, culturally diverse locations, larger than life characters and an airy atmosphere, wrapped in a narrative about an international conspiracy operating at levels above government, above law and above accountability - What could be more Hitman than that, really?
I think this pining after a "darker atmosphere" is going to be creatively limiting in the long run. It's certainly no substitute for depth. Just because you can't drown someone in a vat of dead pigs like you can in Absolution, it doesn't mean this game doesn't have its fair share of violence. It's just a more tonally appropriate violence. Hitman has never been gore crazy and doesn't need to be gore crazy, either. Absolution's levity-free moments didn't feel legitimately grim and came across more juvenile than anything. I mean, a bunch of drugged up masked killers massacring an orphanage and making necrophilia jokes about "popping nuns"... Come on. That's not "dark", that's 3edgy5me nonsense.
As a game, I really like Absolution - Perhaps more than most Hitman fans. I don't believe Hitman 2016 would be anywhere near as good as it is without the progressions and lessons gained and learned from Absolution, but I also think one of the lessons was precisely how to balance story and gameplay. I think the negative comments about Michael Vogt are unfounded and unfair, because if you look at the contrast between the two games, the story in Hitman 2016 feels a lot more organic. It's weaved naturally into the levels, and doesn't force you into a corner or dictate how you play the game. There's no cutscene that ends with a setpiece where you have to escape a burning hotel, for example - Nor is there a story clincher that disempowers 47 and requires him to rebuild himself. Isn't that exactly the kind of thing we hoped it would be? A story which isn't all that invasive, but is actually quite sprawling if you have the will to seek it all out and connect all the dots. If you're spending too much time getting mad over the fact that a miniscule factoid from a 17 year old game wasn't directly acknowledged or may have been mildly contradicted, then I'm surprised you can enjoy anything.