Codename 47 might be a ridiculously outdated, glitchy and frustrating game, but it at least lives up to it’s name. You’re a hitman who travels all across the world and gets paid for eliminating targets in the most efficient way. All of the missions either involve or build up to an assassination. The game cleverly ties it’s narrative with the globetrotting hitman experience, making it essentially about gradually finding out the truth behind all of your assignments.
On the other hand, Absolution is just an incoherent mess, from start to finish. It tells a terrible, plot-hole filled story that goes in a thousand different directions, and is literally a punishment for bad decisions made on your behalf. Not only that - the entire experience of being a hitman is sacrificed because of that godawful story. Sure, it occasionally throws some scraps at you, in the form of an actual assassination, but those are about 1/5th of the game, come out of nowhere (no buildup), are really short, compared to the “infiltration” levels and usually completely pointless and irrelevant to the story - why exactly did 47 decide to kill, say, the scientists in Dexter’s factory? And the rest of the game is just going from A to B, occasionally watching a cutscene where 47 fails to kill his target. Yay.
There’s really nothing I can say about Absolution that hasn’t already been said a thousand times. I’ve kind of been an apologist for that game ever since it came out, mostly because I was really excited for a modern Hitman game, which made me basically ignore or belittle all the bad parts and just focus on the good stuff. It’s not until I’ve watched the Spoiler Warning LP of that game that I’ve looked at the bigger picture and realized that yeah, it’s really not that good of a game. Ultimately, Contracts mode ultimately saves it, if only because it lets you enjoy what good features the game has to offer while ignoring much of the context.