Hitman, the stealth action-adventure, is back for the series’ first episodic adventure from Square Enix and IO Interactive. In his latest adventure, Agent 47 has been recruited to assassinate 2 high profile targets in the Parisian fashion industry. Navigating their way through an intricately detailed mansion, players are invited into a stealth playground for skilled assassins, albeit a small one.
Players eager to jump back into the world of assassins have the choice between 2 versions of the game. The Complete Experience and the cheaper Intro Pack. Out of the digital box, Hitman starts all players with 2 tutorial missions that try their best to explain the mechanics of the game and end with the fully realized Parisian Mansion. The Intro Pack content, while not plentiful, offers an decent look into the game as a whole. Square Enix has made a strong effort not to lie to the gamers about the amount of content available on day one. The detailed level design gives players a fair amount of content for an episodic journey, but the journey itself may not leave you wanting more.
In a plot taken straight out of a Zoolander movie, Agent 47 is tasked with assassinating fashion icons who are using models to infiltrate government agencies and gain access to national secrets. While most gamers might be expecting a little more before heading into a mission, that is the exact amount of information you’re given before walking through the doors of the mansion. The game has a pattern of giving players as little information as possible before setting them loose. However, the key component to Hitman’s gameplay is not information, but patience. Instead of fumbling around a heavily guarded fashion expo, players are encouraged to scout out the area and devise a plan on their own. The Opportunity system in the game gently points players in the direction of specific NPCs who reveal back stories and vulnerabilities. Each conversation tells you a little bit about the area, and results in a specific trail that leads one step closer to your targets.
Hitman offers some of the most entertaining assassinations through the variety of ways you can kill your target. Players are free to study their environment, plan their approach and use some of the most unlikely means to fulfill their contract. Proving to be incredibly tough in execution, every elaborate death scene is its own reward for waiting for the perfect moment to strike, like a true assassin.
The playground element to this game comes from the open-ended levels. Complete with its own blueprint, the mansion is a fully realized and heavily guarded palace. The guards have routines, NPCs have individual jobs, and your targets even have a schedule. The mansion is full of places to sneak around in, clever disguises, and perfect places to hide bodies, all of which is aided by the Instinct system. Similar to mechanics in other stealth games, Instinct allows players to scan the area for enemies and outlines the main targets in red.
The game is designed to make you fail on your first few tries, which is why a lack of information from the outset becomes a little troublesome. After a few failed attempts, the layout of the mansion, its inhabitants and opportunities become fairly obvious. So obvious in fact, that the easiest way to play the game is simply exploiting the dim-witted AI. The biggest downside to the stealth gameplay is that when you finally figure out an NPC’s path, you are no longer skillfully navigating, but lazily exploiting their routine. No matter how difficult the level starts out being, in some point it will switch from stealth action-adventure gameplay to the world’s most intricate waiting game. In other words, while the game benefits from having completely open levels, any sense of urgency is lost to the fact that it can’t actually happen without you there to witness it.
Hitman has a very serious case of “Bad Game Logic”, which actually works for the game’s benefit. For instance, guards are incredibly suspicious of bald waiters with a literal bar code on the back of their heads, but wouldn’t even bat an eye at a bald security guard with the same bar code on his head. It works within the the context of a game, but it also servers to remind you that you’re in one, slightly marring any sense of immersion.
Despite the limitations of the introductory experience, the Intro Pack features a thorough amount of repayable content. From the tutorial missions to the Paris hit, each level has multiple ways of attacking each target and a wealth of opportunities, disguises and hiding places to explore. However, this isn’t to say that you’ll actually want to replay any of these levels. You can indeed approach each level in a few different ways, but the characters, story and crowd animations still follow the exact same pattern. Even if have a reason to play missions over again, just to find out all the ways you can kill a person, every run after the first one is more of a puzzle than a real challenge.
In an effort increase the game’s difficulty, the developers created Escalation Mode. Escalation makes any level progressively harder by adding requirements and restrictions for the player, like the use of certain weapons or time limits. Increasing the amount of security and surveillance in the area, this mode is indeed a worthwhile attempt at increasing difficulty, but can also become sullied by the bland and predicable patterns of the NPCs. Contracts make their return to the Hitman franchise, and offer a unique level of creativity to the game. This mode allows players to set up their own encounters within the game, taking existing maps, targets and opportunities and giving players the tools necessary to create something new. This feature is actually one of the more fun elements as it is user creativity that brings consistent challenges to the maps. Thankfully, this content is also updated weekly to include new user creations, as well as new challenges from the development team.
Unfortunately, to access all this content, Hitman wants you to sign in to the online servers as soon as you’ve started the game. The function is intended to keep online gameplay updated, but the unintended error is how it affects the single-player content. Online elements are so ingrained into the game, that should your console loose connection to the internet for a moment, you will get booted from your current mission. Being taken all the way back to the home screen is especially frustrating considering the horrifically long loading times.
The latest entry in the Hitman franchise has burst out of the gate with updated mechanics, stunning visuals, and unfortunately, very little to explore them with. As the first episode in a series, it’s understandable that the developers wouldn’t reveal the bigger elements of the overall story, but in turn sacrificed player interest. The result is that the gameplay is a balancing act between “too much” and “not enough” during the story missions. While it is still too early to objectively judge the game as a whole, the negligible amount of content currently available puts extra pressure on the next episode, which is due out in April.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.