Despite the franchise’s name, the Hitman games have never been about killing. They’re puzzle games wrapped up in a blood-coated, leather glove, and series developer IO Interactive seemed to have lost a little of that problem-solving magic with Hitman: Absolution, the last entry into the franchise, relying on a more linear experience that left fans divided.
However, the acclaimed studio seems to have found their groove once again with their new episodic approach to the series, providing a playground of murderous conundrums that allow the player’s creativity and timing to shine, rather than handing you the gun, so to speak.
There’s no denying that the messaging with regards to the switch from a full game package to the episodic lineup of seven missions throughout the year was a bit haphazard, but seeing the developer’s ambitions with Hitman, it makes perfect sense to release the game in sporadic instalments.
It kicks off with this Intro Pack, which includes two tutorial Prologue missions and episode one: the first major assignment for series’ protagonist Agent 47. In it, the chrome-domed assassin is tasked with taking out two targets at a swanky Paris fashion show – but that simple objective only scratches the surface of what each Hitman level offers.
In traditional Hitman style, players (ideally) need to sneak in undetected, track their targets, find opportunities to eliminate them, and slip out the back door. The patience and opportunistic set-up is as satisfying as ever, and with the larger and vastly more detailed levels the current-gen consoles allow for the best versions of these scenarios to date. You could always go in guns-blazing, but Hitman is all about clinically executed assassinations after all.
And IO Interactive promote exactly that. The Paris mission poses quite the challenge – having to take out two high-profile targets in a hugely populated mansion with high security presence. We don’t want to give away too many options (because half the fun of Hitman is finding out for yourself), but some options to get closer to the targets included disguising myself as a handyman and crushing the target with a rather large appliance, impersonating one of the models in the show, and even sneaking into a shady business deal in one of the backrooms of the show. And those are only a few of the insidious ways you can deal death to those unsuspecting evil-doers in the game.
The game gives veterans and newcomers a fair chance to be as simple or convoluted as you want with your kills. The new Opportunities system sees prompts appear when you encounter certain items or happenings in the game world, offering players the chance to track those opportunities through to their deadly end – these can be ignored if you want to rely on your observation skills alone. Each setting also offers numerous challenges that set new goals and open up new avenues to explore and routes to take. In Paris alone there are 24 assassination challenges, 32 item or events to uncover and 10 feats to accomplish.
As for the presentation, the game looks great and runs smoothly, even when the screen is crowded with NPCs. There are a few awkward animations (or lack thereof) when moving bodies, but it’s nothing but a slight distraction. The game does have some notably long load-times, and the fact that you have to be online to play the game, means that if you lose connection, you’re booted from the mission and have to start it again or from your last save, which can be frustrating.
So, it’s incredibly difficult to rate a game based on its first mission. However, if the rest of the episodes are of the quality and intent of the Paris mission, and the technical bugs are addressed, then fans should have something special on their hands.
Have you played Hitman? What do you think of Agent 47’s latest adventure? Let us know in the comments below and tweet us at @MenStuffZA.