Square Enix and Io-Interactive can rest easy after safely proving that their episodic release of the new Hitman game paid off with dividends. For those who waited, the full first season is now available physically, too.
The series looked as if it was heading for a downward trajectory before the first episode of this new, sleek Hitman took everyone by surprise. The fact that it was episodic worked to the game’s advantage, but as a full package it still holds up surprisingly well.
Hitman relies on multiple replays to solve its missions. It’s not compulsory, of course, and given a certain amount of skill or luck you can finish the 2 tutorial missions and the Paris level included in this first ‘episode’ in one playthrough. What the game does, though, is give you options and rewards for using different methods to off your target and the beauty is in trying these out. This is where the episode-based release worked well but on the full retail release you now get the choice whether to continue to the next mission or replay the previous one, allowing you to take advantage of the new objectives.
Some of these tasks, or Opportunities, as they’re known in-game, are given to you before the mission starts and others reveal themselves through overheard conversations as you eavesdrop on guards or through opportunities that arise as you wonder around in disguise. Poisoning food or drinks can buy you time or lead you to a less conspicuous location free from unwanted attention. Other methods involve close quarters weapons and even an ejector seat. Of course, you also have to leave the scene without raising suspicion.
The tutorial levels are ideal for taking beginners through the basic methods of assassination and also giving a bit more of a challenge to more advanced players, immediately presenting them with further options. I actually enjoyed these smaller maps as much as the full level Paris map, they’re so full of detail and there are just as many ways to go back and kill your target.
As much fun as I had working out how to off the next target, it’s the hiding in plain sight that got me every time. There’s something rather thrilling about waltzing past security because you’re dressed as a waiter or the tense feeling of being watched by certain types of enemy who can see through your disguise as you try to avoid their regular patterns of movement.
Yes, there are a few glitches here and there, some of the enemy AI chase you one minute and then completely loose interest as you round a corner, but for a large world full of characters going about their business who generally react to your less than subtle approach to murder, Hitman is as impressive as it is complex. Take the approach to your accidental unveiling by being in the wrong place at the wrong time (or standing over an obviously dead body). Guards will be alerted in the area where you were last spotted but will take their time to spread the word. You can literally hear them running around try to inform others of the horrendous event while you saunter down another set of stairs on the other side of the building, still wearing the same disguise you were spotted in. Sometimes it can feel like you got away far too easy and other times you get caught out just as you think you might have made it past the last set of security.
Rounding this off is ‘Contracts’, a mode that allows you or anyone else to specify an NPC as a target, then sets a series of rules that you’ll need to follow to kill them. In some ways this is a tighter game than the more open main mission and forms an interesting alternative. Being player assigned, there’s the potential for plenty of new targets or ways to kill them.
It’s worth noting that loading times are a pain here, even for a game in smaller parts. Thankfully there are liberal save slots available and you can save your game at any time. It’s one of the few complaints in a game that joyfully explores many ways to kill a single target.
All of these features are just as good in a complete package as they were when released individually. In fact, the only thing that is conspicuously worse for playing the whole game through in one go is the poor story tying it all together.
IO Interactive have certainly listened to Hitman’s fans and brought back several highlights from previous games. The full package cements the work they’ve done by providing what is probably one of the best Hitman scenarios to date, the wonderful Sapienza map and then twists the gameplay into something a little more chaotic with the crowded Marrakech.
If you’ve put off buying Hitman because of the way it was previously released, now is a perfect time to put this right.