Hitman is one of those games that you will either love or you will hate. If taking your time, watching and analysing, planning and re-planning is not your style then you will be severely disappointed with the latest offering in the Hitman series. Good things take time, as they say, and the missions you will be faced with are no exception. You will be given an objective and you will be set loose on the world with only your wits, and perhaps a few handy items.
Quick, Mum, take a picture
Let’s go kill some Frenchmen
In January it was announced that Hitman would be released in an episodic fashion rather than as a full game. Players have the option of either purchasing the Intro Pack and buying the episodes separately as they are released, or simply dive in and buy the full digital release which gives access to the base game and all future content drops. On launch, players will have access to the prologue missions and one mission in Paris with the two remaining cities, Sapienza and Marrakesh, to be released (along with further missions) on a monthly basis starting in April. A hard copy will be released with all content later in the year which will include additional cities including Italy, Morocco, Japan, Thailand and the US.
For those that haven’t played the previous Hitman titles and know nothing of the game think of it as a hardcore, action stealth game that rewards cunning and patience. In trying to assassinate your target you will learn about your target by gathering information and listening to things happening around you. You will also don disguises and even blend into the scenario by mopping or serving drinks, all while planning that perfect kill. The more creative the death the better the rewards will be. Whether you drop a chandelier on the target’s head or suffocate them with a life raft there is sure to be some badass way of ending someone’s life that you will enjoy.
Having played many of the previous Hitman games, I walked into the latest iteration with extremely high expectations. For me, as long as the mechanics are smooth and the situations are challenging and thought-provoking I’m not too fussed with how it all looks – It could be stick figure men running around in 8-bit for all I care. Of course, in saying that, when a game is as visually stunning as this one it boosts the enjoyment immeasurably. Hitman begins in a beautiful mountain setting where you (Agent 47, Mr. 47 or just 47) are standing atop a peak on a helipad and snow is falling all around you. The scene is truly breathtaking, setting the atmosphere perfectly for what’s to come. Players can spend as much time outside as they wish, there are no instructions and pieces of information on what to do; you are simply placed in position without direction. This highlights just how little is known about 47 and in fact, how little he knows about himself. The game starts by rewinding 20 years ago following Agent 47’s escape from a Romanian Asylum. From there he finds himself in the hands of the International Contract Agency, or ICA as it’s known to its friends. The ICA train 47 in the art of murderous stealth (which is the tutorial) and finally unleash him on the world in Paris at a fashion show where you are tasked with eliminating two targets. As far as story-based content goes, that’s all you’re going to get until April, but with many variations on how to achieve the ‘hits’, players will have hours of challenging fun in this mode alone.
The freedom of approach, stunning visuals, excellent mechanics and ever so subtle stylish soundtrack make the latest iteration in the acclaimed blockbuster Hitman a must-have
The graphics are excellently presented and the developers have clearly worked hard to make the game as interactive as possible. The world is fueled by realistic reactions of both your targets and NPCs to the things going on around them. It’s clever, intuitive and constantly surprising to watch the people react to their surroundings. For instance, at the start of the first Paris mission there is a camera crew reporting on the event and walking between the reporter and camera will cause them to yell cut and make their displeasure at the intrusion known. It’s a subtle effect but makes it feel like you are part of a living, breathing world.
In addition to the Story mode, there are three other modes: Contracts, Escalation and Elusive Target, each having a unique and engaging twist . In Contract mode you can either create your own contract by going through a mission, marking targets for assassination and finally assassinating them or you can play contracts that others around the world have devised. The ability to challenge friends to a who-can-kill-that-bloke-the-quickest is one that I will definitely be taking advantage of. The potential of this mode is enormous and I can see this being the one mode that will hold most of the replayability for this game.
In Escalation you will conduct an assassination and then escape the scene. Once you have successfully done that you will conduct the same mission again but with further objectives and complications. At launch there is one Escalation mission which has 5 levels to complete, each harder than the last. This mode is perfect for those that wish to challenge themselves time and again to achieve a 5-star rating on all missions. Having completed all 5 levels of the first Escalation, I can tell you, it’s no easy feat.
The final mode, Elusive Target, is one of the most innovative things to appear in a Hitman game, if not any stealth game. In this mode, at regular but random intervals, a time-limited target will appear and players will have but one chance to assassinate the target before they disappear for good. The target will only be available for a few hours in real time and will include a sophisticated back-story, but there will be limited clues as to where they will appear. It is the player’s job to listen in on conversations, find crucial clues and read between the lines to connect the dots and ultimately find and kill the Elusive Target.
As I mentioned earlier, Hitman is one of those games that you will either love or you will hate. In my opinion this boils down to the challenge it provides. Some may be turned off by the sit-and-wait approach or with the difficulty of conducting a hit. This is something IO is aware of and thus have created the Opportunity feature to semi-assist players through a mission. By listening in on conversations or stumbling across clues, opportunities may reveal themselves as a path to conducting the assassination. By choosing to follow the opportunity presented, players will be able to follow a trail of breadcrumbs resulting in the spectacular death of the target. A very handy feature for those struggling to execute their hit. But fear not Hitman purists, they can be turned off in the menu if you want to keep the difficulty high.
The soundtrack for this game fits the scenarios perfectly with smooth ambient sounds with a solid bass backing. It’s neither loud nor intrusive allowing players to focus on the hit but still setting the mood just right for killing-time! The sounds are akin to what you would hear if you watched any of the James Bond movies. Gameplay is smooth for the most part with a few minor glitches that, at times, caused me to fail the mission. One rather odd glitch in particular had a body that I’d hidden moved across the map only to be happened upon by a guard causing them to raise the alarm. Server connection appears to be fairly solid although I was disconnected for short periods on a couple of occasions.
Although it was decided to release Hitman in an episodic fashion there is still plenty of content to keep players interested until the first DLC drops. The freedom of approach, stunning visuals, excellent mechanics and ever so subtle stylish soundtrack make the latest iteration in the acclaimed blockbuster Hitman a must-have. The intricate detail available in conducting basic hits is to be commended – Long may the series reign as one of the most challenging but satisfying stealth action games out there.
Reviewed on PS4