It says a lot about this newest line in the Hitman
series that my biggest problem with it is the release style.
On one hand, it’s easily the best game in the series since Blood Money
, with all the awesome assassinations and tongue in cheek silliness that makes the series great.
On the other, it’s being released episodically for no discernible reason beyond trend chasing. This introductory episode includes only the tutorial mission, and the first proper mission — Paris.
The player takes the role of Agent 47, a purposefully bland, generic grumbling protagonists whose only notable features are his mastery of disguise and the big old barcode on the back of his head (which the aforementioned mastery of disguise does nothing to conceal).
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Agent 47 is an assassin under the control of the ISA, a shadowy agency that seems to serve as a sort of international cleanup crew for hire. Whenever the lies of MI6 or the CIA need something done discreetly, the ISA steps in and sends 47 to take care of the problem.
There is an overarching story involving international conspiracies between governments and shadowy organizations, but that’s not really what Hitman
Hitman is about killing people in the most elaborate, insane, and devious ways possible.
The game plops the player in a huge, intricate sandbox full of alternate paths, crowds to hide in, and tools of assassination, before essentially telling the player to go nuts.
The best part about the mission format is how completely nonlinear it is.
Do you want to take the straightforward path and kill your targets from long range with a sniper? Do it.
Do you want to disguise yourself as part of the wait staff and poison your targets cocktail? Go right ahead.
Do you want to arrange a scenario where you kill your target by pushing them off a high balcony onto your other target, leaving them dead in a pile of blood and broken hips? Go for it my friend.
Hitman is a playground that encourages replayability.
My first way through the game involved poisoning my first target’s cocktail and shoving their body in a nearby closet, before disguising myself as my second target’s contact, taking a private meeting with her, and shooting her in the face. I shoved her body in another closet, and made my exit out the service entrance.
My second play involved me climbing up to the catwalk above the fashion show runway and shoving the lighting rig onto the first target, before turning on my heel, raising a sniper rifle, and taking out the second target through the open window behind me.
Even after that, I’d barely scratched the surface.
I got more than five hours out of this one starting level alone, as I started over and over again trying to complete it in as many ways as possible, discovering new routes, new hidden areas, and methods of killing along the way.
Visually speaking, the game is gorgeous. The prologue levels , while well designed, are also explicitly shown to be fake training backgrounds somewhere in a warehouse, with boundaries of the level made up of chain-link fences and scaffolding.
Paris itself is also gorgeous, with literally hundreds of NPCs wandering about, and well laid out architecture.
A problem I ran into a few times was contextual button presses blurring into each other sometimes. I had just dumped an unconscious guard into a nearby dumpster, and tried to pick up the shiny coin I’d thrown to lead him away from his friends. Instead of picking it up, I ended up climbing into the dumpster.
The major problem holding the game back from true excellence, apart from it’s weird episodic release format, is the online features. Playing the level over and over unlocks more and more weapons, disguises and starting points to use and switch things up…but if you want to actually use any of these unlocks you have to stay online, which, depending on how the server is feeling that day and where you live, might be a crapshoot at best.
Overall, the Hitman
intro pack is a fantastic package, though I can’t help but feel that if they’d just saved the whole thing for the disc release early next year, they may have had game of the year 2017 on their hands. For now though, all they get is complaints about the game unnecessarily being carved into pieces.