Some of my greatest gaming moments came on my PS2 in the form the Hitman franchise. I would spend hours replaying missions until I was properly satisfied with the way I had carried out my contract. The last generation of consoles saw the release of two more Hitman titles; the forgettable Blood Money in 2006 and Absolution in 2012 whose main claim to fame was the “controversy” some of the games antagonists generated. The market has been flooded with the sort of stealth action “assassin” genre and it seemed like Agent 47’s trademark garrote and silverballers were doomed to be forgotten. Fast forward to E3 2015 and an amazing trailer for the simply titled Hitman, a title that is to serve as a reboot for the franchise, something Square Enix has recently nailed with the Tomb Raider series. After a series of delays, changing release formats, pricing and dropping pre-orders we finally got to see if this younger episodic 47 is worth getting back into the business of contract killing.
First off, the one thing that I thought would be the most off putting portion of the game turned out to be my favorite. What was once considered a novel approach, releasing games in an episodic format has become tiresome and is usually lazily done. But with Hitman, it really seems to work. With most sandbox style games requiring hours of your life to feel like you can take on any task, Hitman drops you in its world with all the necessary tools to get the job done. My life is busy with work, kids and other grown up responsibilities so the fact that I can just sit down with the game and accomplish something major in a 30 minute time frame, then shut it off feels really incredible. On my first play through of the Paris mission I even failed multiple times and was still able to finish my contract in 40 minutes. While previous entries in the series offered replay value in its missions, the reboot has taken it one step further by offering feats and challenges to accomplish. The more feats you manage the higher your score and new starting options and challenges will be opened up to you.
Not only has the levels expanded, but the options on how to go about your task seem to have as well. While this may seem like an overwhelming upside, the developers added a new opportunity mechanic to the gameplay. By listening in on random NPC conversations, new opportunities to eliminate your contract will be opened up to you and you are given the ability to track them from objective to objective ensuring you a beautifully executed plan. The intro to the game has you going to a remote facility to undergo training recreating various missions from the company’s history and passing a final test. These intros are smaller in scale by comparison, but do an excellent job acclimating you to the core mechanics of the game. The otherwise classic Hitman game play is all still all there with the ability to disguise yourself and go unnoticed or arm up and go loud.
The first included mission was gorgeous and beautifully detailed. The level felt alive with NPC’s responding to your presence, although sometimes just trying to walk through you if they were on a set path. It’s really a stark contrast to the confined world of the training missions and open grounds of a Paris fashion show. The graphics don’t seem to suffer from all that is going on in game and maintains a solid frame rate throughout. The main voice acting is done well, while some of the lesser dialog seems phoned in by comparison.
We will be holding off on assigning a number to this review until the full product is released but if you’re at all apprehensive on picking this game because of the release structure, don’t be. Pick up the intro pack and try it for yourself. Square Enix is offering an upgrade package that you can buy that will unlock the remainder of the episodes if you enjoy the intro. We will update after each release so check back here for more Hitman updates as they are released over the coming year.
*Review PS4 code provided to us by the publisher.