Should You Play It?
If you’re a fan of Hitman or being a sociopathic murderer (in a videogame obviously) then yeah, go for it.
The Actual Review
In the past months before release, Hitman has wildly shifted from a full release to an episodic release. The release schedule is that a new mission & map will be released every month and the folks at Square Enix will sprinkle in some “timed exclusive” contracts for players, just to keep things interesting and fresh. While I’m not completely against this idea, it does make the experience feel rather like you’re being sold the game piecemeal. The idea behind the episodic structure was to donate a huge amount of time to every level, adding in some community focus via multiplayer missions and allowing players to play the complete ins and outs of each map. In a way, it’s a drip feed experience but it’s yet to be seen whether it’s a successful one. As opposed to how people might have originally burned through a Hitman game in 15-20 hours, the game forces players to really slow down and pick apart each level and experience all it has to offer, and that can rub people the wrong way. It can be a tough pill to swallow when you’re expected to spend 60 bucks on a game that you have to wait each month to play a portion of it.
Moving on to another problem, the game insists that you play connected online at all times for the best experience. Yet here’s the issue. Anyone can play the game flawlessly, do everything correctly but still only gather 270,000 points (or thereabouts). So what’s the point in the leaderboards? Since checking the leaderboards for the past 4 to 5 days, all the top scores are exactly the same for about 6 pages, which is hundreds upon hundreds of names. So why is there a need to have to play online at all times if we’re all getting the same scores?
Hitman desperately wants to be an always online game but you, as a player can, definitely suffer in the pursuit for that goal. I was often kicked out of the game because my connection dropped and then forced to have to load back an old save which takes a long, long time on PS4 as there’s terrible loading times on the Playstation copy of the game (I can’t speak for PC). It wouldn’t be such a pain if I knew the game didn’t have to load so much. If I was playing online with a custom map from another player, I would totally understand but the fact is that I’m playing the “single player” of the game which thrusts you head first into the online space but for little to no benefit.
Things are a little wobbly right now for Hitman but hopefully as time continues, the game will settle into itself and become the community game it strives to be. But for now, the online portion feels unnecessary and holds back the game in terms of performance and load times.
Now, let’s get on to the good bits.
I’m satisfied to say that Agent 47 is back and at its core, this could probably be the best Hitman game yet. Despite just having one level out at the moment, the game already does a fantastic job at replicating the meticulous planning required for Blood Money but improves upon the gorgeous visuals of Absolution with incredible detail to the environment but most importantly, the world building in the game is second to none. Every person in the world of Hitman has a role to fulfil and they react incredibly realistically to each other and the player character. There are hundreds of systems at play with the AI and it shows even when the player is not in the room. You’ll see people talking, going out to smoke, getting sick in the bathrooms from too much champagne regardless if you’re there to witness it or not. If you see a waiter carrying a box of food, you can bet your fibrewire they’ll be in the kitchen minutes later setting down the box. Sure, this might seem standard but that’s the world of Hitman in a nutshell. It’s all systems and AIs performing tasks and it is your job as a hitman to infiltrate this system, observe how it works and look for an openings that will get you closer to taking out your target. While most games toss you right into the action, Hitman relishes in waiting. The game is 90% observation and 10% assassination. Like Blood Money before it, Agent 47 succeeds when he observes his target and notices habits in their routine that could lead to vulnerabilities. One of the targets had a habit of visiting the bar for a sip of champagne before returning to an auction she was holding (which was being conveniently held under a huge chandelier) and then heading to the restroom to make a phone call. So it’s up to you how to proceed. Do you poison the glass? Do you shoot the chandelier? Do you drown her in the toilet? It feels weird to be spoiled for choice in methods for killing but hey, videogames!
You have a lot of choice in Hitman and it’s always up to you how to proceed. You can play the game as a battle axe wielding stylist or a quiet, calculating security guard that leaves bombs in toilets. While you’re free to play the game in whatever outlandish and creative ways you can think of, the game isn’t afraid to tell you some ways you can get close to a target as it introduces Opportunities, which are small hints and tips to help you. For example, the game can tell you that Agent 47 looks like one of the fashion models who is due to meet with one of the targets and will then give you a location to look for the model. Usually, the game would not tell you this and leave it up for you to discover yourself. It’s a bit of streamlining for the series but for the more hardcore Agents, you can turn this off. However, the game always has a huge list of challenges and assassinations you can perform in one level and it can be very tempting to take a peek at them instead of discovering them yourself. Hitman was always likened to a puzzle game and while this section of challenges can give away the answer, you still have to do the work yourself. It’s a fair trade because it gives you a rough idea of what types of assassination to do but not the key elements required to do them.
If you’re concerned that one level is not enough for you, think again. I’ve played easily 12 hours of this one level alone before even touching the multiplayer component. There’s just so many variations of how to play the game and the more you play the game, the more variations you’re given. You start the game by walking into the front of the palace with a tux, a pistol and some fibre wire but after about 5 replays, you can find yourself starting in the palace’s kitchen dressed as a chef with a sniper rifle hidden away in a nearby pantry. Nice. The multiplayer aspect allows players to construct their own contracts and then attempt to complete others. It’s always fun to see the variations of how other players interact with the world and most contracts are fun and quite challenging. It can be incredibly addicting to pour through some of the contracts in the game, just to test your knowledge of how well you know the maps as well as seeing what types of contracts other players come up with. One contract entitled 3 Michelin Stars had me execute 3 of the chefs in the palace kitchen with a stainless steel knife. I’m not gonna lie, that’s a pretty clever & creative mission especially seeing as it was constructed entirely by the hands of a random player.
As far as value goes with Hitman, you definitely get a lot of bang for your buck with this one level and it’s sort of up to you if you want to do this same sort of thing (replaying a map but with different variations of assassinations) for future level releases but I was thoroughly entertained for the price of admission.
So, Hitman 2016 is off to a decent start. You can feel the pure love and passion of IO Interactive come forth with how beautiful and well crafted the world and assassinations are in the game but it feels marred by that Square Enix business model need to go episodic. Time will tell if it holds up but the actual game (removed from all the online drm/episodic nonsense) is a fun experience. The only problem (and it’s sort of a good problem to have… I think) is that that I just can’t wait for more adventures with the bald-headed assassin.
What I Thought:
Hitman's first mission is a strong return for Agent 47 and the game has good potential to possibly be the best of the series but we'll have to wait and see how the rest of the game unfolds.