Agent 47 Is Back and at His Best
The world of Hitman is a dark and dangerous one, full of conspiracies. It’s a world where the wealthy and powerful vie for global influence and seek to obtain it by any means necessary. No one can be trusted, and nothing is as it seems. It is in this world of cruel uncertainty that the ICA exists as an autonomous organization; an agency of chaos willing to hire out the most lethal assassins to the parties and governments that need them most. In Hitman you take control of Agent 47, and as he’s initiated into the ICA, you’re initiated into this world of high-stakes espionage and assassination.
In this first installment of what will be a 6-part episodic experience, you’ll have access to the Prologue and Paris Showstopper missions. When I first heard that Square Enix and IO-Interactive had announced that Hitman would be released across multiple episodes I was a little disappointed, but it works out really well for this game. The missions in Hitman are designed to be open, challenging the player to complete objectives in new and creative ways, and to explore each map from top to bottom. Though there are only three locations for you to explore, each of them is large enough and populated enough to keep you busy and entertained for weeks.
Here for your infiltrating pleasure is an enormous party-yacht owned by a master thief, a highly guarded Cuban airbase housing a dangerous Soviet spy, and a beautiful museum in the heart of Paris where two criminal ringleaders are conducting some shady business ‘neath the cover of a high-profile fashion show. Each location is bursting with detail and full of interesting NPCs with their own personalities and agendas. Trust me, you’ll genuinely want to revisit each stage after you initially complete the main objectives. In fact, it’s only after you’ve completed the story missions that this game really opens up and struts its stuff.
Once you begin taking on side contracts and finding alternative ways to complete a hit, it’s easy to see that Square Enix and IO were determined to find what made the past 15 years of Hitman games so fun and then create something that on one hand feels like a “best of” love-letter to Blood Money , but also something innovative and totally fresh. Everything about the Hitman formula has been iterated on and enhanced, but each mission will still play out in three familiar stages: planning, infiltration, and assassination.
Before you complete a mission’s main objective for the first time, you’re generally spawned in a specific place with specific equipment. When the maps open up, though, things get a little more sandbox-y, and it’s fabulous. You’ll feel like a dangerous mastermind as you look over your weapons, suits, and equipment and decide which tools suit your needs (or otherwise entertain your dark, twisted imagination). As you complete various feats and accomplish unique kills, you’ll unlock more starting locations, more weapons, and more tools. It’s a nice hook, and the more you do, the more you can do the next go-around.
Before you can reach your target you’ll have to do some trespassing. Hiding in plain sight is an art, and it’s one you’ll have to master if you’re going to make any kind of progress in this game. Most of your time will be spent assessing your surroundings and figuring out how you can subdue various NPCs and don their outfits to blend in or gain access to restricted areas. Just to get onto the yacht, for example, you’ll have to get past two security guards standing sentry at the entrance. You can go about this a number of ways. Distract and knock out a lone guard outside the yacht and steal his clothes; dress as an engineer and enter the yacht through a maintenance entrance; subdue witnesses or take them out, but don’t get caught. Once inside, things are blown wide open and advancing closer to your target will require constant improvisation and sharp vigilance.
Assuming you’re able to occupy the same room as your unsuspecting victim-to-be, how you take him or her out is completely up to you. Hitman is twisted in a way because if you think to yourself, “How would I take out this person in real life,” no matter what you come up with, you can probably pull it off. I’ve chucked a screwdriver like a throwing knife right into the back of a security chief’s skull, shot a billionaire in the back of the head with a pistol (old school, but effective), and pushed one target off of balcony onto another target, killing both.
What’s really nice is that the camera and controls are something you learn in the first few minutes and then forget about. The little mechanics that should be invisible are invisible. Sneaking, scaling and climbing, taking cover, throwing, shooting… no matter what you need to do at any given moment, you’re never more than a simple button-press away from making it happen. The only thing that got in the way of my playing was an inconsistent indication of who could see me and who couldn’t. Sometimes you’ll be in an occupied room, but you’re able to subdue a person, steal their clothes, and hide the body as long as they’re in a dark corner. Other times you’ll sneak up behind a guard, and as soon as you wrap around their neck to choke them out soldiers 100 meters away, soldiers who you thought weren’t even looking in your general direction, will see what you’re doing and engage you immediately.
Typically, and this is especially true if you’re going for more difficult objectives that require your not being detected, this forces you to restart the mission or load up a save file. This wouldn’t be a big deal if the load times weren’t so awful . It takes almost a minute for a stage to load or reload. That may not sound like much, but next time you reach a peak of action in a game you’re playing, press pause and watch the second hand of your watch go all the way around before starting back up. This is easily my biggest gripe about the game. It’s structured in such a way that not only encourages, but requires that you try to take out targets in a variety of ways, but whenever you fail – and you’ll fail a lot – you have to sit through a painfully long loading screen.
When you’re playing and engaged, Hitman is a thoughtful, well-paced, and beautiful introduction to what should be an incredible multi-part adventure. It’s hard to imagine how Square Enix and IO could possibly screw up something this good. If nothing else, for $15 The Prologue and Paris Showstopper missions are absolutely worth your time and money. The stages were so lovingly pieced together and offer you seemingly endless possibilities for creative, violent expression. Even after you execute every hit every way you possibly can, you can create your own contracts or take on those of your peers for an extra challenge. It’s an incredible bang for the buck, and I can’t wait to to head to Italy next month.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The game looks incredible but you’ll want to keep the framerate locked, otherwise things slow to a crawl at points. 3.7 Control
Everything does what you need it to do, but nothing stands out in a big way. A sprint option would have been nice. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting and music are really good, but the tracks randomly skip or stop for no reason. 4.3 Play Value
I’ve never had so much fun playing a stealth-centered game and there’s tons of replay value, but you’ll have to get used to some extreme loading times. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best