|Publisher||Developer||Reviewed On||Release Date|
|Square Enix||Io Interactive||PlayStation 4||March 11, 2016|
With his Matrix-style training sessions out of the way, Agent 47 hops over to France to take in a fashion show… and perform a pair of hits. Creativity is both it’s own reward and the method for acquiring new upgrades, and Hitman’s sharp focus on stealth gameplay is refreshing. The Paris map is gigantic and calls for numerous repeat plays because I want to see as much as possible. Scattered technical issues aside, Hitman is worth your time.
The gameplay cycle is simple in premise but hooks you in immediately, as you are dropped into an open ended assassination sandbox. Agent 47 has his targets and it’s up to the player to get in, make the kills, and get out. It plays just like the black box missions from Assassin’s Creed Unity and Syndicate, only done better. Here they are bigger, more creative, with more variety.
Making a strong first impression
An unusual release schedule is in the works for Hitman, with Square Enix deciding to release story missions episodically. There are three maps included in this “Intro Pack.” A cruise ship and a hangar are both fun in their own right, but make no mistake, the fashion show in Paris is the star here. If I were to look at the content on paper, just three maps, I would scoff. That bullet point doesn’t tell the whole story, however. It is truly impressive how much replay value is crammed into the environments. Even by my 5th, 6th, 7th attempts at the Paris level I was still discovering areas I had not seen previously.
Hiding in plain sight
The crowd in Paris is massive and gives the Sanguine Fall Fashion Show real life. Such large congregations are perfect for a hitman to hide in plain sight. Fittingly, a suit works just fine for the public areas of the event. If you expect to roam around more secure areas, a disguise would be a wise choice. It’s a good thing that every man in attendance wears clothing that fits Agent 47. You can blend in as a bartender, security officer, bodyguard, foreign royalty, male model, and more. Each outfit grants somewhat unrestricted access to different areas, but there are characters who can recognize the big bald guy with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head is out of place. A random security guard is not likely to know the faces of all the other security guards, but a supervisor is more likely to. Using Hitman’s instinct view, players can see which characters are able to see through the uniform facades. This functions similar to the Arkham detective mode. Outlines of nearby people can be seen through walls, and objects you can interact with are highlighted.
More than one way to skin a cat
Additional playthroughs are rewarded with various planning unlocks. Rather than walking through the front door every time, you can choose to begin undercover in different locations such as a waiter or stylist. Weapons, gear, and clothing can be chosen before beginning the mission. Different challenges, like killing your two targets by pushing one off of a ledge so one victim crushes another below, guide you in discovering all the options at your disposal.
A custom contract creation mode enables community created content. This works by playing through any of the maps and tagging targets. Rather than having to assassinate the same people every time, any person can be tagged in this way. Optional objectives, such as what disguise to wear and what weapon to use, can also be chosen. Though the main mission may have two targets, there are hundreds of characters roaming around and up to five of them can be selected, making for an astronomical amount of possibilities.
Bring something to read
As fun as it is, Hitman is not without issues. Load times are astonishingly slow. First load, restart, reload from an autosave, it makes no difference. Be prepared to poke around on your smartphone for up to a couple minutes any time load screens show up. Most of my anxiety over being compromised on a mission was fear of having to reload. There are also frequent framerate problems, especially when large amounts of NPCs are on screen at once. For those who’d rather not play permanently connected to the Internet, you’re going to run into trouble. You need to be online to earn points to unlock new equipment. Even if you are connected, as I played, there are strange hiccups – sometimes thumbnail images don’t load in menus and you can tell it is because the image is supposed to be streamed in when needed, but it just doesn’t.
I’ve played a lot of Hitman’s Episode 1, and I’m not sure I’ll see everything it has to offer before Episode 2 drops in April. Discovering new approach angles and creative kills has kept me returning for more, despite undeniable technical flaws. Paris is just the first of seven planned monthly installments of Hitman, and I’m looking forward to the rest.
Hitman was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review code provided by Square Enix and Io Interactive