One of the driving forces during my early years of gaming was Hitman – more specifically, Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts. Having been introduced to the world of PC gaming through a blue disc with ‘GTA 3’ inscribed on it, I’ve developed a keen fondness for the system operated by the keyboard and mouse. Of course, I had a notable amount of consoles at the time and used them a lot, but GTA 3, Mafia, and the Hitman games really engineered my love for PC gaming.
Moreover, I spent a heck of a lot of time playing the early Hitman games. I wasn’t particularly good at them, mind you, but I loved the feeling of pulling off that perfect assassination every once in awhile. Silent Assassin and Contracts heralded some of the best early gaming memories I’ve had, and I developed a strong love for the Hitman games because of that. And now, 14 years later, we’re finding ourselves with a new Hitman game – one that harks back to the early days of the Hitman series, albeit only for an hour or two.
IO Interactive’s latest Hitman game, and subsequent follow up to 2013’s Hitman: Absolution, is a different beast to its predecessor altogether. And that’s both a good and a bad thing.
Instead of electing to release as a fully-fledged, content complete game, 2016’s Hitman is an episodic title that’ll be added to overtime. Considering the complexities and story of Hitman, running with it in an episodic format is questionable. And the Intro Pack, which contains just four missions – three tutorial missions and the Paris mission – doesn’t really deal up enough content to make it feel like a welcomed return to Agent 47’s world of assassination.
That isn’t to say that the time spent inside the world of Hitman isn’t fun, though. In fact, this year’s Hitman is some of the most fun I’ve had in the series since Blood Money and Contracts. It’s just a damn shame it only lasts around two hours.
Hitman wonderfully pulls away from the linear style of Absolution and gives you a non-linear, breathtakingly beautiful world to play around with. The variety seen in the four missions included is impressive, allowing for many differing assassination options and opportunities. Experimentation and improvisation is the name of the game, and the AI usually react quite realistically to your actions. Hiding bodies, staying hidden from the cautious view of guards and targets, and planning for the perfect moment to strike all play pivotal roles in whether you succeed or fail, and that’s the Hitman formula I’ve grown to love.
Having completed the game’s set of missions, though, I felt let down by the amount of content contained in the Intro Pack. Making Hitman an episodic title has been something I’ve been deliberating over quite frequently in my mind, and after having so much fun in the game working through the handful of missions, I can’t help but wish this was just delayed and released as a content-complete game.
Furthermore, the Intro Pack doesn’t even really set up the game’s story. Throughout Hitman’s two-hour runtime we’re given a look back into 47’s past and then jump forward into post-Absolution, but nothing in the way of character development or context of what’s actually happening really comes to fruition. It’s all very bland, and having completed it I actually felt like I’d must have missed something during my playthrough. Having skimmed through the missions and cinematics again, it became clear that IO Interactive just didn’t include enough in the Intro Pack to establish any meaningful story for Agent 47 and his endeavours, leaning on the actual gameplay more than anything else.
In saying that, Hitman’s gameplay is top-notch. Its non-linear approach is incredibly appealing, and the replay value is fairly high thanks to the game giving you a score and ranking after completing missions and challenges. Making use of disguises, tailing targets, and planning for that perfect assassination still feels exceptional this time around, and if it all goes to hell a shootout isn’t the worst thing that can happen, really. But, in saying that, death comes fairly quickly if you do go guns-blazing, which is a positive far cry from the more action-oriented Hitman: Absolution.
I enjoyed my time with Hitman’s Intro Pack, even though I polished it all off in just a couple of hours. There’s not much substance here as of yet, and the story – while it has potential – is feeling fairly lacklustre given the lack of context and development of major characters. But IO Interactive seem to really understand what makes Hitman… well, Hitman. There’s a lot of variety, a lot of choice, and big open maps crafted for you to plan the perfect assassination. It reminds me of the days I’d spent deliberating upon how I’d be taking out targets in Silent Assassin and Contracts, and I can’t wait to see what comes over the coming months.
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
A review code was supplied by the publisher.