The Hitman series is most fun when the player can indulge in assassination experimentation. With this newest, episodic installment, Io-Interactive wants to show us the best aspects of the series and reinvigorate the franchise as a whole. But, by choosing to go with an episodic release, there’s a lot riding on the first chapter. It needs to not only introduce the player to the world and Agent 47, it has to intrigue gamers enough to make them want to come back for more. While it’s certainly a promising start, there are some issues that need to be eliminated.
The first episode begins 20 years before our bald assassin is even an agent at the International Contract Agency. His past is as murky as his future is at this point, and his recruitment into this world of slick killers acts as the tutorial for the game. Agent 47 is thrust into training to prove that he is indeed worth joining the highly-skilled group. Luckily, his handler Diana is there to help.
While taking out targets on a yacht and on a remote airfield in communist Cuba, you’ll learn how to sneak around prying eyes by staying out of line-of-sight, to use your Instinct Mode (a detective mode-like vision) that allows you to see through walls to find your target, and to improvise by taking advantage of “opportunities” and outfit changes (more on that below).
While the training section does feel simple in terms of purpose, the real fun begins once you hit the massive mansion in Paris. The main mission, “The Showstopper” has you infiltrate a fashion show where you’ll have to eliminate two high-profile targets. Completing the objective will require you to look around for different disguises and items to sabotage things like chandeliers or even the food (with a healthy dose of rat poison). So, it’s in your best interest to explore every nook and cranny for the items scattered around the world.
Another opportunity launched my target out of a jet via ejector seats.
But the most important tool is the “opportunities.” As you’re looking around the mansion for disguises and sabotages, you may overhear a reporter looking for a camera lens. A notification pops up, asking you whether you want to track this opportunity. It’s like a mission within the mission–mission-ception. So you go find the lens cap, and the reporter goes on her merry way to interview, you guessed it, your target. The good news? The interview is now outside, in an open area, which makes your job that much easier. That’s just one of many events that may come up as you explore. Each one will give you an advantage if you see it through to the end. Another opportunity launched my target out of a jet via ejector seats.
Figuring out this giant puzzle is a total blast. That moment of, “oh here’s my chance” is enthralling, and makes the world feel alive. And the sillier your tricks are, the more fun you’ll end up having. The game even has challenges that incentivize you to try out all the different ways to complete your mission. I can’t emphasize enough how entertaining it is to take out your targets in creative ways. It gives you a reason to go replay the missions.
Unfortunately, not everything is great in Hitman. As enjoyable as the content available in the first episode is, it feels incomplete. Io-Interactive hopes that the replay value is high enough so that players aren’t left feeling unsatisfied. But, the amount of content is just not there at the moment. Replaying a mission is great, but there are only so many times you’ll want to take out the same target. The narrative isn’t strong enough to make you want more. And it doesn’t help that it ends abruptly. Investing in this game is a risky proposition because it feels like a chopped up AAA experience, and poorly tailored for the episodic release.
Finding the silliest way of eliminating someone is a reward in and of itself.
The load times are absolutely awful. Jumping around between missions takes way longer than it has any business to. Worst of all, there are some serious performance issues. I experienced some horrid frame-rate stutters, especially in crowded areas. Being so unpolished is part of the reason why the package feels incomplete, and the fact that it only includes a few missions doesn’t help.
There’s a lot to love about this new Hitman release. The sandbox build of each area encourages exploration and experimentation. Finding the silliest way of eliminating someone is a reward in and of itself. Launching my target out of a parked jet with the ejector seat was a treat. And again, that was only one way of approaching the mission. It’s this freedom to do what you want that makes the package incredibly fun. What really holds this release back are the unfortunate frame-rate stutters, atrocious load-times, and the choice to release episodically.
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
This review was completed using a PS4 copy of Hitman provided by Square Enix.
Image: Square Enix