Last week, after anticipation and delays, the first portion of the new Hitman game, which is entitled simply Hitman was made available for download. It features the training missions that were previously offered in beta form and a mission called “Paris – The Showstopper.” And, as great as it is conceptually to have Agent 47
back under our control and as great as some of the graphics look and as fun as someone of it is, the entire experience is rather underwhelming.
Square Enix and IO Interactive initially talked about releasing a full game to disc and over time that shifted to an episodic format (a la what Telltale currently does) with individual pieces available for download, a season pass download option, and a full retail disc to be made available at a later date. IO explained that the decision was made in part because they didn’t want to release anything that wasn’t ready and going episodic would give them extra time. Previously, they discussed delays being due to the game’s size.
It is certainly true that the mission area made available last week is massive despite its being a single location, but bigger isn’t always necessarily better and the idea that added replayability exists (there are more contracts you can execute in individual levels) doesn’t necessarily make up for the change in rollout.
The truth is this, having spent a long time in the new Hitman, despite its size the single location gets old after you’ve completed the main mission, the various contracts you can go back to aren’t enough to keep you invested. Yes, I spent hours defeating the main mission and racked up scads of points doing it (and failed a few times along the way), but without an involved storyline, without multiple—even if they’re smaller—locations, without several sets of main tasks one has the inescapable feeling that what we have gotten here is a single level of a game and not really an episode.
I hate to continue with another negative, but before we get to the good (and there is definitely good), I want to get this one out of the way – despite this shift to an episodic system, the game still feels a little unfinished around the edges. When 47 turns a faucet on, his hands come nowhere near the actual faucet; the way the water then comes out of that faucet is unreal; and it is possible to do things like execute a silent kill and still have someone on the far side of the room who is turned away from it know the instant it occurs. There are these small, but persistent, little nagging things about it that overshadow that which the game does have going for it.
Looking towards the good, as stated above, it’s gorgeous. The Paris location is full of detail. Agent 47 and the rest of the characters look great. They way most of the folks moves about, too, works wonderfully, especially in a location which reportedly has 1300 crowd members present (some of these people do feel a little extraneous).
The stealth aspect of the game is still wonderfully fun as is the chance to execute multiple different styles of kills. There is also a new feature called “Opportunities” which offer up various ways to help complete aspects of the mission. They are optional and can be turned off, but provide some help should you get stuck (or just want a thought on how to proceed).
Live elements, such as targets in side missions who only appear at certain times (these are “Elusive Targets” in Hitman‘s parlance), exist within the game, which, it should be noted, asks you to be online most, if not all of the time. This can be annoying even if you do have a reliable internet connection as the PlayStation’s suspend feature doesn’t lead to automatic reconnection to the servers when play is resumed.
We will be back with reviews of future episodes as they are released (the next one is expected next month and another the month after), but as for now, what we can say definitively is that the groundwork exists in the training and Paris – The Showstopper mission for this to be a spectacular title when complete. However, the entirety of it hinges on what comes next, because the groundwork also exists for this to be a drawn out slog where large environments are offered up as a replacement for interesting missions. The extra contracts and targets are simply not enough to make one want to keep coming back. Hopefully the new episodes are.
Hitman is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Strong Language, and Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: Xbox One and Windows PC.