Hitman has already given me some of the most creative and thoughtful moments of gameplay I’ve had this year. It’s a gorgeous, streamlined affair that’s guarenteed to put you in the shoes of the cold blooded assassin like never before – it’s just a shame the episodic content leads to fragmentation, and will inevitably put a lot of fans off.
See, while there truly is a lot to love about what we get in the Hitman intro pack, it can at times feel more like an extended demo, a starter to a meal we’re gonna have to wait months to truly enjoy. I dunno, maybe it all depends on your view of episodic games.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we do get in the intro pack. Firstly, we’re given a prologue that introduces us to the key characters and concepts of Hitman, while also serving as a much appreciated training exercise/test.
Luckily, any series veterans will still get a lot of fun out of these missions. While there are clear guideposts in place to show any newbies (like me) what exactly you can do and where you should go, fans of the franchise are completely free to go off book and experiment in true Hitman fashion.
After a few false starts in the first scenario (because I was shit) It was the final test portion of the prologue that really made me see that this game was something special.
I managed to knock out an engineer and take his uniform so that I could tamper with the ejector seat on a plane, and then got my victim to test the seat. It was great fun – especially as a I casually walked to the getaway car while the faulty seat sent my target flying through the sky to his doom.
With such a multitude of options at your disposal, it’d be easy to become confused, lost, or simply overwhelmed. Fortunately, there are in game prompts that can guide you to key items and valuable conversations that may reveal something vital.
Again though, purists can turn these prompts off and enjoy the sandbox of death (great name for a metal band) at their own pace.
After the prologue is over and done with, we jump into the story proper with a mission set in Paris. Suddenly having two targets to dispose of in one location changes up the challenge.
Your ability to blend in becomes key – show your hand by killing one target too obviously and the other might go into lockdown, making it much harder to get to them.
Thankfully, my first attempt was a mixture of blunder, luck, and a tiny bit off skill. I tracked my first target, following him backstage at a fashion show that was being held in a grand manor house. I knocked out a member of staff and took his uniform to blend in.
I trailed victim number one, attempting to get him alone. Frustratingly he had a security guard with him at all times, who would have raised the alarm and shot me dead in seconds.
As I followed them, I overheard a conversation about a model who happened to bear a striking resemblance to myself. I filed that particular piece of intel away for later and carried on.
My first victim and his guard eventually came to stand under a chandelier in a large empty room. It was at this point that I accidentally released a winch on the wall, which dropped said chandelier, killing them both instantly. One down (albeit by mistake) and probably in need of a new disguise, I decided to try and find the aforementioned model.
I found the model on the phone to victim number two. After taking his outfit, I used his phone to arrange a meet with the target. I was told I first had to get my makeup done and walk the catwalk (to avoid raising suspicion) and after that particularly surreal moment was out of the way, I headed to the heavily guarded top floor with no hassle.
After a brief chat with my final mark, I slipped a lil’ cyanide in her champagne when her back was turned, hid her body in a cupboard, climbed out the window, shimmied down the drainpipe and made my escape in the model’s own chopper. It was hard not to feel swag, really.
And that’s what’s really great about Hitman. Everyone is gonna have their own story of how they took out the targets. The complete freedom in regards to how you approach the game is its biggest strength, and also what makes it truly challenging.
The variety and options on display are pretty staggering, and it certainly lends itself to multiple replays as you try and fulfil certain challenge criteria. This especially is a good thing, since after the Paris mission, that’s it for the story.
I wasn’t too happy. After not caring too much about the prologue, I was literally just getting invested in the story when I was told that was my lot for another month. I’m genuinely intrigued to see what happens in Sapienza in April (where the next episode is set) but I can’t help but wonder how much better it might have been if it was all there from the start.
Still, there are good deal of non story related features to keep you ticking over. Contracts Mode lets you challenge friends online by choosing any NPC on the map and making them them target, which naturally leads to some tricky moments and hilarious games.
Escalation is a brand new mode that offers something for the properly skilled assassins out there (ie, not me). These stages change in difficulty every time you master a scenario by adding in new elements that you won’t have planned or prepared for. It’s a great way to keep veterans on their toes and ensure they get something out of the game till the next episode.
Finally, there are the Elusive Targets who only appear for set periods of real world time. There are no pointers or guides in this mode, even for beginners, and we’re expected to listen in on coversations and join the dots ourselves, which does make victory much more rewarding, to be fair.
Brilliantly, when these targets are gone, they’re gone forever. Whether you kill them or if they escape, that’s it. Fortunately lo-interactive plan to release these fiendish contracts on a regular basis, in between episodes and major content drops.
While there is undoubtedly a huge amount to be going on with, it still bothers me that the story mission left me dangling at such a crucial point. I’m sure I’ll get several hours more fun out of killing people in the Paris map, but fuck, I wanna know what happens next – I wanna see what else the game has to offer me.
As it turns out, there’s a full disc release set for January next year. Anyone who has a problem with episodic games might want to wait till then, because from what I actually got to play, I honestly believe the subsequent episodes will combine to make a wonderful game, packed with tense, challenging moments and endlessly entertaining variety.