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TAC Reviews...Hitman Season I

Date Posted: 11/03/21

 

The first part of the following articles is a review of the majority of the rebooted Hitman that has subsequently spawned a Season II and now Season III. I intended to come back to the game to finish off my thoughts on it a lot sooner than I did. I did manage to get back to it a day or so ago and as there were a few additional things that I wanted to talk about I did the rest of the Season review.

 

TAC Reviews...[Most of] Hitman Season I

Date Posted: 13/08/17

 

Released episodically throughout 2016 Hitman sees the return of the bald headed super assassin with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head, known only as 47. I have played a couple of Hitman games before namely Hitman 2 Silent Assassin and Hitman Blood Money. I had seen a few YouTube videos of various levels of this new game and when the full season (why they refer to it as a season I have no idea) popped up on the PSN I purchased it for my PS4.

 

 

My experiences with Hitman games have been a little hit and miss, the first game I played: Hitman 2 Silent Assassin (back in 2002) made being sneaky almost impossible. From what I remember I’d be doing a level, change into a different disguise and be walking through one area or another only for other guards to almost immediately spot me. I couldn’t just run past them, as this was suspicious so time and again I’d watch the suspicion meter climb and know there was nothing that I could do about it. If the meter fills all the way the guards realise you are an impostor and immediately open fire with every other guard in the level running to join in the fight. If I remember correctly in that game I ended up using an invincibility cheat just so I could get through it. There were levels in which you’d have to sniper a target but 47 never seemed to grasp the idea of putting his sniper rifle in a suitcase, or guitar case or something, and would just merrily wander around the streets with it naturally drawing attention from anyone who saw him.

 

Hitman Blood Money (released in 2006) on the other hand was much better because for a start I didn’t need to cheat to get through it, plus the levels were big enough and open-ended enough to give you multiple ways of doing things. I enjoyed that game and found myself returning to it on a fairly regular basis for a while in the hopes of improving my score on different levels. The game naturally had some issues, yes you could still adopt disguises like in previous games but sometimes people would spot you, then run closer to get a better look at your face which would blow your cover. I vaguely remember one level in which I killed some porn-guru (I think he was) and his dog saw me…that dog was then apparently a witness who was working with police to identify who 47 was. At the end of each mission you got a newspaper report of the level, which might read, “Person dead, no witnesses and no leads” Or it might contain a picture of 47 and the details of the deaths and a man authorities were looking for. A security camera once captured a glimpse of my shoe and from this authorities had someone come up with a sketch of what 47 must look like, so some things didn’t make that much sense. On the whole though, the game was good fun and I have pleasant memories of my time with it.

 

So those were my two experiences of Hitman and they were mixed. This Hitman game was one that I saw being played on YouTube and it looked quite interesting, like Blood Money there were multiple ways to complete the levels and you could be as stealthy or as loud as you desired.

 

Now, full disclosure, at time of writing I haven’t yet finished the story which is why this review is “Most of” the First Season and have got maybe a couple of missions still to go. But I think I have got enough of an idea to review the game up to the point that I have played it so far.

 

The game starts with a couple of training missions in which 47 meets and receives training from his handler Diane. These are basic tutorials and teach you the ins and outs of how to play the game. You can use distraction mechanics like turning off lights or generators, turning on TVs, and a number of other things designed to bring someone to investigate that can be subdued or killed. The outfit they were wearing can be put on and 47 will assume their identity with the freedoms they had. A security guard for example might be able to go certain places that a waiter can’t and vice-versa.

 

Following on from the training missions 47 is tasked to head to Paris and assassinate two targets who use fashion shows to front illegal activities, then he goes to Spain to do a mission there, then Morocco to stop a coup, and that is as far as I have currently got. There is a plot about a mysterious figure working in the background, and an organisation that might be behind a bigger global picture but you don’t need to worry about that and can just crack on with the levels. 47 is not concerned about politics and simply carries out his contracts with a ruthless efficiency (if you are good at stealth) or the mentality of as long as the target is dead it doesn’t matter who gets caught in the crossfire.

 

The game rewards the stealthy approach and gives you a rating out of 5 Stars at the end of the level. If you are spotted in a disguise this rating goes down, if bodies are found it goes down, if you are recorded by security cameras it goes down, and so on.

 

Similarly to Minecraft I think describing my play through up to this point will give a good idea of how I got on and game mechanics available to you.

 

So, first you are in Paris, and must infiltrate a gala fashion show and kill two targets. The level begins inside the grounds of the building with 47 dressed in a formal tuxedo. Now as he is a guest he can go anywhere the normal guests can, but will be stopped by guards or employees if he attempts to go somewhere out of bounds. As I doubted I’d be able to get close to my targets as a simple guest I wandered around for a bit until some Intel appeared regarding an Opportunity. A model at the party looked enough like 47 that if you could get his clothes then you should be able to access numerous areas of the back-stage area and get close to the target. So I decided to track the opportunity…

 

Opportunities pop up around the level and generally involve eavesdropping on someone’s conversation to get an insight on a means to get close to your intended target or isolate them so they can be assassinated.

 

I tracked the indicator on the map to the model, and after choking him out (but leaving him alive – killing non-targets affects your score at the end), dumping his unconscious body behind a wall, and taking his outfit I became him. To be honest it was quite good fun walking around as the model, especially when he was called upon to walk down the catwalk and pose for photos. Using this disguise I was also able to get close to one of my targets, assassinate her, and hide her body. One down, one to go. The second target, I snuck into the basement, and disguised myself as a waiter after learning through another Opportunity that the target wanted a particular cocktail made at the bar. I made the cocktail and laced it with rat poison so that when the target drank it, he felt sick, rushed to the toilet to throw up where I snuck in and drowned him, hiding his body, then slipping into the night.

 

Mission Complete – my rating was pretty good and it had only taken me half an hour to infiltrate the place and bump off both targets.

 

Spurred on by my success I loaded up the next level…Two targets to kill and a virus to destroy. Things initially seemed to be going quite well, I managed to infiltrate the target’s mansion, killed one without being detected, the other realised I was not the person she thought I was in the moments before I plunged a knife into her stomach, but both targets went down quietly and so I had only one objective to complete, destroy the virus. This is where I started to run into problems, in the levels there are certain people who have a white dot above their heads, these are people who will see through your disguise if you hang around them too long. Also there are security cameras dotted around the level, if you are recorded you need to destroy the recording otherwise your score will suffer at the end. I spent ages wandering around the mansion trying to find where the CCTV was recorded, eventually I came to a room full of audio visual equipment plus camera feed from around the mansion but could not find any security tapes to destroy. So either it was there and I just didn’t spot it, or it was somewhere else in the mansion entirely. Eventually I got bored and abandoned trying to find the footage. My next problem was that there was a spotter in between me and the door leading to the virus, so I thought, I’ll lure him away; knock him out and job done. Unfortunately, whilst I was subduing him another guard heard the scuffle and came to investigate which blew my cover and so I decided to reload a save. The save was from just before I killed the first target, so I killed him again, adopted a different approach to kill the woman, which again resulted in me being spotted but I pressed on anyway, and eventually managed to infiltrate the basement to where the virus was being kept. After investigating the area and finding no other Opportunities I thought I could just turn up the temperature to kill the virus, unfortunately as I tried to distract the guards one realised what I was doing, my disguise was compromised and because I could not be arsed to reload a previous save I basically just ran to the level exit…as a result of my bumbling I got a poor rating.

 

What I learned from this experience was this: if you are going to play this Hitman game then you need to be patient if you are going to a decent score (the better the score the more unlocks you achieve so there is a reason to be stealthy). I find it irritating that the game will explain certain things but not others, I get recorded on a camera but the game doesn’t then tell me where to go or how to destroy the evidence. I might have been in the right place but as I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for I didn’t know how to destroy the camera footage.

 

The other thing I learned is that things can go south very, very quickly so basically make friends with the Save option. I didn’t want to start relying on the save too much because one of the things you unlock is a mode in which Opportunities won’t be revealed and you can only save once per mission so doing things in one go is my preferred option, however, some of these levels might take upwards of an hour to complete and one mistake could take you back twenty minutes or longer if you are playing one of the lengthier missions so as you have the option to save, do it, and do it often. Plus load up the auto-saves as the game saves the mission progress quite regularly too.

 

47 has more of a personality in this game too, when he adopts various disguises he had talk to his intended victims or other people to lure them away so he can get to his target. He can blend in to certain situations depending on his costumes, (like dressing as a waiter and serving at the bar) so you really do feel like you are infiltrating a location with people that might spot you, rather than a bland background with NPCs that will pay you no more attention to you than they would to a passing moth.

 

I am a little undecided if I actually like Hitman because it can be pretty frustrating if you aren’t sure what you are supposed to do or can’t find the appropriate disguise to complete an Opportunity. Plus, like I said, a mistimed subdue attempt and you start a cascade of failure that only ends when you reload a previous save. But I have to say that the amount of Opportunities within each level are staggering and if you replay the mission you can chose to do a different Opportunity to one you previously chose. The game actively encourages you to play the same levels over and over again, and if I had been downloading the missions one at a time then perhaps I would have become far more skilled at infiltration before cracking straight on with the more complicated later levels. So perhaps that is the key to success, repeat the levels I have done until I become a Hitman legend, and then I’ll recognise recording equipment and other Opportunities without expecting the game to lead me around by the nose.

 

I think that Hitman is a dip-in game, one that you might play for an hour or so rather than blazing through it as fast as possible. The levels are well designed and the graphics are pretty impressive too. There are so many ways that you can complete your objectives and this game is a massive step up from Blood Money, which is all good.

 

The thing is I am looking at the game as it is now, and the experiences that I have had with it thus far. So far, I have found the game to be frustrating, and on occasion pretty boring as you wait for a target to be in just the right place at just the right time so you can kill them. Or you risk moving faster and blowing your cover completely. One mistake can throw off everything you’ve been working up towards so you are going to be relying on the auto-save or manual saves, which personally I don’t want to do. Plus having the game sitting over your shoulder with a check-list in front of it ticking off points as you make errors is also pretty annoying.

 

I guess the question is: am I going to stop playing? And the answer to that question is: no, I’m not. Like I said perhaps it is me and I just need to redo earlier levels until I get my eye in so to speak with how the levels are structured and how to make the best of every Opportunity. For the moment I think I am going to have to leave my Thumb Horizontal (*), because as much fun as I have had, I seem to have spent an equal amount of time with no idea where to go or what to do, or just waiting around for my target to be where I want them to be. I have though put an asterisk next to that Horizontal rating because I will continue to persevere with the game and should my opinion change, as I hopefully get better at it, I will return to do an Update at which time my Thumb rating may change.

 

 

6.5/10 (*) – Again this is my rating based on the time I have spent with the game as of time of writing, and like I said I haven’t yet finished it so this score and my Thumb rating may change. However, as of right now, this instant, I find Hitman to be equal parts fun and equal parts pissing about waiting for your target to be isolated or just getting frustrated, making a mistake and cocking up your play through.

 

TAC Reviews...Hitman Season I (the rest of it)

Date Posted: 11/03/21

 

This is not going to be a full review, more of a Part II as the majority of the things I wanted to cover I talked about in the (Most of) Hitman Season One article. This is more of an update as I recently got round to finishing the game after I completed Doom Eternal. 

 

Hitman The First Season

 

Full disclosure before I go any further, one of the things that I did not cover in any detail (more glazing over it) in my first part of this review was that the game was released in Episodes around a month apart during 2016. But the version that I got was the entire season in one lump sum. The reason that I think this is now important to mention is because the levels are designed to be replayed over and over again. Each one has numerous challenges and different ways and means of killing your targets. You might be tasked with blowing them up, kicking them into a machine of some sort, crushing them, poisoning them and so on. The levels are designed this way because players are going over them again and again whilst waiting for the next Episode to come out. For me though, I was not bothered about replaying levels because I am playing the game to progress through it, not to psychotically kill the targets 47 has been set upon in as many different ways as possible. I mean it is pretty messed up when you think about it. As long as they are dead then why do we need to drown them in a river or shoot a firework up their ass to they are rocketed into the sky??

 

I bring this up because I wonder if I may have missed the point of this version of Hitman. I am concerned with getting through the level as stealthily as possible, and moving on to the next one. Yes you unlock more stuff the more challenges you complete, and therefore more XP, but you can find everything you need to kill the targets in the levels anyway so why bother going in with a ceramic pistol tucked in your shorts or a poisonous tie pin when you can stab them in the throat with a screwdriver or use something in the environment to end your target??

 

Admittedly I did decide to replay a couple of levels but quickly decided to just continue with the game.

 

It turned out that I only had two levels left to do, one set in Colorado and one in a medical facility in Japan.

 

What I quickly realised when I returned to the game this time was that the save option is your best friend because almost as soon as I started the Colorado level I tried to choke out a guy and was spotted immediately. I reloaded a save then tried something else. This time I succeeded and moved into the compound, the auto-save kicks in every time you learn a new bit of intelligence or see an opportunity. I started to use the manual save once I made any kind of progress because if you do make a mistake or get spotted or something there is basically nothing you can do to regain your cover. Guards open fire or witnesses run to alert soldiers or whoever so once a mistake is made you are better off just reloading your most recent save, which if you are saving frequently, will only be a minute or so before hand.

 

I like stealth game and being stealthy. But usually guards have visibility cones so you know when they are likely to spot you. Hitman doesn’t have that which I acknowledge does make it more realistic but 47 also has the ability to use an x-ray like vision to see through walls and his targets glow red. So on the one hand the guards have normal vision ranges yet 47 can see them through walls so realism goes side-by-side with super powers.

 

Whilst I like stealth games I don’t like the save-scumming tactic that the game expects you to use, as if you don’t manually save, the game will be auto-saving every few minutes. I am going to be able to complete any objective if I have unlimited tries at it. I don’t necessarily think that my skills got better as I played I just learned who was going to be where so I could eliminate them, then went somewhere else to endlessly retry different techniques until I managed to kill the next target without being spotted.

 

The end of the level then gives me a 3 star rating but I’m not sure if that was because I kept reloading and the game knew I was doing it so my rating was affected. Or if my rating was based on time because I often managed to kill my targets without being spotted or their bodies found, yet I still only got an average rating. The truth is though that I am not really bothered about getting perfect ratings because I don’t feel like I need to do it. I don’t feel underpowered or ill-equipped when I do the levels so what is the point of trying to unlock more stuff I don’t ever use? This isn’t like playing Doom where you need as many weapons to fight off the armies of demons you are going to be facing off against. In Hitman you can easily kill a target by simply snapping their necks so whilst that is not the most creative means of ending them, it can be done using your own two hands.

 

I did like the game and some of the challenges do describe some ridiculous and hilarious ways of bumping off your targets so I might go back and play it for those reasons more than for things I’d unlock.

 

I think that I have realised that the game wants you to save and reload on your first few tries to get through its levels until you learn how to hone your skills, be mindful of your surroundings so get those 5 Star ratings. In some games I am a 100% completion nutter and will put in hours of additional playtime to get all of the things available, however, ratings are not something that I am concerned about. I said when I reviewed the first part of the game that I was not about to stop playing it, which technically I didn’t, it simply took me just under 4 years to return to it (and bear in mind the country had a lockdown during that time). I can’t say that I didn’t like playing the game, it was just that the constant saving and reloading just got annoying after a while because there is no way to correct a mistake without restarting or reloading.

 

I gave the overall game a 6.5/10 on my first review and now that I have finished it I think that marking was a little harsh. Now that I have realised that the game expects me to save and reload constantly until I have learned how to play through with the trained eye of a hitman, sadly I am just not so into the game that I can be bothered to keep replaying the levels over and over now that the game is complete.

 

Now that I have finished the game and it has been left open for Season Two to continue the story I may replay it if I were to get the next chapter in this reboot franchise just to refresh my memory regarding what is happening. But with other games that I’d rather play in my library I think Hitman may be destined to fall back out of my attention.

 

That being said I think that I will raise my originally rating from 6.5/10 to 7.5/10 because the sheer effort and variety that has gone into making the levels intricate, detailed with so many different ways and means to kill your target that if I were more into it, I would have loved to replay them over and over again. 

 

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