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.