HITMAN comes more or less completed, with additions releasing over the next several months. IO Interactive has listened to their community and even gone back to previous to learn what made their past games such a success. In that, this base series of levels for HITMAN, is a game that goes back to its roots while bringing modern design and a story that fills in gaps without getting in the way of the star: the gameplay. It stands to be the best Hitman game yet.
However you obtain HITMAN‘s first episode, whether it be purchasing the Full Experience or the Intro Pack, is the start of a game that is treated more as a platform than a finite release that you’d normally expect. New levels will be released as add-on DLC in monthly installments. As such, you get to know the levels more intimately as you will more often replay them for better scores, completing challenges, and seeing everything there is to offer. In past Hitman games, once you completed a level, you’d more often than not just move on to the next and not look back. The way this encourages replays and how it satisfies replays are well-done.
What you get with this first episode or Intro Pack, is a tutorial level and a mission that replicates 1979 ICA mission that fill in the Prologue. Then there’s the “Showstopper” mission which takes place in Paris at a luxurious mansion. If you participated in the Beta over the past couple months, you might be less than thrilled that you’ve played 75% of the content available in this first episode. What is thrilling is how exciting is to replay these levels across under different modes and challenges. In most games where replayability is forced, HITMAN does it with style and excitement every time you play.
HITMAN is an open canvas to paint with blood. You can discretely or indiscriminately murder your targets and those around them to accomplish the task. The farther you stray from the objective, the less you are able to achieve a high score. But if none of that matters to you, IO Interactive have created many situations in which you are able to dispatch targets. For instance, you can eavesdrop for opportunities. These opportunities will clue you in to ways to achieve your target kill, such as going through a flight safety checklist with the target or assuming the identity of a world-famous supermodel and walk the runway. These are two individual mission’s most elaborate and high-profile ways to get close to eliminate your target, but that’s hardly the most satisfying. These opportunities can be turned off should you want to organically discover them. You can also turn off Agent 47’s instinct mode that allows him to see through walls to find targets and those who would find you suspicious. The ability to make the game more challenging and more like the first two Hitman games to allow for discovery.
If nothing else, the best thing to come out Hitman: Absolution was Contracts mode. This allowed you to create a mission on-the-fly, and set goals for others to accomplish in the most efficient way possible. These pieces of user generated content can be excellent, difficulty, or downright simple. If maybe these types of things aren’t what you’re interested, maybe the timed missions known as Elusive Targets are more your speed. These missions have you trying to eliminate a target before they disappear, miss them and it’s mission over. Perhaps the most tense and layer-rich mode is Escalation Contracts. These have you going through a mission up to five times, with an ever-increasingly complex laundry list of items to complete. Thankfully, if you fail you can retry from where you left off, but these contracts are ever-so-satisfying.
Another thing from Hitman: Absolution that just didn’t work was the checkpointing and save system. That’s all been overhauled for HITMAN, making for autosaves happening at certain points, and the ability to save anywhere and everywhere manually a joy. It’s a generous and fantastic system that allows you to save before making a move, and should that fail, can load the previous save and try it a different way.
I must address that my time playing HITMAN on both PS4 and PC over the launch weekend incurred some connectivity issues with the server. While I love the “live game” aspect of Hitman with contracts coming in constantly and leaderboards compared in real-time, the always online aspect really put a damper on the game. This is because HITMAN has separate online and offline saves. These saves are not compatible with each other. And worse, is that you can be in the middle of a mission while online, and if you lose connection even for a moment, you’re unceremoniously booted to the main menu to retry. If you didn’t have a recent save, you’d have to make up for that lost time. If your save was online only, you’d have to start the mission over while offline to make progress. The situation seems to have improved at the time of this writing, but you should be warned that this was a problem.
Editor’s Note: As part of a season consisting of to-be-released episodes, this is not a scored review. Once all of the HITMAN episodes are released, a final review will be published.
HITMAN delivers on every aspect of gameplay, with its ancillary modes and features are reasons to return and challenge yourself. However, the server issues proved to be very problematic. That said, HITMAN is a return to form for the series and the developer, breathing new life into each other to produce what I find to be the best Hitman game that has ever been. It certainly has issues with AI behavior and unpredictability, but it is no doubt the start of something great, and I cannot wait to see what else is coming for this season of HITMAN.
A PlayStation 4 and Steam “Full Experience” code were provided by the publisher for review purposes.