Console: PlayStation 4
* Sandbox levels are huge and provide near infinite possibilities
* Extremely satisfying to assassinate your target unnoticed and escape clean
* Episodic release schedule forces you to experience maps more thoroughly
* Episodic release schedule severely limits content initially
* Online connectivity requirement can be a nuisance
I very much remember my introduction in to the world of Hitman very clearly. It was the year 2000 and I had just graduated from high school. I had a fair amount of PC experience at this point, but I was still new to 3D gaming on the PC platform. I had grown up playing the commodore 64, NES, SNES and spent quite a few years with the Nintendo 64. However once I reached the age where I could get a job, it wasn’t long before I purchased a modern PC and surfed the internet at the lightening speeds of 56K on my brand new Windows 98SE E-Machine. A whole new world was unfolding before my eyes as the internet that I once knew was growing at lightning speeds. Now almost everything had a website, chat rooms were booming and of course who doesn’t remember the rise and fall of Napster.
The only thing I needed at this point was to go game shopping and see what else I could get out this machine. I remember coming home from Hastings with Phantasmagoria 2 and Hitman very early on and wondering what it would be like to step into the shoes on a Hitman. Not too many games at the time gave you quite as many options and portrayed them as adult as Hitman did. What is memorable about this experience is that I wasn’t quite versed in the world of graphics cards yet and after making my way home with this game, my PC refused to run the game until I upgraded the video card. Luckily the disappointment didn’t last long and after another trip to store, I finally dove into the amazing world of Hitman.
Since then there have been numerous entries of the series on various consoles which managed to capture my attention in ways that very few games can. If you have never played a Hitman game before, know it’s a very difficult series to sum up with just a few words. It was the first game I knew of that took assassinations so seriously and set out to provide the most accurate representation of this profession as possible.
I was very anxious to check out the brand new Hitman of 2016 and see how the series had evolved since I last stepped foot into this world. The only thing I knew going in was the controversial change to an episodic release schedule. Was this a huge development mistake or pure marketing genius? To be honest I’m still not sure and I believe the only way to know is to see how it all plays out between now and January of next year.
At first glance this game is a nightmare to figure out exactly what content is included and leaves many people wondering when exactly their Intro experience ends. Let me start by breaking everything down.
Intro Pack (Prologue + Paris) $15 or local equivalent
Following locations $10 each or local equivalent
Upgrade Pack $50 or local equivalent
Full Experience $60 or local equivalent
*With the Full Experience players get access to all of the year’s content, beginning with the Prologue and Paris (Intro Pack), then travelling to Sapienza in April and Marrakesh in May before travelling to Thailand, United States and concluding in Japan. In total there will be 7 episodes released in 2016.
Note: Disc version will be available Jan. 2017
As of this moment the only content available is the Intro Pack which includes the Prologue Training Levels and the single Paris level. The main point of confusion for me (and many others judging by a forums) is once I completed the training levels and the first real contract, you are given a cutscene that simply directs you back to one of the planning menus. I assumed this was all that had been included but I wasn’t quite sure. Many would say this should be self explanatory and the level select screen clearly ends with the cutscene. I suppose this is true, but I was left wondering if perhaps I didn’t meet the required objectives or somehow still had other requirements to meet. Perhaps I’m just used to the way other franchises usually promote micro transactions and expected things to be presented more clearly.
The other issue I have with this entry is the layout of the menu and the “highlight” screen. I understand the intent was to provide a “one stop” screen to capture your mission progress, new contracts and upcoming content; but I found myself bouncing around for a bit trying to figure out where exactly everything was. Perhaps one of the reasons this menu fails for me is that not much content is available yet and it seems to present more content than what is actually there. I am open to changing my mind on this portion of the game, and I am very curious to see how this menu operates once there is additional content available.
My final complaint of this 2016 edition of Hitman would be the dependence on the connection to the Square Enix servers. While most of have internet connected machines and usually this isn’t a problem, I truly have an issue with more and more games relying on these type of connections. I do understand the need for this service due to network features and gameplay enhancements, but relying on this connectivity for solo missions tends to be asking for problems and complaints. One of these moments happened to me as I was mid contract and seen the session timeout and crashed due to connection issues with the Square servers. Granted after being thrown to the main menu I was able to reconnect and load back in almost immediately, but I still lost all of my unsaved progress which was severely disappointing. While this is always heartbreaking, in the Hitman world it can be devastating due to the large amount of setup time depending on the approach taken. I’m not sure if I agree with or fully understand the need for this requirement.
I truly hate pointing out the negative aspects to some games and this is one that I absolutely want to stress the fact that the above mentioned issues are not at all “deal breakers”. True the initial content is a little scarce, but it’s important to keep the price in perspective. This is definitely $15 worth of content and I have the feeling that by the end of its cycle, the $60 price point will be well earned.
A lot of people will be undecided on the decision to release content in an episodic manner. There is no doubt that some people will focus on the negative aspect of this argument, but after playing through the Intro Pack I have to honestly say I am really liking this decision more and more. I understand that the Hitman games are best experienced with multiple playthroughs and finding new ways to take out your targets can be extremely satisfying. Having said all of this, rarely have I replayed missions. I’m not quite sure why, but I have always had difficulty replaying Hitman missions in the past.
With just a few new maps available at a time, I feel that this entry of the series changes this for me. As always I really enjoyed the gameplay and approached the contracts very slowly. I took my time to learn their routines and examine the options available for taking them out. After weighing out the various ways I could see these targets die, I picked the most interesting and started my executions. Sometimes these worked and others not so much. The biggest difference in this entry is when a plan doesn’t go exactly the way you had in mind, you can’t just go on to the next mission and say you will come back later. If you want to keep playing you either have to switch modes (and still play the same level) or give it another go. At first I was a bit disappointed in this but after diving back in I quickly picked up on others parts of the level that were available or things that I had missed the first time through. It’s kind of like going down an aisle in a department store for a second time. No matter how much you paid attention there is always something that you missed the first time through. This is absolutely the case with Hitman and I am pretty sure I still haven’t seen or heard anything.
Single Player: A
In case I wasn’t clear enough before, this entry of Hitman is absolutely stellar. The complaints I have are very minor as long as you accept the episodic nature of this release. When you get down to the gameplay the mechanics are as solid as they get. Anyone who has stepped in this world before will feel very much at home. In case by some chance you never have, you are in for a real treat. In my opinion it’s exactly as you think it would be. You get Intel on who your contract is and it’s up to you to figure out how to take them out. Every map and target has numerous ways they can die including to just go in guns blazing, but if you play this way you are missing the entire point. This game is best experienced by taking your time and exploring each level, watching your target from a distance and trying to find the perfect opportunity to take them out unnoticed.
Like I mentioned earlier, once you complete this task you are able to jump right back in and approach the kill from another angle. You are able to take out anyone in the level and usually take their clothes as a disguise. Just be sure to hide the body or it will be found later and could come back to bite you exactly when you don’t want it to. There are plenty of weapons and environmental methods to taking out targets, staff members or even innocent bystanders. There are also conversations to eavesdrop on giving you insight into things you may never find otherwise. The more I play this game, the more I tend to unveil and I highly recommend just diving in and experience this for yourself.
Aside from the story mode there is an all new Escalation mode that will assign you a series of the hits that increase in difficulty as you progress introducing new elements and restrictions with every round. There are also Elusive Targets that only appear for a very limited amount of time allowing for a single chance to make the hit. These modes are very cool additions, but my absolute favorite is the Contracts mode.
With the Contracts mode you are able to tackle user created hits that provide an even greater level of depth. I was extremely impressed going into the same map I had played previously and was assigned a different target by the creator. An individual that I just walked past before without giving him a second glance turned out to be a full fledged man with conversations, and routine that I could manipulate and plot a well thought out hit. This is only beaten by the ability to mark your own targets and upload contracts yourself for others to play. The best thing about this mode is that you create the contracts by doing them yourself which eliminates the creation of impossible restrictions and targets.
I suppose you could count the network features as a multiplayer feature, but since you can’t actually play contracts with another agent local or online I will leave this section alone.
Replay Value: A
These maps are meant to play over and over and all of the included modes serve to provide the perfect environment to enjoy the world of Hitman. Taking out your target with your silenced pistol, screwdriver, a pair of scissors, your hands, poison, or even by sabotaging a part of the environment are just a few ways to approach each kill. Not to mention every target has their own schedule, people they interact with, and items they use. There are almost endless options here for players to experience and enjoy.
I highly recommend you spend at least the $15 for the Intro Pack and give Hitman a try. This initial pack is well worth the money and plenty of content is on the way for the future. Do yourself a favor a check this one out for yourself.