For those that were worried about Square Enix’s business decision to divide the new Hitman in parts before a standard and complete retail release, your fears have been confirmed. Hitman, besides a couple prologue missions that act as a tutorial, only comes with one main story quest set in Paris that tasks the player with taking out two targets at a fashion show. The mission is great, and so is the limited plot we were given along with the excellent soundtrack and solid gunplay. And sure there are other modes and user-generated contracts, but it still feels as though the lone story mission that can be completed between 20 minutes and 2 hours – it took me about an hour – is being held back by the fact that the developer has to deliver future episodes. But having said all that, Hitman is a great stealth game and offers a larger sandbox than last generation’s Absolution and that’s what matters most.
The story, as you may have seen in the excellent pre-release trailers, follows Agent 47 from his inception into the International Contract Agency (ICA) meeting his handler Diana Burnwood, all the way to a major hit in Paris that introduces the main villain in a brief end cut scene. Players are able to play through the prologue missions that were available in last month’s beta before jumping in to the main showcase in Paris. The tutorial is excellently crafted and introduced me to the game’s mechanics and what is possible in the sandbox IO Interactive has created. I tried going in stealthy, disguising as a police officer, and just shooting my way through an enormous crowd. It should be noted that players can lock the FPS at 30 for a more consistent experience or can unlock it to reach 60 FPS on consoles, although this causes more severe and noticeable drops in largely populated areas – in which there are quite a few. The game supports varying playstyles but the AI is at times inconsistent, forcing you to reload and sit through a terribly long loading screen. The prologue missions vary from taking out a target among a packed crowd to infiltrating a military base with a set number of guards. Cut scenes are capped before and after the prologue although I hoped for additional story content as what is there now has the potential to be a great narrative.
“Mechanically, the gameplay feels tight and I did not have any issues with the camera or sneaking around.”
Once you’ve finished the prologue, you can move on to the main event in Paris. Before the mission, players can set up their loadouts, although you must first complete challenges to alter anything as the game encourages replaying missions differently and going back in with a different arsenal. Said mission can be completed in what seems like an infinite amount of ways as I snuck through the crowds of fashion aficionados and kept finding new opportunities to take out my targets. Opportunities, marked on-screen, are different methods to take out targets and some of them are timed. If you don’t execute the opportunity available before the chance goes missing, the game alerts you and Agent 47 has to go about assassinating the targets in a different way. Some opportunities felt unfair and ended far too quickly, although I would just create several different save points to see how each played out.
Mechanically, the gameplay feels tight and I did not have any issues with the camera or sneaking around. It seems developer IO Interactive purposefully put more sting in the weapons as its difficult to keep your reticle on target, but in a game all about stealth I enjoyed this design decision and it made me think twice before giving up on a carefully planned approach to instead shoot my way out. The only weapon issue I had was not being able to use the silenced pistol as the range for enemies to hear a shot is far too large. When I did get to headshot a guard monitoring surveillance in the attic, it felt incredibly satisfying even after I frantically whipped my camera around to see if anybody else had heard. The stealth gameplay fits in perfectly with an astonishing spy soundtrack that had me feeling like James Bond, despite Agent 47 lacking the hair follicles to really put me in the experience. Although some players might refuse to use the right bumper ability to see through walls, which could be argued breaks the immersion.
Asides from the main quests, players can play user-generated contract missions that allow them to create their own hits for others to tackle. Escalation missions task the player with taking out specific targets in certain ways like requiring you to use a certain weapon or be wearing some type of disguise. IO Interactive plan to drop more content for players over the months on top of the planned episodes, and these extra goodies make for some really fun missions.
Episode 1 of Hitman 2016 (or whatever it will be called in 10 years when more games in the series are out) is a worthy piece of content and expands the already fantastic sandbox the franchise has provided players. A lack of more story missions and only a tantalizing tease to the uber interesting main villain is a letdown, but what’s there is undoubtedly great. IO Interactive has created a solid base to build on in further episodes of Hitman and hopefully they can address the problems found in the intro pack.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***
- Immersive musical score
- Plethora of stealth mechanics
- Intriguing narrative
- Lack of content
- Not enough story