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‘Hitman’, fleeting fun

Mar 16, 2016

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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“Welcome back, Agent 47”.

HitmanIt may be hard to believe but gamers have heard those famous words from handler Diana Burnwood for over 16 years. From the icy streets of Russia to the crowded streets of Japan, from a gangster’s Italian mansion to an ancient Indian temple, the mysterious, silent assassin, Agent 47, has eliminated targets in every setting imaginable.

Simply titled ‘Hitman’, the latest in the franchise has one foot in the past, introducing us to The International Contract Agency recruiting Agent 47, and one foot in the present.

The most radical change to the series is a controversial one. At present, ‘Hitman’ is being released in an episodic manner, much like Telltale’s Walking Dead series was, with new content being released on a monthly basis. If you purchase a full-priced digital copy of the game, the monthly expansions are included. Those who buy the "Intro Pack" must purchase them individually. The entire game will be available in January 2017.

HitmanThe first chapter includes the Prologue, which was playable during the open beta, and the Paris mission. It is comprised of two ICA training missions. In the first assignment at the recruitment facility, Agent 47 must take out a Kalvin Ritter, a retired cat burglar, aboard his crowded party yacht. You can do so by disguising yourself a maintenance worker, yacht staff or a member of the security force. In the second mission, a U.S. chess master is not who he appears to be. Jasper Knight is really a KGB agent who killed the U.S. Soviet Ambassador and you are going to finally make him pay. Knight is located on a remote airfield in Cuba. To gain access to the target, you can disguise yourself as military personnel or an airfield worker.

The present day mission in Paris requires you to waste two targets, a fashion mogul, gangster and a former supermodel who created her own spy ring and is selling sensitive and dangerous information for profit. The fun part is the operation takes place at a full-fledged fashion show, which, depending on how your tactics, could have you walking the runway and strutting your stuff.

Imagine that.

All of the operations exemplify the new approach by developers IO Interactive and that is to shy away from the linear mission approach, creating a more of a sandbox experience while still maintaining the core attraction to Hitman which is that any mission can be successfully completed using a wide variety of methods, approaches. You can stealthily assassinate your targets using poison or rigging what appear to be “freak accidents” or take a more aggressive approach, pushing them over ledges, shooting them point-blank or blowing them up, depending on which opportunity presents itself and how you want to play the game.

HitmanFor the most part, the sandbox scenario works in the sense that the locations are massive with lots of places to explore and in doing so, you can reveal multiple ways to complete the hit. Sometimes though, things don’t go according to plan. For example, during the Paris mission, masquerading as the male runway model, I set up a private meeting with the spy ring leader. When I did find her, nothing was triggered. She just flat-out ignored me so I just followed her around until I could snap her neck in her own office and stuff her body into a wardrobe. Since I was disguised as the model, I could wander around the premises without raising any attention and that made a fix to the hiccup quite easy.

That’s another thing; the suspicion dynamic is sometimes flaky as well. Guards or security officers can randomly become alerted to you, even though they haven’t discovered any of your victims and you haven’t stepped out of line in any way.

What does mitigate this is that there are disguises like an army general’s uniform or the aforementioned model which give you access to any part of the map. You can also save throughout a session making it easier to go back and correct your mistakes or try out fresh strategies.

If you want to try your hand at being Diana you can do so by creating your own assassination scenario and sharing them with the world in Contracts mode.

HitmanEven with the changes made by IO Interactive, ‘Hitman’ stays true to the experience that has had fans hooked since the series debuted in 2000. The letdown is the episodic nature of the release. Just when you gain some momentum and are becoming pulled into the underlying story, the experience ends...until next month. While the “to be continued” approach may work for simplistic adventure games like The Walking Dead or King’s Quest, it just doesn’t for an action game like ‘Hitman’. It just ruins the flow. Most gamers like playing through an entire game all at once so they don’t have to change their mind-set, get used to the controls, options again or remember what was happening when they last left off.

While it is true that the levels are enormous and ‘Hitman’ is by its very nature, a game in which you can play the same scenario and discover new ways to tackle the same problems, you can only do that so much, if you wish to at all. Since the missions themselves are so intricate, with many, many steps to complete, some would rather just beat a level once and move on because starting things all over again can be such a chore. What we have experienced of 'Hitman' thus far is very encouraging but it is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.

See ya, next month. Same Bat-Time. Same Bat-Channel.

HitmanHitman: Intro Pack
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: IO Interactive
ESRB Rating: M for Mature

Official Site:

Rating: 7 / 10

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