Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: PS4
Hitman – Preview
It’s a strange turn to bring out an action packed title like Hitman in episodic releases. The last title in the series was relying a little bit too much on shooting and linearity. Did Square listen to players this time, and successfully iron out these aspects in favour of more open worlds and gameplay matching the episodic nature of their latest project?
The newest game in the series, simply titled Hitman, first brings you to the early days of Agent 47. The ‘way early’ days to be precise, as you follow the assassin’s training from initiate to full-fledged hitman under the guidance of handler Diana Burnwood.
As a promising green bean, you soon get to try your hand at your very first test: the game’s actual tutorial level. Even though the level is supposedly fake and full of actors, your objective is clear as you are sent out to get rid of master thief Kalvin ‘The Sparrow’ Ritter who is on a cruise ship.
During this first prologue mission, the game leads you through the whole level by offering fixed hints and tips in order to help players ease into the controls. You’re taught to efficiently stalk people, how to use your Instinct in order to spot your target, where to hide bodies and how to evade general suspicion.
Though the tutorial does lead you by the hand for most of it, you quickly learn the new Hitman is allowing for a lot more roaming than its predecessor, Hitman: Absolution, did. Depending on the disguise you’ve managed to get your hands on – because yes, they are back! – different areas of the ship will become accessible. For example, donning the clothes of a technician does allow you access to the cruise ship. However, guards will still stop you from going to the higher decks. Find a waiter to ‘loan’ their slacks from though, and it’s a completely different story.
Though knocking people unconscious or downright killing them in order to get a new outfit is fun, not playing your part right can easily get you wasted. The various NPCs all come with a specific AI that makes them suspect you less or more depending on your general looks. For example, pretend to work the bar while dressed like a waiter and nobody will obviously bat an eye, but push people out of the way and they will literally lose their minds.
Though the AI definitely got an upgrade since the previous instalments of the series, the disguise system in Hitman does still heavily rely on the player’s suspension of disbelief. Again our own adventures as a waiter come with a perfect example. Imagine your target standing only a mere feet away while having a drink and a chat. Feigning to actually work the job you’re dressed for might get you even closer. You move towards the bar, ready to take the cloth lying about and rub that thing till it shine so you get ample time to eavesdrop on The Sparrow. However… a brainfart has you push the wrong action button, giving you a near heart attack as you see Agent 47, then still known simply as ‘Initiate’, leap over the counter. Ritter’s eyes are fixed on you, your heart races and – nothing happens. Even better, nobody around is even a teeny bit suspicious. Yep, apparently it’s completely normal for this ship’s crew to vault over property as long as there are ample drinks around. Seems legit.
Honestly, there are enough times when you’ll raise an eyebrow at NPCs reactions, but every single one of them adds a certain charm to the game. In a good way. Perfect AI is still years away, so best we can do today is have a chuckle at the many strange quirks different characters display.
Once you’ve fulfilled your objective however, you get to try again. This time the hand-holding is traded for a gentle push in the back. Go on, lad, now it’s time to spread your wings and get creative. Yes, Hitman allows for a great amount of ways to annihilate people, ranging from simply shooting your targets, luring them by tossing coins before jumping them, to even drowning them in the toilet. The many choices give the game an impressive replayability and will surely spark multiple conversations with your friends.
The second level, in which you need to infiltrate a base in order to take down a former chess master turned spy, demands a lot more stealth. As getting in with security this tight isn’t a mere walk in the park, eavesdropping can actually offer surprisingly exciting new opportunities. This is exactly where the Opportunity System comes in. Whenever there is a chance to get new insights from NPCs, these get marked for your convenience. Get close enough and their juicy discussions can turn into wonderful ways to get where you want to go or even maim, injure or kill certain unsuspecting people. Either way, they certainly add to the fun of it all.
As it takes time to get to know the various behaviours of random NPCs and your target, you’ll frequently find yourself in a pinch. When you are unable to shake off suspicion, guards from all over quickly get alarmed and come after you. In Hitman being found out isn’t simply something you can easily get out of, because this time enforcers are a lot more trigger happy than you have the muscle power to subdue them in time. Sure, you could try to get out after pretending to surrender, but usually this strategy gets you nothing but an early demise. In other words: it’s best to stay as invisible as possible and leave as little tracks as you can.
Hitman has some really sweet graphics that help set the mood. The various outfits and locations come with great detail and the cutscenes are delicious to watch. There still are some clipping issues in certain areas, for example when using a door that swings towards you rather than away. Luckily there aren’t actually that bad.
The new periodic stealth and adventure title Hitman comes with enough to satisfy anyone’s sneaking and killing needs. Graphics are definitely next gen worthy and add greatly to the suspense. The game brings NPCs alive with their own little bits of AI which can turn an event into a thrilling hunting game or a hilarious incident altogether. Maps are open for exploration, as long as you find a way to get in at least. Combined with the various ways you can end a target’s life, this adds to the already high replayability of every level. Considering this and the choice to bring Hitman out in episodes, it is clear that Square is aiming to get players to find and discuss as many ways to get the job done as possible which should keep missions fresh until the next level launches. We’re definitely looking forward to this one.