Episodic releases are kind of like Schweppes – instantly refreshing but they leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Jokes aside, this trend in the gaming world seems to be on the rise, and it also seems that the AAA games developers have taken a liking to it. They liked it so much that we’re going to play the next Hitman, the cult simulation of paid assassin, in episodes. Although this isn’t an intoxicating “demo” overture for a vast main dish, like it was with Ground Zero, we can’t but sense a similar taste that only a bite out of a good sandbox game can have. We have the first episode before us, our palms cold and sweaty, and we’re ready to play. So let’s see what Agent 42’s new adventure has to offer…
There is no doubt that game developers are learning from their past experiences. This will certainly be immediately obvious as you start playing episode 1. Even if its “crammed” into one massive level, you’ll be able to sense the inspiration it draws from its own roots. The new Hitman is definitely a worthy successor to its legendary predecessor, Blood Money, reminding us with its open approach to the mission about everything we loved about this game. The level, even if there is only one in this episode, won’t seem linear at all; on the contrary, it will be full of life and flowing like a river which you can cross whichever way you choose.
The new Hitman serves a purpose of a prequel and a sequel at the same time. Through the intro, you get to learn commands and the way to play the game; you’ll go through Agent 42’s first experiences at the beginning of his career. Twenty years later, flash-forward to Paris, level one, you continue in his footsteps in the events after Hitman: Absolution. Here you will already be amazed by the vibrancy and openness of the new game. You have a vast level before you, filled with over 300 computer controlled characters that will all “go about their business” and really bring the whole scene to life. You’ll have only one task upon your shoulders – to eliminate your target, as quietly and efficiently as possible… No one is stopping you from showing off and killing as many people as you can, but that was never the point of Hitman games. Here you’re asked to be a sophisticated and elegant wind of death. Brrrr….
The longer you look around the level and listen to other characters’ conversations, the more you’ll see all the opportunities you can use to achieve your goal. Many windows of opportunities will reveal and disappear before Agent 42, and that’s what makes this game not only fun, but replay-worthy. Even though you only have one level, you are certainly going to play it at least a few times again, if only to try and reach your goal in a faster, more efficient or fun way.
From the very beginning of the series, Hitman was guided by the phrase “The suit makes a man”. Therefore, here you’ll need appropriate suits to disguise yourself and easily infiltrate certain, otherwise off limits, locations. But don’t be fooled into believing that you’ll always manage to outsmart your enemies this way. An assassin’s way is a way of disguises, sneaking around and using the environment, all to be able to move as stealthily as possible, and reach your goal. If it were all that easy, Agent 42 wouldn’t go bald from anguish.
If we put this game side by side with its predecessor Hitman: Absolution, graphics-wise, unless you try very hard, you won’t be able to tell there’s any difference at all. Even though this isn’t a big minus, a lot of this new sequel’s faults lie in its technical incompleteness when it comes to game mechanics. You’ll often complete a mission thanks to the stupefied AI that can’t see you before him. At the same time, you’ll have to tackle a number of bugs that will sometime make the mission too easy, and sometimes make it hard as hell. With all this in consideration, we can’t help but feel that the new Hitman is something already seen too many times to enthuse us the properly.
On the other hand, the possibility to immerse yourself into the intricacy of the level, which when combined with the “Contract” missions may distract you from the main goal for quite some time, certainly suggests that Hitman has a lot to offer. Additionally, you can create the “Contract” missions yourself, which definitely places the classic Hitman sandbox gameplay to the forefront.
Whether all of the episodes of the new Hitman game will be “The Magnificent Seven” or “The Seven Dwarves”, remains to be seen. In any case, there’s no doubt that they will have something to offer, even to players who aren’t the hardcore fans of the series. But we won’t even mention the hardcore fans, who welcome any form of continuation of the Hitman saga. The recognizable style and charm are still there, well blended music and the tense atmosphere of the intruder in the open. Don’t let the game pull you out of its carefully built atmosphere with its many bugs, and there’s no doubt you’ll have a lot of fun. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up as a disinterested child who can’t even count to seven yet.
Author: Milan Živković