It’s been nearly a year since IO Interactive’s risky experiment with the Hitman franchise and after the full release of all the episodes, including numerous updates, Hitman is finally a complete package.
Developer: IO Interactive
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with a PS4 code for review
When the first episode dropped I was concerned about the quality of future levels, how IO was going to keep fans interested in the month long wait between episodes, performance issues, and always online requirement; I’m glad to say all my initial issues have all been answered and corrected.
Starting with the elephant in the room: the required online connection. This was frustrating because you couldn’t continue a game offline and playing offline didn’t contribute to your mastery level which means you wouldn’t unlock any new gear. This was especially frustrating at launch when the servers were a rollercoaster, going down almost as soon as they went back up, but it’s been ironed out since then. The issue of not being able to unlock items offline is still a factor though, and while they did update the game to allow access to unlocked items in an offline state, it’s still not the solution to a very fixable problem. The framerate has also noticeably improved and while the load times aren’t perfect, it’s been refined just enough to land in that sweet spot of tolerance.
A known struggle in the game industry is keeping gamer’s attention on a game over a long period of time so they don’t go out and trade-in the game or uninstall it from their digital library. IO managed to succeed in this regard with a steady stream of content throughout the months. Each month introduced a new locale and other episodic focused game developers could learn a thing or two from Hitman about keeping a tight schedule. These levels were varied, from a hotel in Bangkok to a farm in Colorado, and not a single one could be considered “bad.” The only thing that had me scratching my head was the inclusion of a story that was less of a plot and more like a couple of random scenes slapped together to form the idea of a story. It was by no means an annoyance to have in the game, but they could be quietly patched out of the game and nobody would even notice, let alone care. Interspersed between the major episode releases were escalation missions which are smaller, bite-sized missions in existing levels that start you with a fairly basic objective that slowly increases in difficulty and complexity. A mission might start with simply eliminating a target, then the next stage requires eliminating that same target in a specific way and then you’re required to eliminate another target 30 seconds after killing your first. These missions are a thrill to play through and their increasing complexity just adds layers to a game built like an onion. In addition to the core levels and dozens of escalation missions, there are also two bonus missions that were released that take two existing levels and give them a complete visual makeover with the main highlight being the movie shoot in Sapienza. There’s already a lot to work through in Hitman and that’s with me failing to mention the contracts mode, which honestly pales in comparison to the intricately created missions by IO but is still a decent diversion.
The most brilliant aspect of Hitman is that its episodic nature works heavily in its favor and I’d actually prefer it if the series stuck to this formula from now on. Regardless of whether the purpose behind the episodic release was intentional or not (it was likely budget reasons), my doubts over spacing out each mission were wiped away as the year went on. With the release of each new episode the genius of this format slowly started to dawn on me; this could have blown up in IO’s face in so many ways and the fact that it didn’t is nothing short of a miracle. Hitman is probably the most intimate of the series in that you really get a proper feel for each level due to the fact that it’s the only one you have access to for an entire month. You’ll replay that single mission dozens of times to bump up that mastery rating and thanks to the game constantly adding new escalation missions, you always have a new way of approaching a mission. With the previous games giving you access to all the levels at once, there was a chance you never played most of the levels more than once since they may not have given a great first impression or you might just want to skip to your favorite mission. In the month long wait for the next episode, Hitman basically forces you to sit and learn the ins and outs of the current level and it’s better for it because this is all to prepare you for the game’s elusive targets: difficult targets that don’t show up on the map, are only available for a few days and allow you a single chance at attempting them.
The only sort of assistance you’re given is a short bio on your target that offers some clue as to how you might be able to find them. With the elusive targets only being available for a limited period of time you really need a firm understanding of how to traverse the level they’re on and suddenly the reasoning behind that month of practice kicks in. When a target’s bio mentions they’re in Bangkok and not coming in by boat I already know what remaining locations they could possibly start in and my search radius is immediately made smaller. Or when their bio says they tend to frequent the cafe in Marrakesh, I already know half a dozen ways I could enter or exit that building, and a slew of ways inside the building to eliminate them. Taking one of these targets out is already an exhilarating achievement, but managing to pull off a Silent Assassin rating is worth some good bragging rights with your friends.
The Final Word
Hitman is a brilliant, and welcomed addition to the series and I’m eagerly awaiting the next season.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 5 out of 5 – Excellent