When it comes to stealth games, my sneaking abilities are right up there with the likes of Johnny English, Rowan Atkinson’s lovable, bumbling secret agent character from the silver screen. For those unfamiliar with Johnny English, I’m trying to say I am about as subtle as an explosion. After the abysmal Alekhine’s Gun nearly turned me off to the stealth genre altogether earlier this month, Hitman rode in on its white horse and picked me up. I realized that even I had the potential to become a trained agent of death lurking in the shadows…or one standing directly in front of the target, blending in behind the bar while they sip on a cocktail laced with rat poison.
Release Date: March 11th for the Intro Pack & Paris
Developer: Io Interactive
Platforms: PS4 (Version played), Xbox One, PC
Price: $14.99 (Intro Pack + Paris), $49.99 (Upgrade Pack), $59.99 (Full Experience), $139.99 (Collector’s Edition)
Developer Io’s newest Hitman outing serves as both a follow up to 2012’s Hitman: Absolution, and a prequel that gives us some insight into how Agent 47 began working for the ICA (International Contract Agency). The prologue offers players a tutorial, while also acting as a simulation for assessing 47’s abilities and introducing us to his handler, Diana. While there is a meaty tutorial set on a cruise ship that guides players through the basics of the game’s mechanics, the core simulation mission is set on an airfield training base in Cuba where 47 is tasked with taking down a Soviet spy named Jasper Knight. It is during this mission that the game opens its briefcase of tricks to players and presents dozens of ways to assassinate Knight that range from electrocuting him to sabotaging a fighter jet ejector seat and blasting him through the roof. Sneaking around the complex also presents some elaborate assassination opportunities via eavesdropping on various conversations. These opportunities can be tracked and serve to help guide players into setting up more complex ways to dispose of Mr. Knight.
After you’ve had your fill of finding various ways to send Jasper Knight six feet under, a spiffy montage brings us to a present day Paris fashion show where 47 has arrived to strut his stuff. The Paris fashion show is an impressive scene, boasting far more NPCs on-screen than Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Here, Io casually lets go of your hand as you scope out the sizeable establishment. Paris offers a single story mission with two targets to subdue. While this may not sound like much on paper, Feats and Challenges ensure you have hours of content to tackle. Feats and Challenges — a series of tasks and objectives to accomplish during the mission — force you to explore the environment thoroughly as you attempt to learn where to locate various items, targets, and escape routes, and when to utilize which disguises. Series veterans may breeze through all of this content without breaking a sweat, but newcomers — like myself — will find Feats and Challenges are the perfect way to hone their sneaky assassin abilities. Nothing boosts the calculated-killer-confidence quite like eliminating a target before leaving the party in dramatic style. There are cutscenes depicting an over-arching story that play upon successful completion of the mission, but it’s too soon to judge this first season’s story as this introductory pack is simply a taste of what is to come.
To help tide players over between locations and episodes are both the Contracts and Escalation modes. Contacts are user created missions that let players assign literally any NPC(s) in a level as a target. There is an in-depth tutorial for this mode that helps establish just how creative these hits can be. Creating a contract can be extremely fun, and imaginative players can flex their stealthy muscles here by making some legitimately challenging hits. Feats and Challenges can also be completed by successfully completing contracts, which in turn net players XP for mastering their craft in Paris. Mastery maxes out at level 20 and encourages players to climb the ranks by providing weapon and gear unlocks, new mission starting locations, and hidden weapon and item stashes players can retrieve once inside.
Players looking to truly test their skills will likely spend most of their time with the Escalation Contracts. As the name implies, Escalation Contracts task players with completing a five level hit with different modifiers at each stage of the contract. The first mission may require players to kill a target with a gun while wearing a specific disguise, for example, and each subsequent level adds to and builds on that. What starts as simply killing a single target will eventually grow into a complex and elaborate hit requiring the elimination of multiple targets, specific disguises, pacifism in regards to the surrounding NPCs, avoiding additional security cameras, and using a specific method of escape. Remembering where specific costumes or items are located is key, as well as knowing the various escape routes while being mindful of the mission’s added security measures. There are no checkpoints during these missions, and saving is disabled as well. There is a silver lining, though, as your overall Escalation progress is saved. Failing at level five will not set you back to level four, and you can resume your hit at any time should you turn off the game or exit back to the main menu. Those that complete these Escalation Contracts will be happy to know that Io Interactive intends to push out new ones weekly to keep the game fresh between location releases.
Elusive Targets, the limited run missions that give players one shot to pull off a difficult and tough-to-locate hit, are also set to be featured as a part of this trio of live, always updated content. Unfortunately, the first target was delayed so I did not get a chance to sample one of these missions for this entry of our overall review. It is worth mentioning, too, that all three of these modes are heavily dependent on being connected to the servers. I haven’t experienced any disconnections, yet, but it should be noted that game progress is tied to your connection as well. Main story missions can be played offline, however, progress does not carry between online and offline saves. Unfortunately, this online aspect also brings with it occasionally long loading times that can be north of a minute.
Io Interactive is off to a fantastic start with the next chapter of their Hitman series. It is both friendly to franchise newcomers, with its helpful tutorials, and entertainingly challenging for veterans with dozens of Feats and Challenges to pull off, Escalation Contracts to master, and user-created Contracts to craft. The online requirement may be a downer to those playing with lousy internet connections, and loading times can be on the long side, but those just here for the core story experience can still tackle the game offline. Check back with us after the next chapter takes us to Sapienza for our continued review-in-progress of Hitman!
A PS4 copy of Hitman: The Full Experience was provided by our friends over at Square Enix.
- Useful tutorials that are invaluable to newcomers
- Big areas to learn and explore
- Multiple entertaining ways to eliminate targets
- Live content updates promised weekly
- Long load times
- Limited content for those playing offline
- Series veterans may exhaust content quickly