Let’s be honest here, Io Interactive’s latest outing in the Hitman universe has been met with some confusion. At first it was set to be an episodic-like title, then it was set to be a full release, then once again, episodic. Now, the game comes in two flavours, an Intro Pack, and the Full Experience, the former offering the Prologue and the first mission in Paris, with the later packs being made purchasable when they launch, the Full Experience on the other hand gets you everything as it launches at no extra cost.
Right now though, both the Intro Pack and the Full Experience offer exactly the same thing, that is until Io Interactive launch the next location in April. Until then, what’s on offer may feel a little lacklustre, as on paper there’s just three unique missions, two of which act as tutorials, and the main mission based at a Paris-based fashion show, which has you pop-off two targets.
What Io Interactive hope to do however is keep you hooked on the game not only by allowing you complete freedom of movement and execution, but also by launching a series of unique “Elusive Targets” and weekly challenges, as well as the user-generated Contracts which were probably the only good thing about Absolution, in order to shake things up a bit. But is it enough?
If you managed to get into the game’s beta, chances are you’ve already played the first two Prologue missions, both of which are based in a secret facility and are described as “simulations”. They introduce you to the game’s mechanics as well as allowing you to experience the almost unlimited possibilities available in the main missions. As I’d already played through the beta, twice, I was fully familiar with the prologue and felt no need to stick around for too long as I wanted to get to the meat of the game. In total, the Prologue probably took me around 45 minutes to complete, though for new players it’ll likely last a little longer.
Onto the main mission, you’re given the challenge of taking down two targets, both of which are very high profile and are decked to the nines with security detail. At first, the sheer magnitude of the location is a little overwhelming, but as soon as you find your footing, you begin to get into the swing of things, plus there’s the added convenience of “opportunities” which you can track and help you along the way.
These Opportunities seem to be aimed at those of us who are unfamiliar with the Hitman series, or at least want to get a feel of the game before trying more creative options. While these opportunities don’t actually set up the kill, they allow you to find yourself in a position in which you can take down the target more easily, an opportunity, if you will. Just choosing to “track” an opportunity is only the half of it, however.
Opportunities work best when you stumble upon them, and that’s usually by overhearing people gossip, or by eavesdropping into phone calls. This way you achieve the whole story and have more of an understanding as to why you’re being told to acquire certain bits of information or subduing certain people. Ultimately these Opportunities need a bit of smart thinking, as it’s all well and good following the target for 30 minutes, but you need to keep an eye out for the best time to take them down, it may be a very small few second window, it may be incredibly obvious, or it might be a dead end.
For me, the main two contracts took me around an hour to complete, which makes the first part of the Hitman game, before Io Interactive release any more challenges or Elusive Targets, last you around three hours. If you’re a more thorough person and spend time watching targets, surveying the area, and being more calculated, you’ll probably spend way more time than I did, but for me, I completed the Prologue and the Paris location in a pretty short time.
There is however more to Hitman than meets the eye. Sure, I essentially completed this part of the game, but that’s really only a small part of what the game has to offer. Really, it’s about tackling the game in multiple ways. For example, maybe there’s a way for me to complete the mission without killing any non-targets? Maybe I could make one of the kills more public? Maybe I could have completed the kill in a more creative way rather than just clocking the lass over the head.
Maybe I could ignore the Opportunities completely and figure out my own way of taking the two targets down? It’s this freedom which actually makes Hitman pretty exciting. It’s a sandbox of opportunities.
Unlike the Prologue, the main mission gives you the chance to set up a loadout before you begin, so if you’d rather take down the target from the rafters with a sniper rifle, you can, though initially you’re only given a basic load out to choose from. Completing the mission does reward you not only with experience, but with new weapons and items, as well as additional challenges for you to tackle in your next play through.
Taking this idea then throwing the user-made contracts into account does extend the gameplay somewhat as it gives you more reasons to dive back into the marble-decked mansion. The Elusive Targets are also a really interesting addition to the game as they’re time sensitive contracts which players can attempt, but they’re very, very difficult. If you succeed, they’re gone permanently, if you miss out, they’re in the wind to never be seen again. Finding the ideal spot to take them down involves figuring out how to find them with the little information you have.
What’s probably most impressive about the game is the sheer amount of things going on, the game itself is fully alive. Aside from the targets doing their thing, the crowd is busy babbling away, having their own conversations, and people are doing their own thing, they’re not static, nor are they repeating the same loop over and over. You can follow people around if you wanted, experience their life during this enormous event.
There’s also a real sense of existence in Hitman, everyone interacts with you, whether it’s a comment on your outfit, whether it’s someone saying hello to you, even down to how the security guards follow you with their eyes. You’re being watched in Hitman and one wrong move and you’re screwed. There’s a real feeling of risk involved in the main mission, unlike the more tame simulations. It’s actually impressive how real the developers have made the main mission compared to the two Prologue scenarios.
It’s also worth noting that even on the more easy difficulty, trying to subdue people in order to grab their outfit is a hard task, especially considering the whole place is surrounded by armed guards, most of which have some idea as to who everyone else is. That’s another fantastic thing about Hitman, sure, you can dress up like a male model or a stylist or even bar staff, but at the end of the day someone is going to know you’re not who you’re saying you are, and because of that there’s even more risk involved. Especially when the place you need to be requires you pass someone who’ll question who you are.
Unlike a lot of other stealth-based games, Hitman doesn’t hold your hand especially when it comes to being detected. The guards in this game are ruthless, there’s no real way of getting lost in a crowd or hide around a corner. Once you’ve been called out, that’s it, you’re done for.
Ultimately, Hitman, at least at this point, offers the foundations to something which could certainly become much greater. Whether or not Io Interactive can offer enough weekly challenges or Elusive Targets to have players return to the game is another question entirely. As with most sandbox games, they require the players to at least show some enthusiasm to progress once they’ve initially completed the end-goal, and that’s something Hitman may struggle with.
For those looking for an improvement over Hitman: Absolution, you’ll be pleased to know that while it has taken some cues from Absolution, the game is closer to the favoured classic, Hitman: Blood Money, which is definitely a welcome change.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of Hitman: The Full Experience provided to us by Square Enix.