It didn’t take long for me to realize how Hitman is much more of a puzzle/heist hybrid game than anything else. The game is essentially a series of problems with several different potential solutions. Every target can be taken out in a variety of ways, from guns blazing, to having Agent 47 test a reactivated ejector seat in a fighter jet, to electrocution via projector slides. The different angles from which players can attempt a hit are extensive, and frankly, a blast to explore. I found myself playing each mission a number of times to see all the different ways I could kill a target. Hitman’s inaugural episode has me extremely excited for what comes next in the series.
This is my first experience with Hitman, and I had no idea how much I would enjoy the general nature of the game. If you’re not familiar with the series, Hitman puts the player in the role of Agent 47, a precise killing machine with no conscience and a very particular set of skills. The player must scout each environment, then figure out how to complete their contract and make it out alive. With the open ended missions and well tutorialised gameplay, I found myself immersed from the very beginning. The missions themselves strike a great balance in terms of difficulty, as simply taking out the target isn’t too difficult with a bit of intel gathering. If the missions are too easy, there are a number of challenges and feats to complete as well, which adds an extra level of depth to the game. Attempting to execute the mark in a specific way, or trying a mission without using disguises can make an easy tutorial mission feel quite difficult. Levels are also short enough (once you know what you’re doing), so that replaying them to kill a mark 12 different ways doesn’t wind up being boring and repetitive.
What really blew me away was the amount of content included within the first episode of Hitman. The Paris episode includes a 3 part tutorial, which by itself provides 2 short missions, the main Paris episode itself, a 5-part escalating contract, and then the first of a 6-part modified set of contracts. With over 40 challenges in the tutorial location, and many more in Paris, Episode One is sure to keep you occupied for awhile. The game itself has a somewhat steep initial learning curve (I failed the tutorial four or five times trying to figure it out), as it doesn’t hold your hand in a boring and monotonous tutorial, instead, it forces you to figure it out with limited guidance. The way you have to eavesdrop and gather intel is interesting and challenging, and contributes to the many different kinds of puzzles tucked throughout the game. Hitman also offers a Contract Creation mode, where the community can create their own challenges within the available levels, which can add a lot more entertainment to the game. The mode is easy to use, and captures the marks you make, as well as the method used to take them out, and these can then be published for other players around the world to try and take on. The game has been set up nicely to deliver an enormous amount of content in each episode, on paper at the very least.
The actual story mission places Agent 47 within a Parisian fashion show, as he tries to eliminate a power couple who are selling off a list if MI6 secret agents to the criminal underworld. There are so many ways to approach this, from posing as a male model (Agent 47 HAS found something more to life than just being ridiculously good looking), taking the place of a waiter, or incapacitating and stealing the outfit of one of the princes attending the auction. The environments are rich and beautifully detailed, showing the player every fiber of Agent 47’s suit, which makes exploring the locations quite a joy. The sliver of story we’ve been shown is intriguing, and has me wondering what comes next, as the ambient conversations that are overheard fill in a lot of the gaps. The fashion show venue is massive, and I found myself having to get my bearings quite regularly. With many off-limit areas, I found myself enjoying the challenge of picking off someone with the right outfit that would let me pass into these forbidden zones. The lighting is extremely well done, accentuating the right visuals, and really making things pop in colorful areas such as dance floors and bars. Visually, Square Enix hit this one out of the park.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found in this first episode. Even though some of the AI can be questionable at times, and there are some mechanical issues here and there, the game really shines. There’s just something about figuring out a puzzle and ensuring a sequence of events are executed to perfection. Hitman delivers a beautiful and quality experience in digestible chunks, and the amount of variety involved lends itself to maximum replayability, especially with all of the different challenges included. With a fantastic control scheme, and an enormous amount of content, this is one to play.