‘Hitman’ – Episode 1: Paris Review

Platforms PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Genre Action-Adventure, Stealth

Platform Played PlayStation 4

Developer IO Interactive Publisher Square Enix

Agent 47 is back, with the new entry in the series simply titled Hitman. The most significant new aspect of Agent 47’s return is the new release structure. Despite this new release plan Hitman has returned is an impressive way, although the lack of initial content and technical issues become Agent 47’s biggest enemies.

Initially those who invest in the Introduction of Hitman will experience two tutorial-like missions that are set 20 years before the main story, which feature Agent 47’s first meeting with his handler Diana Burnwood. The main chunk of single player content takes place in Paris, which is where players will be spending most of their time until more episodes release; which is scheduled to take place monthly over seven new episodes.

The first two training missions act as tutorials for the Paris mission, which take place within an ICA training facility. Essentially both missions are staged, with every individual an actor and all weapons simulated. Despite this aspect, both missions do an excellent job at introducing the main gameplay formula. The first mission takes place on a crowded but confined yacht, as it introduces the importance of disguises. Disguises help Agent 47 enter restricted areas. For example a mechanic uniform will open up all areas the mechanic has access to visit, but if certain mechanics get too close to you they will see through your disguise. It’s a great way at giving each disguise its own flaws, but even then there are some disguises that others will not question. For instance during this introduction mission if you steal the outfit of the buyer who is meeting your target, nobody will question your presence in any location. Exploring and experimenting with different disguises helps introduce more assassination opportunities.

The second training mission introduces Opportunities, which are helpful hints towards some unique and memorable assassination methods. During this mission I overheard some mechanics explaining how they needed to take my target through a safety check before he was able to depart via airplane. Utilising this information I was able to complete the necessary events in order to sabotage the plane, and conduct my own safety check – with explosive results, which ultimately sent my target rocketing into the air to his death. Opportunities merely hint at these elaborate assassination moments, but they could easily be found on their own. Hitman gives the player complete control over how much help the game will offer, with the ability to turn off Opportunities, objectives and hints of any kind. Hitman purists will appreciate the control they have in making each mission as difficult as they’d like it to be.

Once these two missions are complete players fast forward twenty years, as Agent 47 heads to a fashion show in Paris to take down Victor Novikov and Dalia Margolis; two ringleaders from IAGO, a spy organisation that sells government secrets to the highest bidder. Paris is an intimidatingly large location, with expansive outdoor areas, a huge underground basement and floors upon floors of an enormous mansion. Fans of Hitman Blood Money will appreciate the open environment; while Absolution fans will appreciate the fact Hitman features an improved and impressively responsive gameplay palette, building on Absolution’s strong gameplay foundation. It is also quite refreshing to see a stealth release remove instant fails from their repertoire, allowing players to think on their feet and try and save their mission from epic failure. Players can tackle the mission any way they decide, Hitman takes off the training wheels and puts you in the driver’s seat.

Paris looks and sounds amazing, with spectacular lighting and impressive architectural detail, while the hundreds of NPC characters scattered throughout the mission have their own unique conversations as you move throughout the level. Due to the fact Paris is the only main mission to experience upon the initial release; players are encouraged to replay the mission over and over again. Fortunately there are many incentives for replaying the mission, such as unlocking new starting locations which offer Agent 47 a disguise from the beginning of the mission, new weapons and more. Not only that but there are dozens of different ways players can kill their targets, ranging from crashing an entire lighting display on your target as they take the fashion runway, to classic Hitman methods of poison, gunplay and suffocation. Even after completing the mission more than ten times, I still feel I haven’t come close to experiencing every assassination technique on offer.

I loved the fact that each new Paris playthrough offered something a little different, but that lack of significant differences is a problem. After playing through the Paris level over five times I couldn’t help but feel the mission and location get stale. Tackling new assassination attempts and finding new ways to make the kill certainly is fun, but Hitman struggled to shake the repetitive nature of only having one main mission to enjoy. I do love the Paris mission, but even with slight variations to how I tackled the concluding kill – it was still in fact the Paris mission. Players who don’t want to replay each mission over a dozen times won’t find much meat on Hitman’s bones, with all three missions easily beaten in a handful of hours. This episodic format has worked with many story based games in the past, with different choices encouraging players to re-experience the game; Hitman relies on players wanting to re-experience different gameplay options instead. That’s not to say Hitman doesn’t have an underlining plot, but the narrative is almost completely ignored until the closing cut scene.

The online Contracts Mode also makes a return from Absolution, which allows players to easily create their own unique assassination contracts. Creating contracts is simple, as players can mark up to five targets and kill them with different outfits and weapons, then share them online. Contracts Mode features contracts the development team have Featured and newly created contracts – but that’s it. There is strangely no functionality to search contracts, which means unless your contract is featured it will get buried fast. I hope the development team implements a search functionality, which will allow finding certain contracts with different parameters easier; because at this stage it’s simply impossibly.

Players will also receive two different weekly events, which will change and update each week. Firstly Escalation Mode, which offers an initial assassination challenge which will escalate in difficulty over five levels. With each new level an added challenge will be included for success. Unfortunately Escalation Mode suffers from the same repetition as the Paris mission, with each new level featuring almost an identical experience. The other mode is known as Elusive Targets, which will appear within levels in real time and once they are either dead or escaped, they are gone for good. This mode is not live at the time of review, but will be implemented in the near feature.

Hitman’s lack of initial content could be forgiven, if not for the abundance of technical issues plaguing the experience. Hitman suffers from frustratingly long load times when initially booting the game, loading up a new mission or simply loading up a previous save. These load times can range from 15 seconds to over one minute, when entering the Paris mission. Hitman also features Challenges, which hint towards possible assassination methods within missions. These Challenges feature small thumbnails which can take almost 10 seconds each to load, alongside the fact the menu is clunky and considerably slow when scrolling through these options. I also experienced half a dozen crashes which sent me out of the game, only for the main menu to become unresponsive forcing me to conduct a new restart.

Unfortunately I also have to inform you Hitman requires a constant online connection, even when playing single player. Hitman is still playable offline, but you will lose access to the ability to look at your Challenges and will instantly kicked from your mission if the servers decide to drop out. I understand online Contracts would require an internet connection, but I cannot fathom why my single player experience would require sever connection. Even then why should my single player game kick me out when the server experiences issues? It’s frustrating, annoying and unnecessary.

Hitman’s initial episodic release is a somewhat rocky affair. Although the Paris mission is a mastery of Hitman goodness, repetition does start to take hold after half a dozen tries. The presence of many technical issues and the unfortunate single player reliance on online servers also doesn’t do Hitman’s debut any favours.

Hitman’s initial release is a strong foundation for the upcoming seven episodes that will be released throughout 2016. Impressive assassination spectacles, smooth and responsive stealth gameplay, coupled with an expansively detailed Paris experience offer hours of great fun. Hopefully the Hitman development team can find time to iron out some of these technical issues throughout the Hitman release schedule.

The Good

  • Smooth and responsive stealth gameplay.
  • Spectacular assassination opportunities.
  • Expansively details Paris location.

The Bad

  • Repetitive due to the lack of overall content.
  • Long load times, technical issues.
  • Online servers effect single player.

The Score: 7.0