Review: HITMAN: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (2017)

Enter a world of assassination.

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HITMAN is an episodic stealth video game developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the sixth entry in the Hitman series. The game’s prologue acts as a prequel to Hitman: Codename 47, while the main game takes place six years after the events of Hitman: Absolution. The player takes control of the enigmatic Agent 47 over six episodes as he and his handler try to uncover and take down a mysterious enemy.

Is It Worth?

This is a return to form from IO Interactive. If you, like me, were disappointed with Hitman: Absolution, you should definitely try this.

A little about the Gameplay

Like many, I was surprised when IO Interactive announced that the next Hitman game would be episodic. How would that even work? I thought. Are they trying to be Telltale? Just make it better than Absolution and that’s enough, goddamit. Fortunately, all my worries where put to rest just one episode in.

HITMAN follows the same gameplay mechanics of the previous entries in the franchise, while adding new and polishing the ones it reuses. You are given a target you have to assassinate. Unless the mission specifically requires it, you are free to choose your modus operandi. Like Hitman: Blood Money, every level/mission is a sandbox-type environment, free to be explored by the player. Unlike, Hitman: Blood Money, however, the levels are huge. Much larger than any previous Hitman game, as far as I can recall.

Building off the mechanics introduced in the previous games, HITMAN features the Instinct Mode, where player can see items and NPCs of their interest highlighted. Unlike Hitman: Absolution, it is no longer an expendable resource.

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Targets are highlighted in red; items of interest in yellow.

Contracts Mode from Hitman: Absolution also marks a return. In Contracts Mode, players can create playable contracts, mark their own targets, choose how to kill them and then share the Contract with their friends.

Similar to previous Hitman games, a five-star ratings system is used to evaluate the player’s performance at the end of each mission. The ratings are influenced by factors such as time taken, number of non-targets killed, whether the player was spotted, whether or not they have been recorded on camera or if any bodies were found.

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You’ll have to really work for that Silent Assassin rating.

IO Interactive make the best out of the episodic format, and introduce a “live component” to the game. New content is added to the game almost every month, chief among which is the ‘Elusive Target’. These are time-limited mission and if a player fails to assassinate an elusive target before the mission expires, or alert the target and allow them to escape, the target will not return. In addition to this, there are also ‘Escalation Contacts’ where the player has to complete a series of assassinations, each building off the previous, both in terms of difficulty and objectives.

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Each level of an Escalation Contact increases the difficulty and limits the objectives.

The Good

1: The chief quality of HITMAN, for me at least, is how it stays true to the core features of the franchise. It improves and reuses the game mechanics that made Hitman so unique, but at the same time it introduces new additions to the gameplay. Everything works in sync perfectly, creating one of the better additions to the Hitman franchise.

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2: IO Interactive took a bold risk by choosing to make HITMAN episodic. While plot has never been Hitman’s strong suit, you can clearly see how going episodic helped the game in general. Each level, now taken in small episodic dosage adds drama and depth to the story, making the entire journey a thrilling ride.

3: Every level feels fresh and unique. From the confined halls of a fashion show in Paris to the bustling marketplace of Marrakesh, every location has its own vibe — and challenges.

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And boy oh boy is this game gorgeous.

4: Although the main story is just six episodes long, which effectively translates to just six missions, the game itself is loaded with content. Every location has its own contracts, with the player free to choose whether they want to complete them all before heading to the next location or not. Apart from this, the player can test their mettle with ‘Escalation Contracts’. And then of course, there are the monthly updates from IO Interactive and the ‘Elusive Targets’.

The Bad

1: HITMAN introduces a new gameplay mechanics called ‘Opportunities’. Every mission has its own tailored murder methods, based on overheard conversations or information discovered during gameplay. If a player stumbles upon an opportunity, simply following the game’s instructions can help the player get away with a clean assassination. This, in my opinion, leads to a tad too much hand holding. I see the point — this helps newcomers into the world of Hitman and sells them the fantasy of it — but for old fans like me that can be a bit too overbearing. I’d rather retry the mission several times and get that ‘Silent Assassin’ rating on my own than the UI assisting me.

Fortunately, the game allows you to tweak its UI. You can therefore control how much opportunities should the game offer you.

2: Although the game does not have a multiplayer mode, it features leaderboards etc., which needs a constant, stable Internet connection. The game saves automatically at various points in the game, so in case you lose connection during the process, the game pauses until it is able to connect to the servers again. That can be annoying.

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Offline functionality is implemented awkwardly, too. You obviously cannot use the Contracts mode or participate in ‘Elusive Targets’ offline, but you also cannot use your unlocked items for offline missions.

3: Perhaps it’s the episodic structure of the game that led the studio reuse voice actors, but I found the sound department in this game all over the place. A mission in Japan, featuring Japanese characters, would have people speaking with English accents. Although it feels like a minor issue, it does take away some authenticity that the world of HITMAN tries to build.

Conclusion

While not perfect, HITMAN is a vast improvement over the underwhelming Hitman: Absolution and a return to form for the series.

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About Amandeep Singh Virdi

My name is Amandeep Singh Virdi and I love video games among other things that include comics, movies, music and pro wrestling. Follow me @thatvirdiguy on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever.
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