See PixlBit's Review Policies
On 02/16/2017 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus
You haven't lived until you've killed someone as a yoga instructor while your target is in Tree Pose.
For fans of stealth action with a penchant for concocting devilish ways to murder people.
When I reviewed 2013’s Hitman: Absolution for PixlBit, I talked about how I had to put aside my expectations of what I thought a Hitman game should be and instead look at what IO Interactive had actually made. Ultimately I enjoyed Absolution, but I was left hungry for a game that gave me the same stealthy thrills as Hitman: Blood Money. When it was announced that there would be a new Hitman game released episodically over the course of 2016 I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be a follow up to Absolution, or would it be a return to form for the series? Well friends, tighten your red ties and grab your fiber wire, because Agent 47 is back in a big, big way.
The 2016 release of the “sans subtitle” Hitman hearkens back to Blood Money in all the best ways. Each level tasks Agent 47, our taciturn, bald, and barcoded assassin, with ending various high profile targets in exotic locations. The six missions have a minimum of two targets each, and some include additional or optional objectives.
Let’s get the big issue out of the way right off the bat. This edition of Hitman has six core missions in addition to a couple training levels in the prologue. That’s approximately half the number of levels as 2006’s Blood Money. If you’re just looking at the game on paper and comparing it to older entries in the franchise it would be understandable if you thought that there isn’t enough game to justify the price tag. Fortunately, the stages in Hitman 2016 are among some of the best in the series, and the game is built around tackling each target in multiple ways. Considering how large and intricate the levels are, I ended up clocking around ten hours from start to finish, and I continue to play the game so that I can see how creative I can get with ending my targets’ lives.
There are plenty of opportunities to get creative. Quite literally, as the Opportunities ability is a new feature to this edition of Hitman. Basically, as 47 explores the environment he may come across privileged information, or overhear conversations that can lead to unique ways to fulfil his contract. Once he comes across an Opportunity, 47 can opt to track it, which creates waypoints to further his homicidal aims.
This may turn off Hitman purists, but I enjoyed the Opportunity system, because it got me thinking outside of the box, and allowed me to realize just how deep the simulation of each level goes. By tracking one Opportunity you will invariably stumble across other devious ways of introducing people to the Reaper. Let’s not forget that you aren't required to follow the steps exactly, and many of the Opportunities simply get you into striking distance and leave your victim open to a quick garrote or a silenced gunshot to the head. Or, you know, just chuck a screwdriver at someone’s head and book it. The sheer number of ways to shove someone off this mortal coil are simply staggering, and I would giggle with perverse glee as I orchestrated a particularly intricate death trap.
Somehow, IO Interactive managed to take the already refined control scheme and handling from Hitman: Absolution and improve it in every way for this game. Even though I often had Agent 47 doing quick and complicated actions I always felt in complete control. It is almost an effortless thing to climb up a pipe, shimmy across a ledge, knock out a guard, take his outfit, and hide the body in a fluid stream of moves. Like Absolution, information is spread by word of mouth or by radio, so if you get spotted doing some dirt it’s not a guaranteed fail state. Unless the person that saw you is able to report your actions before you can silence them it is possible to regain control of the situation. In this way, it is simple and elegant to concoct a plan and execute it with speed and skill.
Also improved from the last game is the way disguises are handled. Absolution introduced a system where if, say, you dressed as a cop you may have more freedom of movement, but the other officers would suspect you because they know who they are working with. While that made blending in a frustrating affair in that game, things are handled differently here. There are still people of the same security clearance that will eye you suspiciously it isn’t everybody of that level. Even if you are suspected it is possible to keep moving without setting alarms off, which is a big improvement over Absolution. Things get a little weird when your outfit has a full-on mask and there are still people questioning who you are, but for the most part I appreciated the flexibility of the costume change system, with the final level changing things up in a particularly devious way.
Hitman is a graphical tour de force. Each stage is intricately detailed, and the exotic locales give a distinct James Bond vibe. From the blue waters of Sapienza to the clogged streets of Marrakesh, 47 finds himself in environments and situations that were simply not possible before in the series. I often found myself pausing to just look out into the horizon. Added to the artistry of each level is a cohesion that is not apparent until repeated runs through the missions. Scouring areas for intel and Opportunity prompts yield additional information about the “world of assassination” that Hitman presents.
The big fly in the ointment is something that can be a small annoyance or a big problem, depending on where you live. Hitman requires you to be connected to the game’s servers to register any of your level mastery. Level mastery increases as you complete challenges, Opportunities, and creative assassinations. If you’re offline you’re out of luck, and I had times where I would lose connection to the server mid-level. At least once this also kept me from being able to save, resulting in needed to start a level over from scratch about half an hour in. For the most part things worked fine, but I feel for you if you have a sketchy online connection, or no connection at all.
I had come away from Hitman: Absolution with the thought that Hitman was forever changed, and I would simply have to grin and bear it, but Hitman 2016 brings all the magic that I felt from Blood Money back, and then some. While I continue to care very little about the storyline or timeline of Agent 47’s life, I find the game mechanics of Hitman to be supremely satisfying. If there is a second season of content added to this game I will be first in line for each new level, because I know there will be plenty of sadistic ways of helping people meet their maker.