When it was announced that Hitman was going to be released in episodes, I shivered at the thought, purely because episodic content never works as well as people like to think it does, at least for me and while the story for Hitman might have been impacted by this, the gameplay never wavered.
Agent 47 started his adventure, proving his worth in a training space, hidden somewhere in the icy wastes of the world, before hitting the city of lights, between those first two sections, we got to know the new players, Agent 47, his handler Diana Burnwood and ICA Director Erich Soders, each providing their own reasons for doing what they do. While the majority of all contact between 47 and Burnwood is handled through radio chatter and briefings, there is a small sense of connection between the two, one that grows as the story moves forward. Agent 47 is first tasked with taking out two targets in Paris, in the middle of a fashion show, as the targets Viktor Novikov and Dalia Margolis as using the show to sell a secret undercover agent list. Once you have eliminated the targets, we get to learn a little more about who gave Novikov the list and why, which leads to a much larger story.
As Agent 47 winds his way through Paris, Sapienza, Marrakesh, Bangkok, Colorado and Hokkaido, little bits of the story are revealed, each offering up a glimpse to the larger story at play, but it is not until Colorado where things really kick off. While the overall story is interesting, it suffers from the simple fact that hardly any information is revealed and then requires weeks between each chapter by the time you get story from episode 4, what happened in episode 1 is long forgotten and as there is no recap of what has happened, its hard to keep track of things. The individual episode stories are ok, but they only really serve the point of the assassinations, until you get to the later episodes, but there, again you need to remember back to the earlier ones for things to make sense.
Gameplay wise, there is never any change from episode to episode, except for the locations, the main objective is always get in, take down the mark and get out, without being seen. While you can unlock new gear to go back and try each episode again, the default tools are what you will get to experience the real challenge of the game. Of course, what you start with, is not going to be how you take down the target, with options like poisoning the soup, to shorting out a lighting rig, there are countless options available to you and if you decide stealth is not worth the effort, you can always pull out your gun and go in that way, though you would likely die very quickly right after it.
Each location is something that you need to explore to understand, while Sapienza was my favourite, each location has a little something that makes it unique, for example, Marrakesh is full of people, in a market and protesting a bank. As each location offers up new things to see around you, they also offer up new ways to take people down, but its not just the location, it’s the actual targets that blend into the world. Sure Viktor Novikov might seem like he is on mission as he gets around, but he follows a set routine, checking the effects of his party, Ken Morgan, from the mission in Bangkok, pretty much sticks to the same two or three rooms, so there is a need to wait and see.
Of course, the game first launched with a host of issues, long load times, extremely poor network connection and such, but with each release and patch, the issues were fixed and thankfully that included the god-awful network failure, which would always seem to appear when you were ready to make your move after hours of preparation. While the load times are much better than they were day 1, they are still long and unless you die or restart you might not notice them too much, but given the trial and error nature of the game, they can add up to a lot of time waiting for a load to occur.
Perhaps the best element from day 1 was the look of the game, characters had a nice look to them, blending into the locations they were meant to be in, the people at the fashion show in Paris were decked out in the best, while those in Sapienza were more relaxed. Each of the targets had their own distinct look, making them stand out from the crowd, but they never looked like they had signs over them, if you played on the hardest difficulty, you could easily miss them; The special target missions proved that point. The locations of course were excellent, the level of detail in each help make them feel like believable places, it could have been easy to characterize each location to help make them seem more possible for assassination, but keeping them based makes each hit that much more rewarding. Matching the sounds with the right locations was a good choice, Paris is loud whereas Colorado was very quiet given the military type nature of the location.
The first season of Hitman was a great first round for Agent 47, while the overall story felt broken until the latter two chapters, it still ended up being a nice story. The locations are the star though and now that most of the games performance issues are fixed, it is the best time to jump in.