March 17, 2016

Hitman - Review

Hitman is a series that has been around for some time and while the time between games is longer than some other series, each entry attempts to bring something new to the series and the latest entry is no different, rather than focus on taking out a large list of enemies, Hitman is being released in an episodic format, with each chapter being all about the location.

Agent 47 has quite an odd history, working for nameless people, taking out leagues of targets over the years, but now all of that has ostensibly been wiped, giving Agent 47 and by extension the player a fresh start. That start kicks off with Agent 47 stepping off a helicopter, in a snowy landscape and meeting someone emerging from a very clandestine looking facility. It is here there we meet Diana Burnwood, who believes that Agent 47 is perfect for the tasks they do, but her boss Director Soder is not as convinced. While this is the location for the tutorial, it does setup quite a lot about Agent 47, Burnwood and Sober.

The exposition here is light and for good reasons, the story is due to play out over the course of the year, but what we learn before the first mission is very crucial to how things are likely to play out. Of course, the meat of the first chapter is the mission in Paris, where you have to eliminate fashion mogul Viktor Novikov and former fashion model Dahlia Morgolis, the heads of an organisation known as Iago, a group who infiltrate government groups and take whatever secrets they can find. From the start of the mission, things will play out very differently for each person and what you learn from overheard conversations will give you insights that other players are unlikely to get.

The gameplay here is the king, while the goal is to eliminate your targets, how you go about it is completely up to you, which means there is a lot of trial and error, so get ready to try often. My first efforts to discover a way to take out Viktor was a shamble, after exploring a little of the location, I was given a chance, after overhearing a conversation between two make-up artists about the star of the show, they made the comment that Agent 47 looks a lot like this model, so the game let me track it and provided the opportunity to locate the target. Helmet Kruger, the model 47 looks like, was out near a helicopter, sadly, as I was still dressed as a party guest and Kruger noticed, he called in guards and I was promptly killed.

That is the key to the game, you are a trained assassin, but you can’t run and gun your way in, you need to disguise yourself, make your way around as unseen as possible, doing this is key. Thankfully the game provides you with a wealth of tools to make this happen, there are different outfits you can dress in, which can grant you to different locations throughout the building. Dressing as a member of the make-up crew will grant you more access to rooms, but dressed in that way, you won’t be allowed up to the second floor, likewise if you dress as a member of the stage crew, then you can’t access the third floor. So while you are working on your method of incursion, you must also work on your method of choice, you need to keep balancing these methods.

While you can shoot your targets if you desire, doing so will bring the guards running and that won’t be good for your escape. There are three parts to the kill, getting close to your target, making the kill and then the escape, a successful kill will allow you to do this without notice. After a few attempts and a fair amount of deaths, I was able to kill Viktor, the method I shall keep to myself, but it was an evolving technique, which resulted in a death that seemed completely accidental, which left the party going and allowed me to move onto the second target. It is really important to note that while you are doing your research on a target the entire game world keeps moving, so you need to keep adjusting your plans to react to the world.

Once you have completed the main mission, you can tackle different tasks within the same space, which can give you more of a challenge. While attempting to locate a way to take out Dahlia, I found myself in the attic and a costume that would let me dress up as a vampire, which I thought was odd, but left it alone. One of the optional missions required me to take out 3 different targets, with the bonus of being dressed as a vampire, so I had to find a way up to the attic again to get the outfit and then find my targets and take them out. There are even more, with the option to create and share your own, also, you can retry the main mission again, with the added bonus of changing your starting location or gear, giving you more reason to replay the game over and over, the downside to loading into the game is the load times are astronomically long, with each load into a menu, the core game or even the tutorial worlds, being far too long and while one might say for the core of the game, there is a lot to load, sadly the menus are pretty clean, but they take just as long as the worlds themselves.

Speaking of the game world, it has a problem and that is that it is a little too full, the location of Paris and to the lesser extent the training facility, both look wonderful, the lights that shine highlight the world, reflections off marble and that of the runway, all help make it feel great. The problem is that the people of the world look fake, while they move around well enough, they tend not to interact all that well with the space they are in, there were a few times I noticed that people would head to their spot, doing whatever they do, they usually just tend to snap to position. The AI behind the game does a fine job of things, but it also has a major flaw, almost every NPC you pass acknowledges you, no matter how you are dressed, they all have something to say, which if it were occasionally it would be ok, but seeing as you’re an agent who is meant to be great at staying unnoticed, being spoken to by everyone is kind of odd.

The other issue I encountered quite a lot is lag, the game would often struggle to maintain a constant frame rate, there were times when I would be amongst a crowd and my actions were significantly delayed, the game would appear to lock up and then play catch up. There were times when I would be with only a small number of people in a space and still have to endure some of the lag, while it may not seem like a problem to some, knowing that the issue could occur at random left me hoping it would never occur whenever I needed to make a fast exit. The performance of the game aside, it does look great and sounds just as nice as it looks, with the fashion show providing a very nice location for one to conduct covert assassinations.

Hitman might be released differently to games from the series history, but that does not stop that it is a great experience, while the pacing of the story might not be for all, this is one great start to an adventure I can’t wait to jump back in.

Thanks to Square Enix for providing the game for review.

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