A welcome return to form by one of the stealth genre’s greatest.
IO Interactive are back with the next addition to the saga of everyone’s favorite bar-coded assassin. The newest title, eponymously named after its franchise, returns to the sandbox gameplay the series is known and loved for. While retaining some gameplay elements from the preceding Hitman: Absolution, Hitman offers considerably more freedom in comparison to it – arguably even in comparison to any of the previous games.
The first season of Hitman consists of a prologue and six episodically released levels with a plethora of bonus content. The game tells the story of Agent 47, an elite contract killer working for an organization known as the ICA. Hitman is a direct sequel to the previous title in the series, but unlike its predecessor, it prefers not to put the story in the spotlight. Instead, the plot unveils through cutscenes between missions, the gameplay levels containing only a few bits of information hinting at the overarching story. This was a conscious decision by the developers, who plan to build more heavily upon the premise set by the first season in later ones. Still, the first season already feels like Hitman in its sparse presentation of the story – the games have always worked excellently focusing on the gameplay.
Each of the game’s levels contains its own targets, environments and events, offering hours upon hours of exploration. In a traditional Hitman fashion, the player is given the freedom to approach the scenarios in whatever way they wish. Many of the game’s features can be tweaked, such as the “opportunities” giving the player ways to carry out various elaborate assassination schemes requiring multiple tasks to complete. The game can guide the player to them, but is best enjoyed with the guidance turned off to maximize the joy of discovering the secrets of each level.
The player has to utilize everything from eavesdropping to disguises and stealth to explore the levels and determine their preferred course of action. Though there are only six levels in Hitman, each of them is massive – not only in size but also in the amount of details, items, events, and NPCs to interact with. In addition, every level can be replayed dozens of times in various ways, completing the numerous challenges unique to them.
Hitman plays very smoothly, whether the player is stalking a target through a military base or navigating through a massive party crowd. The game’s cover system and firearms work well and all context-sensitive commands are clearly thought through. Weapon customization is surprisingly absent, but it is a minor flaw with the variety of other gadgets at the player’s disposal. The game’s world feels alive with various timed events, colorful NPC dialogue and decently smart AI.
On the whole, Hitman is a well-rounded stealth-action game that outdoes its predecessors with ease.
Platforms: PC, PS4 (tested), Xbox One
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: March 11th, 2016
PEGI Rating: 18+