After suffering a delay, which pushed its release into 2016, and changes to its release format causing both confusion and outrage in equal measure, Agent 47 has finally returned to do what he does best in HITMAN
, albeit in bite-size chunks. No matter how you choose to pay for the title, be it the full experience or on an episode by episode basis, at this early stage everyone has access to the same content -- what is included within the “Intro Pack” only. Does the episodic format have enough meat on the bone, or does it leave players feeling dissatisfied and waiting for the next course?
As the name suggests, an introduction to the game is exactly what we receive with two small training areas and a full-blown assassination mission set in an opulent palace in central Paris. The training missions take players back 20 years as Agent 47 joins the ICA and meets his handler, Diana Burnwood. The first of these training missions takes place on a yacht constructed out of plywood, with sheets of blue tarpaulin used to represent the water. The yacht even has its own helicopter located on the roof that is, once again, crudely built out of pieces of wood. It's a nice little touch that shows the lengths to which the ICA will go in order to train their recruits and it helps to distinguish these training missions from the real world locations that we will, eventually, get to visit.
The game holds your hand for your first assassination attempt, walking you through many of the game's vital mechanics, such as subduing enemies, using disguises and listening out for key pieces of information. Once completed, you are given the opportunity to try again in a variety of different ways as you see fit. This is something that is hammered home quite early; despite the perceived lack of content at this early stage, IO Interactive has made sure that every mission can be completed in a vast number of ways, giving a staggering amount of replayability to what may have seemed like a demo.
The second of these training missions once again takes place on a plywood constructed set, this time made to look like a Cuban Air Base that is filled with actors, or possibly ICA staff members, who are playing the roles of guards, mechanics and soldiers. This time it is made clear that the mission is a reconstruction of a textbook assassination performed years before by the ICA's current Training Director Daniel Sodor, a man that sees 47 as a risk to the Agency. Sodor decides to rig this final test in order to make it impossible to complete. With the odds stacked against him, Agent 47 must complete this final test before he is cleared for active duty in the field. This is the only real story element in this first episode. Whether or not it hints at what is to come, or is something that may actually form the backbone of HITMAN
's story once it has all been released, is yet to revealed. What it does show is that IO Interactive is trying to expand the lore of the Hitman
universe and that there may, eventually, be a deep overarching story to the title.
With training out of the way, we get to experience the only true mission that HITMAN
has to offer at this early stage. A fashion show taking place in a Paris palace disguises an auction for illegal information that is taking place behind the scenes. The palace is teeming with guests, guards, staff and two targets that need to be dealt with in whatever way you wish. Moving from the claustrophobic plywood environments of the training missions, the palace is their polar opposite, both in terms of its opulent and exquisitely detailed design and its almost gargantuan sprawling size. While this change in scale allows for greater freedom and exploration, learning the layout of this multi-faceted structure, figuring out patrol routes and locating the required items to pull off certain assassinations takes a considerable amount of time and can be overwhelming at first.
Thankfully, to help new players along, HITMAN
now offers Opportunities, a system that tracks the various elements needed to perform certain kills. Most of these Opportunities are discovered by eavesdropping on conversations between guards or other groups, or by picking up clues such as files. Once discovered, the game kindly asks if you wish to track this opportunity and displays objectives and waypoints to direct players on how to proceed. This system can be turned off for those veterans among you that prefer that little extra challenge.
As overwhelming as it may be at first, HITMAN
gives players a vast array of tools and many different ways to complete their tasks, rewarding players that enjoy trying out the myriad of assassination methods that are available. Whether getting your hands dirty up close by using the Fibre-Wire to garrotte the target, dropping lighting fixtures or chandeliers on their heads, poisoning them with lethal injections, or causing an evacuation of the building and forcing the targets to run to a now booby trapped safe room, the game leaves the decision making up to the player. Considering the fact that the game currently only has three areas to explore, the level of experimentation available to players is a welcome one. Unfortunately, Hitman
is plagued by long loading times. Given that making a mistake can often lead to a quick death that requires loading an earlier save or restarting the mission from scratch, players can spend a long portion of their time waiting to get back into the action.
The Contracts mode from Hitman: Absolution
also makes its return, giving players a large number of user-created assassination missions to try out as well as a selection of missions created by IO Interactive themselves. As with its previous incarnation, Contracts gives players the task of tracking down a different target in the levels to which you have by now become accustomed, dispatching them and making your escape quickly and quietly with overall performance then being rated and placed against other players in a leaderboard. Disguise constraints can also be added in order to make the level more challenging. This does, once again, add an extra layer of replayability to the title, but until a point where more content and more maps are available, these missions become repetitive fairly quickly, although there is a wonderful amount of satisfaction from beating a friend's impressive score.
A newer addition to the various game modes are Escalation and Elusive Target missions; both of these task players with taking down a new target in one of the three available levels. Once an Escalation mission is completed, a slightly more difficult version of the same mission is unlocked that adds additional objectives or complications, such as breaking into a safe, that also need to be completed. These missions add an extra touch of flair to what is already available, and more are to be added on a regular basis. At launch, only one Escalation mission was available. Elusive Target missions are time sensitive missions that are only available for a few hours and give players just one attempt to successfully eliminate the target. This is the most innovative of these new modes but, unfortunately, at the time of writing, none have been available.
's reliance on replaying the same three levels over and over again in different ways, it's no surprise that the currently available achievements follow a similar pattern. Alongside the regular achievements for completing each of the various missions, or eliminating a target without getting spotted, the “So Many Ways to Stop the Show” achievement tasks players with completing all of the possible Opportunities in the Paris mission, which will test players to experiment with many of the different assassination methods available. "Contract Assassin”, “Training Escalated” and “Paris Escalated” asks players to complete 10 Contracts, and complete level 5 escalations in both the ICA facility and Paris. None are too taxing, but will require players to play the game in a variety of different ways and may require a lot of patience.
"Intro Pack" tries to squeeze out as much gameplay as it can from a limited amount of content. While it succeeds in doing so, it also has a tendency to become quite repetitive and long loading times have a tendency to hinder the experience. What it does do is create a solid foundation upon which the rest of the content can build. IO Interactive hopes that by releasing the content in an episodic fashion, each subsequent level will be given a higher level of polish and will allow the team to create the best HITMAN
to date. Whether the whole package will meet these high standards is yet to be seen, but those wanting to get a quick fix of their favourite suit-wearing assassin will not be disappointed with what is available. Those that that would rather have everything at their fingertips at the start may want to wait until all of the content has been released, or for the full, disc-based version to be released in January 2017.
- Experimentation and exploration is rewarding
- Detailed environments
- Highly replayable
- Can become repetitive
- Long loading times
The reviewer spent approximately 20 hours planning out many, many, many ways to kill numerous people. Some ended up working, others ended in disaster. He unlocked 14 out of the game's 24 available achievements. An Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.