I arrived in the mountains by chopper, the journey was long and silent. The latter is exactly how I like it to be anyway. I have no mind for the idle chatter and nattering of a regular person. I am. After all, a professional… after what happened in Romania I had struggled to find real work. My talents wasted on menial tasks and low paying wet work but through that work I had become aware of a group, an organisation. Individuals with a set of specialist skills not unlike my own who were on the hunt for talented new recruits. Of course, as the professional I am they soon came looking for me although I must admit that was only because I had let them. They had promised me real work worthy of my skills… now all I had to do was see if they were all talk or if they had real bite.
I got this game last year when I built my computer, one of those ‘buy our card and get this game free’ deals. I must admit though I most likely would have bought the game anyway being a big Hitman fan anyway from back in the blood money days on the PS2. At the time I got it, I only really played the intro training mission and never found myself going back to it BUT with IO Interactive now buying themselves from Square Enix along with the Hitman license rights I felt a strong urge to get back into the fold, especially since they have heavily hinted at a continuing season(s) for the game. The game itself is episodic which I strongly dislike as I feel it is really hard to get invested in a lot of games that have that episodic format and this game was one of them at the time of release so I waited for the season to be completed before starting back at it.
The story for this so far is pretty slim, the episodic nature of the game has left it with not a huge deal of context or cut scenes to the things that you’re doing but I suppose the counter argument can be made that the further into the game that you get the more and more things will be made clearer to you. Personally, I don’t like that approach I feel the story in the training and the first episode while being enjoyable is just really lacking in anything to make me hooked to pay for more episodes. As shown above the premise is that you have come to the ICA or have been recruited by the ICA for summary assessment and employment as one of their highly accredited ‘Agents’, you are flown to a top-secret training facility in the mountains of an unknown country and out through several tests to determine suitability for a role as an agent. Upon arrival, you are introduced to fan favourite and long-time star Dianna burnwood. Dianna has been assigned to you as part of the handler program and will manage all your training and missions just like the good old days (hang on to those thoughts though as we will discuss them later). Without spoiling too much you are put through two missions spread out over three instances. An appraisal mission to determine your skills, a free form training version of the appraisal mission to see your creativity and then ‘the final test’ which is the ICA exam that will clear you for field work as one of their operatives. Each mission isn’t all that long to be honest. Maybe half an hour for each, slightly less depending on how you choose to approach each situation. Diana will provide you with tactical guidance and information throughout the first two instances but isn’t allowed to help you too much in the final test which as you’ll be told has had a difficulty increase because the training director apparently has a vendetta against bald guys with skills. After training your first real mission for the ICA is Paris. You are assigned to eliminate a pair of high ranking spies for a covert group known as IAGO who for all intents and purposes have been jolly well up to no good! This differs heavily from the training missions as in this mission there is heavier focus on time restricted options and assassinations. Also, the two targets have to be eliminated in two different instances bar one far off challenge you can’t complete until later on. Overall the story for the intro and Paris is not the worst. It still lacks anything I can really say has hooked me to the game but I shall continue to play anyway as the gameplay is where it makes up for.
Speaking of gameplay though I must admit this is where the game both shines the brightest and falls down the hardest, to start I want to highlight that the game is an always online title, what that means is that to play this game to its fullest potential you need to be connected to a Sqaure enix server (Don’t ask me why, I still don’t get it or like it) the biggest drawback of this is save games as you can play offline BUT offline saves cannot be used when online and vice versa and I have yet to hear a good explanation as to why this was even entertained as a development choice because frankly it’s just dumb. With that grievance out of the way we can address how HITMAN plays and you’ll be delighted to know that the game plays very well. It’s got a distinctly hitman feel and you can tell that straight away. You are heavily punished for anything brash, lacking finesse or in general trying to be agent Yobbo which I like. It’s been a while since a stealth game actually made stealth important and not just a, aww you tried, now butcher everyone so you can’t be seen again. Movement and interactions are very well done here with even basic animations having some real detail paid to them. Kill animations are great to watch and are smooth. To go with the return of the old style we have disguises too. Now I know what you’re thinking. I played absolution and saw how this wasn’t really on par there but this is different, disguises now grant you access to areas but now we see a return of the old days with enforcers, members of the enemy force that can see through your disguise and will immediately rain on your parade so I would avoid these jokers if possible. The training mission offered you a good taste of various outfits and weapons to approach the situation and I really enjoyed experimenting. In the free form training it went a bit crazy though offering shotguns, assault rifles and even a trip mine for use in the scenario but even now I can’t see how they would have helped me at all unless agent 47 was going to go full Rambo on a yacht full of people. On the subject of weapons and bringing those old blood money memories back to fruition, forget all you know about weapons from the old days, upgrades, improvements, they have all gone. You are now equipped with ICA issue gear and while you can unlock drops for better weapons like a sniper rifle you can’t do anything with it in terms of improvements which disappointed me when I first realised that, upgrades were a great aspect of the old games and a huge part of the sense of achievement that the games gave. Another new aspect to the game is challenges, these for those that don’t know are rewardable actions in each mission for completing a certain objective, often an inventive way to kill the target(s) now in the old days these would not have been shown to you, more of an experiment and maybe you’ll find a cool new way to pull of the hit but now these are shown to you in the Intel file although these are not immediately available and you’ll need to have some mastery unlocked in order to pull off some of the more skillful objectives.
Overall despite the issues with the short missions, the new challenges and the lack of weapon upgrades the game still has that hitman vibe to it and you still get that stone cold professional killer feel with every target that you take out. As I play more of the episodes I imagine the story will become clearer and clearer to me and I hope that it does prove to be something that was worth the time investment. At £6.69 I can’t say the product is too overpriced but maybe it could have been slightly cheaper. Overall not a bad product with plenty of appeal. More to follow on future episodes of the game 😀 see you then guys !