Hitman – Intro Pack PC Review
Hitman, as the solitary name implies, is a return to what made the series appealing, a restart of sorts (not a reboot) for the sixth game in the franchise that brings back the open approach to thinking up ingenious ways to take down targets. The previous title, Hitman: Absolution, a title I enjoyed, was not everything fans wanted from a game in the “Hitman” brand. I even said so in my review conclusion that Absolution was “a decent stealth game but not a fantastic Hitman game.” This has changed for the new title. Not only has it gone back to the sandbox murder fun, it has also gone through a new way to delivery content, as Hitman is now releasing in episodic updates throughout the year, starting the season with the base game, which includes a couple of tutorial levels and the first major level set in Paris.
There was some initial confusion when Hitman was first announced. It was originally going to be released with three locations with multiple missions based in them, with three more locations coming free in updates in the future. This was later scrapped in favour of an episodic approach, where throughout the year the rest of the remaining levels will be patched in through free updates. Currently, this means there isn’t much of a story to follow. The game sets up the tutorial levels as a prologue 20 years before the Paris mission begins, where Agent 47 is put through a training regime to see if he is capable of being a professional assassin. It isn’t much about an engaging plot, but rather just getting on with the gameplay by bringing back the open approach, and from the first real level, it looks like IO Interactive are on the right path to fulfil that concept.
While the tutorial levels are their own small environments without much scope, The real meat of this intro package is the mission in Paris – known as the city of Love, but there is no love as Agent 47, who is asked to bring death to two targets who are hosting a fashion show, but secretly run a spy ring that goes by the name of IAGO. The level is situated inside a huge mansion, with gardens surrounding the outside and hundreds of jam-packed attendees, waiters, electricians and security men going about their business. My first attempt led to a couple of failures, but eventually I made my way inside, ended up knocking out a security guard and taking his clothes, then caused a private hired man in black to come investigate the scene, which in turn led me to gaining his clothes and ID. I blended in as a guard, keeping a watchful eye on Viktor, taking him out when he was by himself before leaving the scene and making my way upstairs to take down the second target. Lucky for me, a prince of the middle east was relaxing by himself, so I choked him out, stole his clothes and impersonated him to get to the auction, then followed my target, Dalia, and popped a bullet in her head before I left the scene through a parked helicopter waiting for the real “prince.”
That was only one successful attempt, but there is so many other ways to go about it. It might come naturally, or you might be making the best of a situation gone bad. Although, Hitman is still a stealth game at heart – you cannot treat this as an action shooter and try blaze your way through the mission, as this will end up in misery, since Agent 47 can only withstand a minimal amount of damage before he is dead. The best way is to explore and calculate a path, trying to think up a solution to a puzzle that you do not have all the pieces for. There is no doubt that the best thing about Hitman is the many opportunities the game offers in the same location, trying to get through without a hiccup to produce the perfect hit. If you are person who plays through once and is done, then Hitman in its current form is most likely not for you. You can get through the content in a single play through in around two to three hours. That train of thought is wrong for such a game like this. The developers have worked hard to make it fun to replay levels by accomplishing the assassination in different ways or even adding in new targets, but the latter we will get onto in a bit.
Attempting the Paris level again had gave me a new starting location – additional starting points appear as you repeatedly beat a mission to contribute to the mastery gauge for that level. Think of it as experience points for accomplishing the game’s optional challenges. Every mastery level comes with new ways to change the mission or your pre-mission loadout. This meant I began in disguise as a waiter in the basement kitchen. I casual removed myself from the scene and moved up to where the party was held, blending in as a barman, making a cocktail and slipping in a little poison, letting the host drink himself to an unexpected death. His partner on the other hand, I watched her until she went to do her make up in the bathroom, then I washed it off her face by drowning her in the toilet, leaving the scene in a rather unspectacular way by simply walking out the gate. There are many more situations that can happen – death by light rig, pushed into the river, impersonating a supermodel, and camera explosion are my favourites – and the game offers plenty of replay value for anyone willing to take on the challenge list, where it asks that you perform the assassination in a specific way, acquire a certain item or perform a feat to pass.
Hitman welcomes people to take on the more challenging approaches, as a friendly auto and manual save system are built in to allow reloading of mistakes from trial and error – very helpful when going for some of the more complex assassinations that aim to make it look like an accidental death. “Opportunities” is a new feature implemented that offers tips when discovering visual or audio cues that lead to potential new ways to set up the assassination by highlighting their position on screen. This can be turned off for true professional assassins who just want to get immersed in the beautiful, populated French building.
The game manages to feed key information well to the player. It is easy to know if someone has their eyes on you, as a small indicator appears in the middle of the screen pointing in the direction of the person watching, and will grow bigger the more they become suspicious. People’s job roles play a part in this as well, since stealing a guard’s uniform during the hangar infiltration and trying to camouflage in with the rest of the guards will be met with uncertainty, as some of the guards who know the squad assign to protection duty won’t know your face and will begin to become suspicious of you. Long time fans can keep it straightforward and take away all the help options, but for newcomers, Hitman makes a compelling case to start your entry here, thanks to all the helpful mechanics for less experienced assassins.
Agent 47’s skills remain as useful as ever, and controls feel similar to Absolution, so there is no awkward battle with the controller to get Agent 47 to do what you want him to. This could be impersonating people, knocking them out, hiding bodies or using the returning Instinct that shadows the screen in black and white, while highlighting targets with a solid red making them easier to track if you are away from their location. Aiming and shooting are fairly standard, and hand-to-hand combat is a very short quick time event that leads to a knockout when correctly pressed. Quick time events do not take you out of the experience, in fact, I think the quick time event combat makes more sense for a deadly hitman, who should be able to take down people one-on-one with ease.
Due to the game’s episodic nature, I had a feeling that the developers would try to add lasting appeal to its currently limited content. Escalation, Elusive Targets and Contract build on the foundations that come from – what we have seen so far at least – IO Interactive’s great level design. Contract was originally introduced in Absolution, which allowed users to create their own contracts by playing through a mission, assigning the targets, killing them and getting safely out, then sharing it with the world for people to attempt. Escalation is a similar idea, but done by the developers. They start with an easy kill, but then each round builds up with an extra step to take into account, leading to some very difficult hits that require the use of a certain weapon, costume and even stealing someone’s vodka. The Paris escalation has only its first step, with the remaining four coming out in the next couple of weeks.
The last mode, Elusive Targets, sound similar to daily challenges in other games, where during a certain period of time for 48 hours, players will be able to have one chance at taking down the given target – no saving and reloading to save you here. If you fail, it’s over until a new elusive target appears at a later date. Sadly, it wasn’t active during my few hours with the game, but what I have heard sounds interesting, since elusive targets will be new characters injected into the game, coming with their own dialogue and routes.
This trickle of content is available due to Hitman‘s constant online feature. It’s another one in the line of single player games that require internet connections to get the most out of it. You can play it offline, but it’s advised to do that before starting any missions, as if the connection drops, the player is booted back to the menu. First day had horrid server issues, which seems to be standard nowadays for any company, but since then, I’ve not had any problems. Playing offline also removes the ability to finish challenges or add to mastery to unlock those extra weapons and gear, which removes some of the point of replaying the game, so really, this game needs to be online to get the most from it. That might upset some, but on the other hand, I can see the developers wanting to keep people locked down from cheating on the leaderboards.
The structure of Hitman works well for episodic content, and while it is something we are used to seeing in games with a heavy focus on story, it’s probably something we are going to have to get used to when it comes to big budget titles. Currently there are two ways to purchase Hitman, either as a full game price of £39.99 that gives you everything until the end, all upcoming locations (America, Italy, Japan, Thailand and Marrakesh) and challenges that come with them or the other option is to purchase the Hitman: Intro Pack for £10.99, which is everything that is out now – the two tutorial missions and Paris. The Intro Pack is exactly what it says in its title, a sample for people not entirely sure if they will like the game or not. If they do, they can purchase the upgrade to complete the package. In a world where people question everything with value, it’s fair to say that I have paid for indie games that offer the same length of time, but without the replay value or the quality production values – this is a great looking title on PC that eradicates any loading issues found in the console version and is only spoilt by some sporadic frame rate issues – that comes with a title like this, for more, so I feel the asking price is right for what you are getting.
Due to this being an unfinished release, but Square Enix offering the Intro Pack for Hitman, I feel reviewing the game on the merits of the intro pack is the best way to go about it. For the price, you are getting a short experience that offers incredible replay value with all the additional modes, challenges and contracts. Agent 47 is back to playing at his best, and while the Paris mission isn’t the most memorable location in Agent 47’s history, it’s a great start that shows promise that the developers are taking the series in the right direction with the mechanics crafted here, bringing the Hitman of old back to the forefront with joyous, murderous sandbox fun. Hitman has refined its gameplay, while having options that help newcomers, but should not upset existing fans, and as such, is a solid start that hopefully keeps getting better and upping the variety with each mission added.