Bloody Good Time - A First Look at Hitman: Sniper
Once upon a time, the words "Hitman franchise" and "mobile" would never have been strung together in the same sentence - that is, unless they were immediately followed by the words "hahahaha" and "no."
And yet, for the second time running, Square Enix Montreal is challenging that notion. Following the surprising turn-based hit that was Hitman Go, this time the gameplay has been pared down even more - to the point where you, playing as the Hitman staple Agent 47, don't even move.
Similar in scope to the Hitman: Sniper Challenge by Io-Interactive that was included with Hitman: Absolution, this brand new free-to-play offers casual pick-up-and-go mechanics combined with competitive leaderboards. Using a mix of skill, subtlety, creativity, and a little over-the-top silliness, complete your contracts by taking out your marks - with style.
While a single-level demo of Hitman: Sniper was available for free for Canadians briefly earlier this month, it has since disappeared off the various app stores. I managed to catch a brief look at this at Square Enix's off-site media suite during New York Comic Con - which in some ways felt like a mission in and of itself.
First an international flight in the early hours of the morning bled into a pell-mell shuttlebus dash through New York rush hour traffic (a terrifying experience to anyone not born to it, believe me). A quick drop of luggage in a nondescript hotel and a hasty meetup with fellow game journo Venisia later, we were on our way to the specified venue - only to be texted the correct address while we were halfway there.
Upon arrival, we were faced with the difficult strategic decision of whether to take the dark back staircase with a broken lightbulb on the ground floor, or taking a rickety freight elevator.
We chose the staircase.
What we found was worth all the rest.
Among the stations for hands-on demos nestled against the walls of the spacious studio suite, was a large couch and large TV screen devoted to Hitman: Sniper - for the benefit of those who couldn't actually get their hands on the iPad where the actual game was played on.
Even stretched out on the big screen, the game graphics looked flawless. More than just a test of sniping moving targets, this simple-looking game pulls you into a given mission scenario. Your score is driven purely by your own ingenuity - how to best kill your target without getting caught, and how to do it with the highest score possible.
Points are awarded to feats of subtlety and skill - by killing off witnesses, shooting environmental objects in order to cause distractions... and double-shooting bodies to ragdoll them into hiding.
The controls take into account the typical native motions of smartphones and tablets - a pinch motion in order to scope in, a quick tap to select and "bookmark" a target, a long tap to fire. Swipe and scope motions are smooth and make this game a pleasure to play.
Designed for replayability, there are seemingly endless different ways to interact with each scenario level, and while you can use this as an opportunity to fine-tune what works for you, you can also continue to find alternate ways to snipe your way to the top of the leaderboards.
Added into this mix is the option to trade in your hard-won game cash for a veritable arsenal of high-powered guns and rechargeable skills. While this can be accomplished the easiest by purchasing the upgrades with real money, players can still acquire all of these using in-game currency.
And the release date?
Unfortunately, while hype has been building since E3, there is still no word on when this title is expected to hit the iOS and Android platforms in full. One thing's for sure - when it does, it's definitely time to give the cartoonish laughs of Sniper Shooter a break in favor of something more realistic... without a pause in crazy killshot hilarity.