Hitman episode 1 offers huge sandbox assassination opportunities
Somehow it's been four years since the last proper Hitman release (Android titles aside), and here we are with a new self-titled entry that caused quite a stir not too long ago with that ugly pre-order fiasco.
Changes In Approach And Execution
If you missed the Internet rumblings, all pre-orders were canceled, despite the fact that the game was still coming out on the same day as originally announced and not being pushed back. This led to the revelation that Hitman would be an episodic release with new sections released every few months a la Telltale Games.
We'll get into whether or not that works for that franchise in a bit, but first, let's dive straight into what really matters: the gameplay. The long and short of it is that Hitman plays essentially the same as Absolution, just in a more cohesive and streamlined way with a few tweaks.
Other than more options on every front, there are really only two major noticeable changes. First off, the story and characters are significantly less ridiculous than with Absolution. I haven't come across a BDSM ninja nun assassin cabal yet, but hey, give it time – this is just the first episode!
The second major change is a very welcome one: the areas are much larger and each mission is presented on a grander scale. Following the two tutorial levels, the first real mission in Paris covers a sprawling estate with hundreds of party goers, models, security guards, stage techs, bartenders, makeup specialists, socialites, and more. I changed outfits three times and had discovered half a dozen ways to kill people in various areas before I even saw the first of two targets.
Hitman's Graphics And Gameplay
Graphically, Hitman is definitely a step up from its predecessor, with a photorealistic approach on the cut scenes and a very smooth presentation during regular gameplay.
Although he doesn't do the voice acting, Agent 47's face appears to be based around Billy Crudup (Dr. Manhattan from the Watchmen movie adaptation) this time around. There's just way too many similarities in facial features for that to have been an accident.
See the resemblance?
The main mission itself in this first episode can be incredibly challenging on your first go around, taking a lot of pre-planning and exploration to get a viable assassination attempt going, but that's actually half the fun. Will you drop a chandelier, poison the target so they go to the bathroom and drown them in a toilet, shoot them from afar, get close disguised as a waiter and stab them, plant explosives and patiently wait for them to walk by, or come up with something else entirely?
There are a ton of options presented in these sandbox style missions, some of which are clearly designed to be found (mostly revolving around hearing conversations that lead to specific opportunities), and others that you can come up with on your own.
It's a lot harder, but if you get tired of trying to figure out something stealthy, you can can grab a few guns and start shooting until the targets are down. There are equally varied ways to escape an area after the target is down – including one option in a tutorial mission that lets you fly out on a jet!
Replay Value And Breaking Hitman Into Episodes
Besides finding different ways to complete a mission, there's major replay value to the missions added by completing challenges. The more challenges you complete (and they can't all be done in one playthrough), the more starting options you have.
That's right – this time you get to unlock different map starting points, smuggled items dropped in specific areas, new starting outfits, and so on. There's easily dozens of different ways to approach and complete a mission, and the more you play, the more options become available.
So what about the episodic approach? All arguments of time and money aside, the episodic nature of this entry in the franchise isn't detrimental to the story or gameplay. Think about the different assassination missions of Hitman: Absolution – it was essentially built in an episodic nature already, just released all together at once.
While it's annoying that you will have to wait if you want to play the game from beginning to end in one go around. But from a gameplay perspective, it really doesn't change anything.
Considering how much fun I'm having just playing these handful of missions available in the first episode, I suspect this new approach will work well, if they can keep up the high quality in future episodes.
Note: GameSkinny was provided a copy of this game by the developer.