Agent 47 is back, and his head is as shiny as ever.
IO Interactive’s latest entry in the Hitman series of games has taken a different route to release than the previous Hitman: Absolution. Rather than just dropping the game on retail once it was complete, or as near to complete as developers ever get nowadays, the original plan was to launch online in a partial state and then build up with additional free content before finally going to retail. However, that idea didn’t stick for long, and instead the game has gone all episodic.
The initial release is of the Hitman: Intro Pack, which is now available. Fans of the barcoded assassin are able to pick up this Intro Pack alone for a reasonably low price, and then bolster the game with an Upgrade pack which will add the rest of the episodes as and when they are released, or pick up each episode individually when they come out. Or players are able to put their faith in Agent 47 and IO Interactive and pick up the entire game in one go for the standard price of a triple-A release, although they will still have to wait for the additional episodes to release. Either way, the idea of this episodic release is to listen to what the players think and improve the game as it goes along. It’s not a bad idea and will benefit the game in the long run, with only the binge players suffering from having to wait between episodes.
The Intro Pack manages to squeeze in two prologue locations and the first episode. Each episode is based on a particular location, and in the Intro Pack we are introduced to the glitz and glamour of a fashion show in Paris. Fashionista that he is, Agent 47 should be right at home.
The Prologue missions go back in time to when Agent 47 first joined the organisation known as ICA, and act as a tutorial of sorts, teaching both Agent 47 and the player the art of being an assassin. Set on a party boat and a large military facility, the player is introduced to a world of opportunities when it comes to creatively removing your target. Although at first, as the game explains the importance of remaining unseen through the use of different disguises to gain access to different areas, how to blend in and what to look for in a threat, it may feel as though the game is holding your hand too much as it leads you to your target. However, players are allowed to head back into these tutorial missions after completion to brush up on their skills or explore a world of possibilities in the art of assassination.
The tutorials won’t take players long to work through, although there is a whole wealth of replay value to be found even in these prologue missions. However, the real meat of the Intro Pack is the Showstopper level, set at a fashion show in some fancy mansion in Paris. Break out the tux.
Fast-forwarding to after Absolution, Agent 47 is still rocking that hair-free look, and has husband and wife targets. There is some narrative going on here, involving a sinister organisation known as IAGO, but the story is not especially compelling at the moment, which could change as the later episodes are released. Still, what is important is the massive murder sandbox that IO Interactive have created for the players to enjoy.
Once again, Agent 47 will be putting on disguises to access the various areas of the level needed to take out the targets. Disguises only work to a certain degree, and some NPCs can see through these disguises and raise the alarm. While Agent 47 is a death-dealing machine, and players could approach the game with force, that would be missing the point. Hitman is more of an exploratory and investigative game. Players will need to learn their surroundings to find different ways available to take out their targets. The possibilities are endless, and credit has to be given to IO Interactive for including so many options. Everything from a quick dose of poison and an accident with a chandelier, to a lethal swirlie are all open to the player. Opportunities, little hints that may be overheard through passing a bystander, offer some direction to possible ways the objective can be completed, but the hardcore player can turn these off and just rely on their own skill at finding new and unusual ways to dispatch their targets.
Aside from finding different ways to complete the level, replayability is offered with different challenges that can be completed to offer the likes of new weapons and new areas of the level to explore and use. Contracts mode makes a return, offering players the chance to create their own hits, or take on contracts created by others, and a new Escalation mode offers contract like missions that increase in difficulty.
Visually, Hitman looks good. It is not groundbreaking, perhaps in part due to the massive numbers of NPCs that populate the levels, but it is incredibly atmospheric and just screams opportunity.
Of course, this is only the first step in Agent 47’s latest journey, and the quality of the entire adventure will not be known until all episodes have been released. But for a first episode, and some prologue missions, this is a pretty full package. The Parisian sandbox is incredible and so open that players could spend hours finding all manner of different and inventive ways to commit murder. Hitman: Intro Pack is a great intro, and will leave the player wanting to spend more time with Agent 47.