Hitman Intro Pack
- Street Date:
- March 11th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Sophia Edwards
- Review Date:1
- March 18th, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- Square Enix
- IO Interactive
Digital PS4 version reviewed. 'Hitman' is being released in a tiered structure. This first $15 release can be bought as the Intro pack as reviewed or as part of the full $60 pack, which can be ordered here.
Square Enix and IO interactive return to the world of 'Hitman' with a reboot that hearkens back to the roots of the series. The game will be distributed episodically, with the 'Hitman Intro Pack' containing two training missions and the Paris locale. The game has full online integration as well, allowing players to make and distribute new contracts and access new challenges, which should be a boon for replayability.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Hitman: Absolution' was a fine game that brought some great ideas to its highly esteemed franchise, but fans weren't pleased with the direction the game took. Partially due to adhering to a plot that had since become muddled, but largely because of the game's linearity, it was ultimately regarded as a misstep by most. Still, IO didn't let that reception deter them from realizing what worked in 'Absolution', and here we are with a series reboot that hearkens back to the freedom of titles such as 'Blood Money' while taking some smart steps forward that lead to a bold beginning for what could turn out to be IO's best game yet.
Perhaps the best decision made in 'Hitman' is starting from zero on the plot. Agent 47 was never a terribly interesting hero, always characterized by player action more than anything else, so this reboot requires no knowledge of the series and keeps cutscenes to a minimum. There's a plot that seems alright so far from what little can be gleamed from these opening missions, but almost all of the storytelling is kept to the missions themselves, hearing little details through NPC conversation that the game leaves players to find.
In fact, the approach to story probably best represents IO's design ethos here: Giving players a large degree of freedom. Each mission in the game tasks the player with taking out one or two targets without attracting any attention, and that's it. You're not really given any other objectives outside of that, with the game leaving everything between the start and end of a mission up to players themselves. It's almost a little daunting at first, stepping back into a totally open level after some brief tutorials that guide players rather heavily, explaining central mechanics like disguising yourself or distracting guards until players are intimately familiar with them. But the brilliance of this design makes itself apparent very quickly, allowing replay pf the tutorials and turning what seem like innocuous training missions into playgrounds with myriad possibilities. It's one thing following the tutorial guideline and shooting the target in the head, it's another thing entirely donning the disguise of a bartender and putting rat poison in the target's drink, or supplanting the man the target is meant to be meeting and executing the target by drowning him in his toilet.
While it can be intimidating, suddenly stepping into the massive Paris area that makes up the game's first full-sized mission, IO makes a series of smart decisions that make this approachable without hampering player freedom. Each mission offers a series of "opportunities", guidelines that can be followed with set objectives that will ultimately help eliminate the targets, but they're entirely optional, never getting in the way in the slightest. There's an 'Arkham'-esque vision mode that reveals exactly where the target is no matter how far away they are, but again, it doesn't need to be touched if you'd rather figure things out yourself. With dozens of totally viable options at Agent 47's disposal, ignoring the guidelines is perfectly fine.
Hitman is a stealth game, but it's one that relies less on the ability to sneak around, and more on figuring out what needs to be done. Working out how to best kill the targets often leaves the missions feeling like complex and immensely satisfying puzzles, and the game is all the better for it. The first time I tried the Paris mission, I killed one of my targets without an issue, but had no idea how to kill the second target, fumbling around for ages and reloading old saves constantly. After trying the mission again a few times, suddenly I was killing both targets within minutes, if not seconds of each other. The Paris mission has 70 different challenges to complete that in turn unlock more gear for that level, and completing each challenge ensures that Paris alone can last hours upon hours and still feel fresh. Tonally and structurally, it feels more like 'James Bond' than any 'James Bond' game ever has, leaving me feeling like a master spy after some much-needed practice. Even the online integration, allowing players to set up absolutely any NPC as a target and give other players conditions to kill them, is a ton of fun, adding a great deal of replay value to an already content-rich game. It was the best idea in 'Absolution' and it's nice to see it reused in a game with levels that allow players to make more creative contracts for others to perform.
The level of structural freedom here is so refreshing in a AAA landscape that often feels content to tell players exactly what to do and how to do it. Two players might get through the mission in completely different ways, and after a dozen hours with this intro pack alone, I still feel like I have more to discover, even the game's tutorial missions have plenty of content that can only be seen by running through them several times. 'Hitman' isn't an open-world game or anything like that, but provides more freedom in its mission-sized settings than almost any open world game really ever does, and it makes each setting feel totally alive while doing it. Paris has hundreds upon hundreds of NPC with their own set schedules and behaviors. Conversations between totally different groups of people may happen at completely opposite ends of the map at the same time, and piecing together everything through replay is extremely satisfying. If every mission keeps up this level of quality, this could easily go down as one of the year's best games.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
This new 'Hitman' is a really beautiful game, with wonderfully designed locales and an amazing amount of detail that most players might not ever see. IO continues to develop using the Glacier engine, and the results are often stunning. While some may be frustrated by episodic structure of the game, that structure has given IO breathing room to create wonderfully designed locales and to iterate in response to player feedback. If this first chapter is any indication, later episodes should be just as beautiful.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
While the music is nothing special, the sound design is absolutely phenomenal. Each location is filled with dozens, If not hundreds of NPCs, and the work here makes those settings feel completely realistic when they need to be. There's an insane amount of voice work, and it's all handled incredibly well. It's the rare stealth game where silence isn't the accompaniment for most of the runtime, and it's all the better for it.
An incredibly replayable intro pack sees even the tutorials filled with reasons to go back after a first run through. Though this is only the first part of a much larger game, there's enough here to last at least 15-20 hours when all is said and done, with online contracts extending that even further.
A fantastic reboot that revitalizes an aging series wonderfully, the 'Hitman Intro Pack' is packed with personality, intelligence, and absolutely wonderful gameplay. This should easily satisfy series veterans and newcomers alike, and gives me a ton of hope for upcoming episodes. I can't wait to see where IO goes from here.
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