Hitman (2016) - Review
The Hitman series has become one of the longest running franchises in gaming history. The series has mainly remained under the radar and thus this knowledge must be surprising to readers. But Agent 47 has been on the hunt for almost two decades by this point and has largely delivered creative and enticing gameplay. Hitman: Absolution signalled a change in the franchise’s style with more linear level design reminiscent of third-person action games in the market. This wasn’t as engaging as the earlier titles in the series such as Hitman: Blood Money, and 2016’s Hitman aims to bring the franchise back to its roots. The result is a highly enjoyable venture that is only hindered by the lack of additional content.
The story brings Agent 47 back to the past – albeit briefly – as we uncover how he was hired initially by Diana Burnwood in 1999. This leads to 2019, where 47 continues his assassin career to much success. However, a shadow client is on the heels of the Agency and is manipulating contracts to serve his own need. It remains uncertain throughout the story what the shadow client’s motives are and where the plot is going but it would appear that is the intention with which the game was made. It is a cat-and-mouse chase with the mouse not having any idea there is a predator hunting him. While this may sound exciting, that is not the case. The story is largely forgettable due to ineffective pacing. The characters’ dialogues are kept subtle to such an extent that the player will defect their interest away in favour of gameplay.
There’s also the fact that the levels can be played out of order and this renders the story even more incoherent as the constant babbling will no doubt feel tedious. After Hitman: Absolution, there may have been an attempt to put less focus on the story and more on substance to the gameplay. This has been carried out just right but the sacrifice to the storyline is evident. At no point will the player want to care about what is going on, even though it will cost them some time to understand what the mission was for 47 once a level begins. The episodic format with which the levels had originally been released have failed to form a seamless connection. On the upside, the player will not feel drained from investing themselves into the plot and will dive head on into the gameplay.
Missions have now been expanded up tenfold from Hitman: Blood Money. Hitman: Absolution had large environments, but those were all restricted to certain locations before 47 had to progress further forward in the map and forego the previous setting. Here, there is no such issue and the maps are played out in sandbox style. The world is large, and that is an understatement. You get six main missions and two prequel missions. The latter are sized around the same as levels in Hitman: Blood Money were, but the main missions are so immense, so immersive that it is impossible to fully crack after even your tenth playthrough. This is where Hitman shines; the level designs are impeccable. You will be dropped into a setting where there are hundreds of possibilities. The old favourite of shooting your way to the target is almost unachievable thanks to the abundance of NPCs on screen.
But choosing that option would be a great disservice to the effort the developers have put in. The best way to get your value out of Hitman is to uncover all the various ways one can infiltrate toward the targets and kill them. These methods get creative by the playthrough and you will find many that were either hidden in plain sight or so meticulously hidden that it would be impossible to locate them unless found by accident. Unfortunately, the maps available are too less to justify a disc release. At least two more settings should have been available to truly give a well rounded experience. This is due to a couple of not-so-great levels. The biggest dud of all would be the Colorado mission, which will remind gamers of Hitman: Absolution’s failure to provide an immersive setting. Closely following that level in the humdrum pile would be the Marrakesh mission. However, when Hitman excels, it knocks it out of the park.
Sapienza and Paris have to be the greatest missions in Hitman history. They are a work of art with their seemingly immeasurable possibilities. In these levels you genuinely get the idea that 47 has been dropped into a mission with only his skills to accompany him. You get the usual silent Silverballers, Fiber wire and the choices of lethal injections or remote explosives when beginning a mission. However, it depends on the costume worn at the time if these weapons could be drawn in public. Don’t worry, though, because there are a multitude of options to choose from in order to kill your targets. These can range from dumping them into a Woodchipper to locking them in a searing hot Sauna room. The magic of the game is to wow the player by showing them how these tasks can be achieved. Making life easier is the options being readily available from the menu to be chosen and followed through with. Although it is more satisfying to uncover the killing options by one’s own self, this method does allow you to sit back and have fun without running about in confusion.
Once the main missions are over, the player will realize the enormous maps carry with them hundred percent replay value and will return multiple times to kill the targets in more colourful ways. The game is a globe-trotting event with 47 sent off around the world to complete his contracts. It is a delight to uncover a new way to dispose of the target and with the unlimited saves option you will undoubtedly enjoy to your hearts’ content with the different possibilities a simple action can make. What isn’t that great, however, is the overall moronic A.I. present. Hitman NPCs have always been fools who make no notice of dead bodies lying around them in broad daylight, but this game’s A.I. frustratingly continues that tradition. It is infuriating when you end up getting gunned down simply because you took one small step in the wrong direction. How can it be believable that guards would kill a man if he should happen to bump into a stranger? You can’t go undetected even if wearing the appropriate garb as there will always be at least one man who will see through the deception. This doesn’t scream authentic and is more annoying that accurate.
Various challenges are laid out for the player to complete once you’ve had your happy trails with the main mission and these will eat up a lot of your time. Unfortunately, these side missions aren’t so much fun and you need to retread in the same levels, with the same A.I.’s, only with new targets and more outlandish ways to kill them. But these challenges will motivate you into completing them and satisfy your ego to call yourself a bona fide assassin. Then there are those one-time contracts that you will have only one shot to complete before they disappear. The gameplay aspect of Hitman would be near flawless had a couple more maps been added and the NPCs not been so Draconian in their punishment of you for simply passing by them.
Graphics are awe inspiring. Hitman has finally made its graphics a thing of beauty, and this lasts in-game as well. The cutscenes, while boring, will be watched by players simply to marvel at the level of detail to the character models. Needless to say, Agent 47 is hot now. The man oozes class and has the look of a Gentlemen. Although it is still ridiculous how no one catches a bald white guy with a tattoo on the back of his head walking around in different outfits, it can easily be forgiven thanks to the wonders of level design. The maps are precisely rendered with nary a hitch or technical glitch. There are no bugs or awkward movements to prevent you from having a seamless playthrough. In a good way, many important items or paths are hidden in plain sight so as to force the player to scrutinize their surroundings. There is a lot going on in every setting, be it the hundreds of NPCs on screen or variety of items lying around. Random conversations have been thrown in for that authentic feel but be wary as these are most likely hints toward a possible assassination technique.
Levels like Paris and Sapienza will make the player forget what they were there for as these have the most options for exploration. The maps are beautifully constructed. The fireworks, lavishness and decorum of Paris is complimented by the lushness, openness and fresh feel of Sapienza. Again, attention to detail has been meticulously placed for the players to figure out where to go or what to do. The developers deserve a serious standing ovation where the graphics and in-game design are considered. But the most pleasant of surprises will remain the cutscene quality that should stand among the best games of all time. It’s a shame these sequences are boring, as the characters look close to lifelike quality.
Soundtrack & Conclusion
The soundtrack is relatively one note in that there is one kind of music for safe situations and the same kind for when you get busted or are in the midst of an attack. However, the NPCs’ dialogues are well inserted and you’ll need to snoop around quite a lot to see what the deal is in certain scenarios. The weak point here is that there is no authenticity provided for accents. For some reason, people in Japan sound Australian. Similarly, people in Italy have English accents. These aren’t exactly minor gripes as the accents are too noticeable to ignore. You can’t get the feel of a setting right if the people there don’t sound like they belong. Voice acting is phenomenal as ever. Agent 47 continues to be a standout with his stoic demeanour, which becomes eerily foreboding once he adopts a sappy style to blend in. Likewise, the side characters have upped their game this time and feel like they belong in the story rather than simply to rack up the numbers. Had the plot been engaging, the voice actors would have stood out more.
Hitman is an awesome entry in the series, one that stands out as perhaps the best we’ve gotten thus far. There are no real negative points for the game other than the lack of content. The developers have relied on the replay value – which is in abundance – to keep the player satisfied and while this is justified to a great extent, it is not wholly the right decision. With a couple more levels added – or bad levels like Colorado replaced – we would have had a perfect game on our hands. However, there’s no taking away from a game that excels in keeping the player guessing and motivating them to come back for more.
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© 2018 Saim Cheeda