HITMAN, another game hit by the Reboot bug, after what many consider a low point in its Career with Absolution HITMAN looks to go back to its roots with its newest release. Developed by IO Interactive and published under Square Enix, HITMAN switches from the full game release style to the more coveted style of Episodic releases with the first episode in March, second in April and so forth till the end of the year for 7 episodes in total. Everyone wants to be a TV show nowadays…
(This is an overview of the whole of Season 1, read my previous per-episode reviews for more in-depth looks)
The game starts with a few cutscenes and tutorial missions, following Agent 47 as he first joins the International Contract Agency (ICA), his rough start into a rough profession. Masked in mystery and a hidden past, Agent 47 is met by scrutiny by the higher-ups in the facility, however with the backing of Diana he is allowed initiation into the group. Given some short missions within a hidden facility it is shown that Agent 47 has the highest scores, aptitude and attitude of any of their agents.
Skipping some time ahead, we find Agent 47 after he has garnered enough trust with the ICA, besides just Diana. Many contracts fall onto his lap, to kill targets, destroy evidence or important items. With his immense skill, Agent 47 falls not a one, making some in the agency afraid of his prowess, even vying to get rid of him. However, as each contract is completed it slowly reveals an insidious plot behind them. A powerful yet phantom-like organisation known as Providence is behind the contracts, making them strong with each successful kill.
Travelling to Paris, Sapienza, Marrakesh, Bangkok, Colorado and Hokkaido, Agent 47 will be ordered to kill several individuals. The further down the rabbit hole he goes, the more information is gained on Providence and the idea of members of the ICA being a part of Providence is put forward. Hunting down traitors, finding out their plans and setting ICA right again is the main goal of HITMAN.
Season 1 is a long journey, split across 6 episodes of around 2 hours a piece depending on playstyle. Each episode comes with 1 main mission and level to complete, with 20 levels of mastery to unlock through hidden collectables, types of assassination and more. You can easily rack over 30 hours of playtime, replaying missions to get higher scores or unlock new equipment for them.
HITMAN returns to its roots, moving away from the more action orientated Absolution, as well as away from its darker, edgy runaway tones. You are set up with several missions to complete, nicely laid before you in concise locations. The missions are almost always to kill an individual target, but also include destruction of items, theft of items or changing the environment. You are scored on speed, efficiency, silent and ghost approaches and any side objectives.
Agent 47 is excellent at hand-to-hand combat, with a quick time event presenting itself if you ever need to attack a target. Besides hand-to-hand, you can choke someone or knock them out with blunt weapons, or kill them with a snap of the neck or edged weapons. You can select from an array of starting equipment, from guns and explosives to lock picks and distraction coins. The assassinations within HITMAN are totally up to you, going for a sneaky garrotte or a long-ranged sniper kill.
Alongside the main story you also have access to player-generated contracts, where they set the objectives within the levels. Combined with the player-generated contracts, IO interactive also create their own limited contracts, ranging from 24 hours to a whole 7 days, where you have 1 chance at completing it. These side contracts are a great way to spend some downtime, with a more “random” approach to the level design and assassinations.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
Throughout your playtime you will not really notice much music in action, the main menu and cinematics is where the soundtrack is put to use. Levels are mostly full of talking, ambient noises and ques for you to pick up. When you do get to hear the soundtrack it is amazingly crafted, fitting the stealth and hitman themes that the game portrays, yet not overpowering the events in which they play. Sadly, like I said earlier, they are not played quite enough for you to grow attached.
Each episode of HITMAN presents you with an entirely new level, though filled with some rather similarly designed and voiced NPCs as well as items to gather. Each level contains a crowbar, wrench, pipe, scissors etc, for you to pick up and utilize. While the change of scenery can take your breath away at first glance, it is dampened too harshly when you meet the same British woman over and over, or through picking up identical items.
HITMAN thankfully brings back some older concepts from the franchise, starting the levels in varying ways. From being invited to a party in a tux, sitting on the bench nearby or sleeping within a hospital you have been planted within, along with new identities. You often start with your own pre-set gear, though some missions allow for different starting items, with the final mission starting you off with no gear whatsoever.
Sadly, Season 1 does not hit all the notes when it comes to level design or limitations, it lacked some of the design I liked from levels like “Murder of Crows” from Hitman: Blood Money, where you must take out 3 targets in costumes within a city packed with hundreds of NPCs, car floats and more. Similarly I missed the vibe that “Beldingford Manor” had in Hitman: Contracts, where you must traverse a large house, surrounded by guards, to kill a Lord and save a kidnapped Son.
Without spoiling too much, Season 1 feels unfinished in terms of story and direction, leaving us with a cliff-hanger and too many loose ends. Advertised as a complete experience or Season, it fails to neatly wrap up all the events presented within its story. After spending 30+ hours in the game, finding hidden lore, listening to conversations on top of watching the cutscenes, being slapped with an ending cutscene that pretty much says “we’ll be talking” kind of feels insulting.
HITMAN Season 1 gets a 7/10, it has definitely done a great job at reviving some of the older tones, themes and design of previous games, rectifying some of the problems that Absolution brought to the table. While it does amazingly in the design department, it misses too many points in story, direction and overall flow, breaking itself into episodes was not a good choice for story development, only really helping to nail down some of the mechanics per level. Season 1 only just misses the mark when it comes to variety, feeling a bit stale in Episodes 1 – 4, hopefully with the next season it brings the unique designs to all of its levels.
In my opinion an Episode/Season approach to Hitman is a poor choice, it breaks too much of the story flow, and with a game like Hitman that tells it’s story through its gameplay, conversations as well as hidden collectable, it just increases that break. With Season 2 confirmed and talks about a possible 3rd Season, I do not have high hopes for its story, though I do hope it can continue to improve the Hitman formula.