Title: Hitman Episode 1: Paris
Version Tested On: Xbox One
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One
How To Buy:
- Intro Pack (Prologue and Paris) $15
- Following Locations $10 Each
- Upgrade Pack $50
- Full Experience $60
Much like the Chameleon that Agent 47 is, we’ve seen the Hitman franchise change its image a few times lately. Recently we have played as the iconic assassin in the largely applauded Hitman Go and the less so, Hitman Absolution. Both games had their fans, but the latter left many disappointed by the streamlined gameplay. As such their faith in the longstanding series wavered.
IO interactive listened to the fan base and re-evaluated their stance on the future of the series. The developers have been working on the property for fifteen years and after dissecting their own history, they pinpointed the essence of what elevated Hitman into one of the gaming’s most recognizable names…Freedom.
The simply titled, Hitman could be perceived as a reboot but I regard it as more of an apology. I by no means expect such a gesture but there are possibly some who do and IO interactive are speaking to this demographic. Aside from the gameplay reform, there are less obvious acknowledgements of the mistakes that the developer made with Hitman Absolution.
With scenes reminiscent of the movie Spectre (which incidentally returned after a weak previous installment), our protagonist is being interrogated by ICA officials as Diana Burnwood and a leading agency member look on. Diana exclaims “give us a chance” to her superior in regards to recruiting our hero, but there is also a message there to players.
The reason for this request is that Hitman has taken a perverse approach by releasing this AAA title as episodic. However do not be alarmed by this news as this method surprisingly fits the Hitman mold exquisitely and, based on the first chapter, could become the definitive game in the franchise. The gameplay is reminiscent of the earlier games in the series with huge sandboxes, seemingly impossible assassination targets and a sadistic playground for our trained killer.
You begin with Agent 47’s initiation into the ICA 20 years prior as he is tested with recreated historical assassination scenarios. These two missions act as tutorials for newcomers and veterans alike and demonstrate the philosophy of Hitman. You are delicately steered through the first mission with disguises, snooping and assassinations being handed to you. Once the training mission is completed, you are astutely requested to reattempt the assassination by trying other methods. This is the ethos of the revitalized Hitman, one large area with dozens of possibilities; and it works effortlessly.
The second mission which unfolds on a military airfield in Cuba, is a little more complex and introduces us to the more extravagant assassinations. The said assignment concluded with a soviet spy soaring into the sky courtesy of a botched ejector seat. Needless to say the finale had me laughing and feeling immensely satisfied.
The real crux of the Intro Pack is the Sanguine Fashion Show in Paris. This gigantic playing field is where agent 47 is unleashed and is assigned the impossible task of eliminating two high profile targets. The episodic nature will reward us with more of these daunting endeavors throughout the year and a total of seven locations will be available.
Set in the fictitious Palais De Walewska, the scale of the palace is imposing. As a member of the public you are allowed to explore the catwalk, the bar and patios, but for a highly trained spy there is much more to discover. Descending into the basement will reveal wine cellars and the security team command post as they supervise the event through cameras. Ascending the levels will find you stumbling into an illegal auction and climbing even higher will have you scaling the rafters well above the masses down below.
The task here given to you is simple enough, eliminate the two targets and leave the vicinity. You can accomplish this by shooting every guard who stands between you and your target or you can take a slower and more calculated method. Disguises will be the best way to accomplish this. When incapacitating a person and taking their uniform, you will inhabit their identity. This grants you access to new areas and your plan can escalate from there.
The hierarchy at play will illustrate where your roaming options lie. As a chef you can go into the kitchen whereas joining the security team will deem your access much less restricted. I was pleased to see that not every staff member had the same status. When assuming a false identity the bosses will know you are not a member of their staff whereas lower ranking officials will invite you for a drink once you finish your shift.
A simple white dot above the heads of characters that will be able to identify you allows you to proceed with caution and maintain your animosity. Accidentally entering a restricted area will not necessarily result in chaos, more often than not you will be kindly escorted out after being considered nothing more than a nuisance. If however, you enter an area where armed guards defend the entrance, they will be far less forgiving.
On the whole, Hitman is generously lenient which is warmly welcomed. Nothing is more infuriating in stealth games that being thwarted by a technical mistake. That being said, this lenience can be exploited, as standing just out of their line of sight can allow you to perform uncouth activities without being reprimanded.
Opportunities are the set pieces that are on offer for you to accomplish your mission. There are a number of these on each level and will result in some of the more fulfilling conclusions. Having the lighting rig crash down onto the catwalk causing chaos is one said opportunity in Paris. These unique possibilities can be tracked from the start of the mission but can be organically initiated by overhearing a conversation or witnessing an event. When using the function you are only lightly briefed on what to do, so the sense of exploration and discovery is not lost on you. Wanting no assistance at all is also an option and I would encourage everyone to attempt this, as it drastically affects the scenario.
Much like the beginning similarities of Spectre, Agent 47 shares many parallels with James Bond. As you stroll into the exhibition in a tuxedo and stand a few feet away from your intended target it feels liberating. There are many stealth games available but they all encourage you to hide from enemies, whereas Hitman is a true espionage game. Being bold is favored and the game goads you into trying outlandish methods.
Occasionally stealth in the more traditional sense can be used, but for the most part you will be relying on disguises. Scaling drainage pipes or hiding in wardrobes are other methods of infiltration but other than disguises, there are limited options which I hope is rectified in future episodes.
These huge new areas would feel empty without NPC’s to fill it and the power of the next generation consoles has made that possible. There are over 300 individual characters attending the fashion show in some capacity. These huge crowds allow the standout, bald protagonist to blend in and it feels more believable and much less conspicuous. The majority of these characters have personalities too. You will hear them complain about life or even a cameraman’s love for stuffed crust pizza. However these harmless conversations may give you useful Intel for your mission.
The NPC’s can also be instrumental in creating your own contract missions which can be uploaded for others to challenge online. You begin the Paris mission as usual but you now have the option of choosing up to five targets to be assassinated. You can choose anyone from the barman to the makeup artist. You have to complete this assignment yourself before uploading it and then you can see if any other budding agents out there can beat your score.
Saving frequently will grant you the ability to be more ambitious with infiltration attempts. Save files are represented by a photo which helps you to remember where and who you were disguised as, which is immensely useful. However this function is flawed by the slow loading times. Reloading after a mistake could take up to a minute and this deflated my determination when taking risks.
Graphically the game looks smooth and sleek. With the promise of future episodes taking place in Marrakesh and Japan, the graphical fidelity will be judged then. Small details such as including an animation when moving a body into a freezer would have helped to retain the immersion, but being discovered committing a crime due to a five second movement would have been troublesome.
The surrounding characters I found do need some work on their animation. One particular stand out moment was when an assistant for one of my targets become a nervous wreck because of an error she may have inadvertently caused. Her voice told one story whereas her body told another. Vocally you could hear her panicking, yet there was no embodiment of this emotion as she casually strolled out of the room. Moments like this occur frequently which cause frustration throughout the game.
The Hitman reboot has been a great success so far. Fans of the series will be pleased with the core of the franchise becoming the focus once more and new players to the series will be eased in. The episodic formula works better than I had anticipated. Being restricted to a few missions encouraged me to experiment with them and in turn I discovered more than I would have than rushing through the entire game. It will be interesting to see how this series will escalate with the new additions, but I’m already eagerly counting down the days until April for the next installment.
- Gameplay: Disguises, Espionage and Assassinations
- Graphics: Exotic Destination With A Large Environment
- Sound: Intriguing and Useful Conversations
- Presentation: Minimalist HUD Allows Freedom and Discovery