When the original Hitman – Hitman: Codename 47 – launched back in 2000, quite a few of you young gamers probably either weren’t born yet or you were not old enough to play a game where your sole mission was to assassinate targets for money… and for fun. Thankfully for me, I was 20 years old, in possession of plenty of disposable cash and had access to tons of video games, since my parents paid for my apartment and college, and I had a job, which was working at EB Games, before it became Gamestop. Because these stars aligned so perfectly, I was either able to check out and play any game I wanted or I could simply purchase any game I really enjoyed. Oh man, college times were great, assuming you don’t have a pile of student loans debts that will be following you like a hungry dog for the next 25 years, but I digress.
Hitman, that’s what we are talking about. When Hitman debuted in 2000, the concept was cool, use stealth tactics to eliminate a target, without getting caught. On a recommendation by a friend, I played it, quite a bit of it actually. Yet something was just off to me. Keep in mind, during 2000, I was playing games like Perfect Dark, Counter-Strike, American McGee’s Alice and Time Splitters. All of which were first person shoots, with the exception of Alice, which was a third person game, that had excellent controls. That being said, the shooters too, had great controls, Hitman, at least for me, did not. I found myself struggling to move out of the way when trying to hide, the camera became an enemy itself and the character’s (47) movements were damn near Resident Evil like (i.e. like shit). On top of all that, Agent 47 looked like he was 67. After several hours over the course of two or three days, I just said enough is enough and I stopped playing it. In fact, I haven’t played a Hitman game since Codename 47.
Fast forward 17 years… I’m 37 now, still playing games (I’ll never stop, unless I die or you cut my hands off) and just last year a new Hitman (2016) was released, but not as a complete game. Instead, it was released in Episodic fashion. I’m not a fan of that type of game delivery, which is one reason why I won’t play TellTale’s games. So, I just sat on the benches and said, “I’ll wait it out.” That was until I began to hear people on other podcasts talking about Hitman and how great it was and that it deserved more attention. I listened as they described how you can now complete missions in a myriad of ways, as opposed to one or two. That unlike the original games, if shit got hairy, the mission wasn’t over. If you failed the whole act of secrecy method, you could just go guns blazing, be it at a cost of points, but you could still finish the mission and thus, the game. But it was addition of all the little details that were interesting to me, no longer was there just this one way to kill a target. You could get creative by simply walking around, which would allow you to overhear a conversation and use that intel to change your initial plan and kill the target in a completely different way than you had originally planned. The game is great at having all sorts of conversations between NPCs (non-playable characters) all over the large maps, which encouraged the user to take their time and walk around and observing things, instead of just being rash and jumping in and looking for a quick way to murder their target. That’s the other great thing about this Hitman, while the violence level is high and you’re certainly killing people, these kills don’t feel like murder (unless you straight up kill a bellhop because he dissed you for rubbing shoulders) they feel like you’re doing a sanctioned assassination for all the right reasons. Much like how a spy is killing to save lives, or a soldier kills the enemy. Sure, they are killing people, but is it really murder (Forget I asked that, that can open a can of worms I’m not looking to get into on this site)? Regardless, when you take your time and plan out your method of execution (pun intended), there is a sense of reward for doing something so clever, not getting caught and sparing innocent lives.
However, all of these great new mechanics don’t mean squat, if the gameplay and controls aren’t worth a shit. Thankfully, IOI (IO Interactive) have really stepped up the quality in the controls department. While it’s by no means perfect, the game is a lot more fluid and 47 (who now looks a respectable late 30’s, early 40’s) moves about more nimbly and the camera is greatly improved. If you couldn’t tell already, yes, I’ve purchased Hitman (2016) and I’m playing the hell out of it. Best of all, I’m enjoying it. I can’t get over the level of freedom and detail that IOI gives the players in completing their tasks. It’s incredible, because they aren’t just by happenstance, someone on their team had to think of all the different ways to eliminate a target and setup the map in order to allow the player to facilitate their hit as such. For example, on a board called Sapienza (in Italy), you need to assassinate a man and woman, you can wait for the man to make his rounds (as they repeat them over and over) and he will go into his computer room, where you can strangle him, shoot him, or beat him to death, after you dispose of his guards, of course. But that’s too easy and uncivilized. No, the more inventive way is to go to your hideout, grab the exploding golf ball and then go on the grounds, near the golf bag and drop the golf ball on top of the basket of balls and just walk away. Simply go near the cabanas and take in the view and just wait for the explosion. You may even giggle you sick ******. As for the female, she’s having an affair with the golf instructor (who you can knock out and hide in a closet). Take his clothes and then go to her room, keep the lights down low and there are candles on the tables, romantic music playing and when she comes to see you and closes the door, sure, you could shoot her dead in the face. But that’s no fun. No, instead, use the rat poison and put it in her drink before she arrives and stay in the dark, in the chair (True Lies style). Let her give you the exposition of why she’s doing what she’s doing and why she can’t be with you anymore, when all of sudden, she feels sick and has to run to the bathroom to throw up. You can follow her in and either break her neck or push her face in the toilet and drown her. Again, this is a violent and disturbing game, but the level of choices are crazy. Those are two variations on two different targets. There are a handful more for each, which is great, for those players who want to go back and try it a different way.
Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with my purchase of Hitman, especially considering I snagged it for just $23 and received all of the first season’s content, with elusive targets still being added. Some of you may not have heard, but SquareEnix who purchased IOI a few years ago, decided they wanted to off load the developer, which many people feared would be the end of IOI and the Hitman games a we know them. Thankfully, IOI was able to branch out themselves and retain the Hitman IP. Sadly, they did have some layoffs, but on the bright side, there does appear to be Season 2 content in the works, and if it sells well, hopefully they can restaff and get back on their feet.
Maybe, just maybe, after 16+ years, IOI has finally managed to make a Hitman game that is almost perfect. I mean, the game’s locations are absolutely stunning (just run through the lamp shop in Marrakesh (a picture is down below), you need to see it via the game, the cutscenes are engaging and for such a small studio, they make the team who worked on Mass Effect Andromeda look like a bunch high school coders. I don’t know, maybe IOI has grown up, maybe I’ve grown older and more patient, whatever the case is, all I know is Hitman is a great game and I can’t recommend it enough.