Admittedly, there has been a very back and forth approach to how I feel about the newest Hitman game being episodic. On the one hand, I am in a group of gamers that have a lot in their backlog to play, but are also too obsessive about completing games they really like first. The downside to that first world problem is that when you complete one game, there are others that are coming out that we like, thus making our backlog bigger in the process. Then there is the mentality that episodic games give us the break we want or need, and if the game is good enough, it leaves us craving more. The first episode of the new Hitman game did exactly what I hoped it would do as it left me wanting more.
The beta for this Hitman didn’t exactly floor me as it failed to show me anything that I haven’t encountered before. It was buggy, as most beta’s are, and very short as it was narrow in terms of the size of the map that I was used to in entries before it. The character animations seemed like they were ported models from the Blood Money entry, and I was done faster with it than it took to download. There was always the opportunity to play the level again with the challenge to defeat the level in other ways, but I chose not to.
When I received the code for Hitman, I pondered on whether or not I should even bother, but being a fan of the series in general, I gave the first episode the benefit of the doubt. To keep things short for you for the sake of time; I am certainly glad I did.
The game starts you off the same way the beta did; a boat party in the 80’s owned by a very well off man. This is the training part of the game, and if you were part of the beta then you will clear the first and second part of the exercise in no time.
What I didn’t expect was the final exercise that has me assassinate a man in the middle of a military base. This was the first true test as I used my ability to eaves drop on conversations that allowed me to look at killing my mark in other fulfilling ways as it guided me to create booby traps. I found this to be a great way to teach newcomers to the series to play and keep veteran players coming back for more. If you find this to be too easy for your normal Hitman experience, you can always change the difficulty.
Immediately I was sucked back into stealth gameplay again in a way I had forgotten about. Not since Hitman: Blood Money, and the infamous opera level, have I been so intrigued in finishing a level in the best, most entertaining way possible. This is what makes this new entry so great; although the episodes may be short, it will make you want to keep playing, in spite of there being no new episodes. Hitman has a way of making you want to come back and discover new weapons, starting points, and even new ways to assassinate as you replay the same levels over and over again until the new episode is available.
As clever as I thought I was in the final training mission, it was mothing once I finally got to Paris. The size of the map was exponentially bigger than the other two. The ability to assassinate the two targets in unique ways grew, as did the ways I could screw up a mission. Even the backdrop of a fashion party in a huge mansion was mesmerizing as the developers appeared to find ways to keep you interested in the world just as much as you are in the mission. The first time I saw the fashion show I had to stop and look at the setup of the stage and listen to tack that was playing as the models walked down the catwalk.
The character models still aren’t as up to par for this generation of consoles though, just as they weren’t in the demo. Having said that, the locations and detail of the Paris map was enough to keep that gripe at bay for the most part. Also, and perhaps I wasn’t paying enough attention to the NPC’s, but it seemed like that everyone had an American accent in spite of the location. I would have figured that I would hear some French accents in Paris, but I don’t recall a single one, however, that may be a detail that is not as important to some as it is to myself.
A nifty feature that some will have a blast with is the “Contracts” mode. There are two ways to play this mode; as a player and as a creator. In the game, there is a tutorial that allows the players to create their own hit contracts by highlighting individuals during missions and setting certain objectives in the way you have to kill them; shooting, strangling, poison, and so on. You can even make it to where you have to be in a certain outfit while you assassinate the target(s). Then there is the player side where you can simply go online and choose a contract to perform.
Like many others, I groaned when I heard the news that Hitman would be episodic and that method of releasing game media is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of the franchise, then it may be a good idea to put down the money for the whole package and wait for each episode rather than spending more money than you need to later for each individual episode. While the game is not as long because of the breaking down of the whole game, the first episode has enough content to keep you coming back until the following month. Then again, sixty dollars is a lot to ask for a full game when it is not even available yet. On a personal note, this had the potential to be the best entry in the franchise, but of course we won’t know that until all the episodes are available.