Hitman Review

March 11, 2016

Hitman has attracted quite a bit of controversy since its announcement. While fans looked forward to the promise that the game would be more in-line with Bloody Money’s sandbox gameplay, questions were raised at the title being episodic and initially only available as a digital download. To further complicate matters, the content release configuration has changed numerous times to the point Sony even cancelled pre-orders as the product descriptions had changed. Despite the controversy Hitman does manage to recapture the series’ trademark stealth gameplay, but there are some technical issues which prevent the overall experience from being a true masterpiece.

The Intro Pack for Hitman contains the Prologue missions that were featured in the beta and the highly anticipated Paris map. The Prologue is set 20 years in the past, following Agent 47’s escape from an asylum in Romania (which fans will remember was the opening of Hitman: Codename 47). It’s revealed Agent 47 has been noticed by the ICA and his soon-to-be handler, Diana Burnwood, invites him to complete a number of tests to see if he’s suitable to be a field agent.

The Prologue consists of three missions, one being a more general tutorial and the other two giving more freedom to players. These occur on two maps – a luxury yacht and a Soviet Union airbase. Unlike Absolution’s linear approach, the game prides itself on being more open and follows a gameplay style closer to Blood Money. Players are given a target to eliminate and some general intel such as side characters who the target is meeting or places of interest. It’s then up to the player to discover how to assassinate the target, but there is no one way to accomplish this. In the yacht level for example, the target can be killed by poisoning their drink, disguising yourself as a guest and meeting them privately, or causing an “accident” involving a lifeboat. It’s enjoyable to discover each different approach and with it comes the encouragement for multiple playthroughs.

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The game’s disguise system has been tweaked. In Absolution, any NPC that wore the same outfit as Agent 47 would be able to recognise him. This time, it’s a mix between Absolution and older past entries – only certain pre-determined NPCs will be able to spot you. It now feels more like a part of the overall puzzle in reaching your target, rather than an annoyance like it was in Absolution. It’s user friendly, keeps gameplay feeling fluid but also keeps you on your guard.

Absolution’s challenge system also returns, giving players side quests such as obtaining a certain disguise, assassinating the target in a specific manner, or finding a unique weapon. It’s standard flare but it adds replay value. To assist new players to the franchise there’s a new Opportunities system. This alerts players and guides players to unique kill opportunities. An example is the airbase level where Agent 47 overhears mechanics mention they have to demonstrate safety procedures for a jet with the target. The game alerts players that they have to locate the safety instructions, then guides them to sabotage the jet, locate the target and then gleefully watch as the target ejected into the sky with a thunderous explosion. For those that would prefer discovering these kill opportunities by themselves, you can turn off the feature.

The main highlight of Hitman (so far) is the Paris Showstopper mission. This takes place in a fictional palace called Palais De Walewska and sees Agent 47 target Viktor Novikov and Dalia Margolis. The duo are spies working for the IAGO organisation who sell government secrets to the highest bidder. The palace is in the midst of a high profile fashion show, so players have to contend with large crowds and heavy security. The level is brimming with life and it’s entertaining to just walk around and listen to the NPC chatter. In some areas you can overhear staff complaining about rude patrons, security scolding waiters for being “beneath them” and government personnel concerned about the auctions. Unique kill opportunities include posing as a supermodel and interacting with your host (including a walk down the catwalk), launching fireworks as a distraction, and causing an “accident” with the catwalk lighting. It’s a visually impressive level that not only has lots of secrets to discover, but is also one of the largest levels featured in the Hitman franchise thus far.

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IO Interactive have set out to give players a live world of assassination. They plan to do this by regularly adding new missions between major content drops. The most significant of these is the community-powered Contracts mode which returns from Absolution. Here players can create their own missions and share them online. It’s a fairly straightforward process; you play a level as normal and tag NPCs that you want to make the assassination target. You can select whether they have to be killed in a certain way and if players have to wear certain disguises. If it’s anything like Absolution, then this will prove popular among fans and we should see some really good creations from the community.

There is an Escalation mode which was unavailable to play at the time of our review. IO Interactive have promised this mode will test player’s mastery of levels and gameplay mechanics. Once missions have been mastered the difficulty is increased by adding new elements to consider.

Last but not least is Elusive Target. This mode features time-limited targets which are refreshed on a routine basis. The targets are given a backstory, so there’s a little more motivation to eliminate them. One mission we played involved the head of security in the Palais De Walewska level. Here the security chief was followed by his own security force, and he knew all security staff so we were limited by our choice of disguises. It adds a little bit of variety to the game by changing up the scenarios and adding new characters. However, because the mode uses already established levels there lacks that element of surprise – players are going to know where to get specific weapons and disguises, and how to best approach the target based on their location.

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Hitman does have some annoyances. While the game is playable offline, it’s stripped to a bare bones product. It’s reasonable that the Contracts and Elusive modes are not available, but for some reason the challenges for the main missions also don’t appear. Frame rate drops are quite common, particularly when there are a lot of NPCs on screen. The game runs smoothly enough to not ruin the gameplay outright, but it’s still noticeable and feels inconsistent. It is possible to lock the frame rate so drops won’t be as noticeable. There’s also a strange bug where NPCs that have been knocked out will sometimes travel through walls and float in the air, though thankfully it doesn’t occur too often.

In terms of if the episodic release format works for Hitman, it’s going to largely depend on the type of player you are. If you’re looking to explore a variety of environments you’re probably better off waiting for all DLC to be released. Hitman has launched with only three levels and more will be released over the coming months including Sapienza in April, Marrakesh in May, and then Thailand, United States and Japan later in 2016. If you’re the type of player who loves revisiting environments and exploring every last secret then there’s definitely a lot of content on offer. Just be mindful that it’s too early to tell if the the missions in Elusive mode will be varied. If you’re interested, at worst it’s only going to cost AU$22.95 for the Intro Pack which will give you a good indication of things to come.

Hitman succeeds in providing an engaging experience that stays true to the sandbox formula established in previous games in the series. It encourages multiple playthroughs to complete secondary challenges and discover unique kill opportunities, and there’s also community made missions to keep you occupied. Just keep in mind the offline experience is bare bones, the frame rate is inconsistent and there are some occasional bugs.


High replay value
Classic sandbox gameplay
Improved disguise system


Frame rate drops
Bare bones offline content
Occasional bugs

Overall Score: