After the release of cult favorite Hitman: Blood Money in 2006, the Hitman game franchise went into a hiatus for almost a decade. The Hitman game’s publisher, Edios Interactive was acquired by a popular Japanese game developer and publisher, Crystal Dynamics on April 2009. The Hitman franchise naturally took some shook ups because of the incident and the fate of the IP remained under speculation. But soon the franchise saw the light of day. Crystal Dynamics published a new game “Hitman: Absolution” on November 2012, this time however with a whole new direction. The game did have breath taking, polished graphics and smooth gameplay mechanics, along with some new elements. But on the other major side, sandbox levels and the freedom of approach were replaced with a linear level progression and flawed checkpoint systems. It was evident that a lot of commercial touch was given to it, to cater to the new COD generation (SMH!). As a result it gathered a lot of criticism and failed to please the core fans of the series.
Enter 2016 and we have yet another Hitman game, simply called “Hitman”. Its a soft reboot to the series but doesn’t retcon the previous games. It brings back the series to its roots with its classic-style imaginative sandbox, freedom of approach and multiple creative ways to accomplish the objectives. Its the most ambitious Hitman game ever made and takes a lot of leap of faith but passes most of its obstacles with flying colors. Lets get started with the breakdown.
Hitman(2016) brings a major change in its release structure. Unlike the previous games, this game is getting released in an episodic manner, similar to the format of “Telltale games”. New contents and episodes are released at certain time intervals. “We decided to take the full leap and publish Hitman as a truly episodic game experience,” said Hannes Seifert, head of studio at Io Interactive, in a release. “Part of that decision is for that little bit of extra time to ensure every location we release is at the quality level fitting for a Hitman game. But the main driving reason is that this will allow us to create a living game that will expand and evolve over time and establish a foundation for the future — this is the first game in a storyline which will continue and expand with future Hitman games.”
There are few different ways of accessing the contents. You can either access the full experience and each and every content of the game(whenever they get released) by purchasing the “Full experience pack” or you can test it before paying the full amount by purchasing the “Intro pack”, at a lower price. Intro pack consists of the prologue and the first episode “Paris”. After getting the Intro pack you can get the rest of expansion by purchasing the “Upgrade pack”, which is available at a slightly lower price than the full experience. Or you can just buy the individual episodes as DLC, when they released. However, The PlayStation 4 version of the game features six exclusive missions known as The Sarajevo Six. A physical release of full game is scheduled for 2017.
-Main story contents
The main game consists of six story missions as follow:
1. Episode 1: Paris
2. Episode 2: Sapienza
3. Episode 3: Marrakesh
4. Episode 4: Bangkok
5. Episode 5: Colorado
6. Episode 6: Hokkaido
A “Summer Bonus Episode” is also available for Full Experience and Upgrade Pack Owners.
Each episode is set in different location, in a sandbox environment. Each level is detailed, huge, dense, and absolutely brimming with a lot of opportunities. From the lush green, sea side location of Sapienza to the busy and bustling market place of Marrakesh, is how the location varies in each episode. Usually there are two or more targets in each episode that you need to take down, and you need to explore, experiment and interact with your surroundings in order to reach your target and create a situation where they are vulnerable to get eliminated. Each episode roughly fetches 2+ hours of main story gameplay, where as accomplishing each and every achievement can fetch 10+ hours of gameplay. So it has a lot of replay value.
Elusive targets are a form of live content in which a new target appears in one of the locations. Players usually have 48 hours to take them down. If 48 hours are passed and the mission is incomplete, then its a miss and target is gone forever. If the mission ends in any way other the restarting it again, then it cannot be reattempted. Completing certain numbers of elusive target mission, unlocks alternative suits as follows:
- Absolution Suit – Finish 5 Elusive Target missions
- Blood Money Suit – Finish 10 Elusive Target missions
- Agent 47’s Signature Suit (With Gloves) – Finish 13 Elusive Target missions
Elusive targets are the only missions which wont be available in the physical release of the game.
As the name suggest, escalation are small contracts divided in several levels(usually 5). Player has to complete certain tasks in order to complete a level. As the level increases, the difficulty gets escalated and freedom of approach is reduced. These contracts also take place in main episodes. Each episode carries its escalation contract.
The contract mode returns from Hitman: Absolution. In this mode player (the community) can make their own contracts and upload them for other players to play. Or Square Enix can also make contracts for the community. Popular contracts gets featured in the game’s UI.
-Challenges and Rating system
Challenges are a part of episodes. Each episode carries challenges, ranging from 50 to 180. Challenges can be as simple as getting a certain disguise to as strategic as finishing the whole episode in one suit, without getting detected or killing non-targets. Completing the challenges, hauls points which are added to gain mastery levels. Mastery further unlocks props, weapons, new start locations etc.
The rating system is based on the final score, which are determined on the following basis:
*No noticed kills
*No bodies found
*Non-Target kill penalty
GAMEPLAY AND CONTROLS
Now its time to talk about the meat of the matter. Hitman 2016 is the right time for newbies to get invested. But If you remember going through a heart pounding experience in codename 47, because you didn’t want to take a misstep, which might lead you to start all over again(no ingame save). And you experienced the dramatic Silent Assassin, the dark Contracts, the great Blood Money, and also went through the pain of Absolution. Then you are in for an amazing and versatile experience.
The world of hitman is rich in detail and alive with so many things around your surrounding to interact with. Every episode is bustling with a large number of NPCs. Most of the NPCs have standard and generally good AI. But it is designed to suit the various gameplay mechanics rather than being hyper-realistic. Disguise system has also improved. You need to have certain disguise in order to get access to different areas of the game, without getting suspected. But even if you are disguised as, lets say a waiter, the chefs might not recognize you but if you are around the fellow waiters, some of them might get suspicious. There is a suspicion bar that shows how suspicious they are. If you are detected you need to hide and disguise as someone else to get your suspicion level back to normal. In case you don’t prefer that, you can also go on a killing spree, with plenty of weapons, which is generally a lot tougher here than any of the previous games because stealth is highly encouraged.
When it comes to versatility, creativity and freedom of approach, the game acts as an evolution to all the previous games. The instinct mode from Absolution is back. It can be used to highlight the targets and Npcs’. There is no linearity and hand holding(except if you totally rely on opportunity system). You are just dropped into a location, from where you can make your own ways to complete an objective. There are literally a number of ways to take down a target. You may snipe them from a distant elevated location and get unnoticed kills, or you may get up close and personal and garrote the target with your signature fibrewire, or simply drop a chandelier when they are below them. If that’s not satisfying enough then you can track their movement pattern and expose an electric wire on their way and get them electrocuted. And yes, you indeed can drown them in the toilet aswell. Now you catch the drift. And this is just scratching the surface of how much you can experiment with your kills.
Many intels can also be gathered by eavesdropping on people or reading important notices and notes, placed here and there. An opportunity system is also introduced, where in a number of opportunities are available to be exploited. These opportunities are like small in-game subplots, for instance in episode 2: Sapienza, one of the target Silvio is depressed about some relationship issues and has set an appointment with a psychiatrist. Here an opportunity is present, where you can track the appointed Doctor and disguise as him, and pass through the security of Silvio’s mansion without any suspicion and finally land in his personal room, with just you and him(Don’t get any ideas). Now a situation is created where you have an opportunity to kill him while he is taking your counseling.
All opportunities are listed in menu and can be turned on or off. However, it also makes game way too easy, which i didn’t like. If you are just looking for story experience, i found opportunities to be extremely hand holding. All you have to do is track an opportunity and go where it says, subdue a couple of people and get disguises and boom! you have your target positioned in a situation where you can get easy unnoticed kills. I would recommend setting the opportunities to “minimal”, that way it cannot be tracked but you know the checkpoints and you can explore the environments to get to them. However if you are also on getting each and every challenges completed, opportunities should be taken full advantage of. Infact a lot of challenges are about completing a particular challenge.
The controls are responsive and effortless. The controls for the stealth part has been handled pretty neatly. 47 can walk, run, crouch, and move while crouching. The movements and animation of 47 feels smooth and seamless. He can also climb through pipes like Blood Money. The “classic” movement of jumping from one ledge to another can also be performed in specific, minor areas. But it never feels like a platformer in anyway. Climbing and jumping is kept grounded to support the stealth mechanics.
But if, for some reasons you don’t have the patience for stealth and want to go all dirty with your guns and weapons, then always prefer the loyal keyboard and mouse for smooth control, over gamepads and controllers. In one instance i was trying to complete a challenge, where i had to snipe two targets within 10 seconds and i had a sniper with no-zoom capability. It got so frustrating aiming with the controller that i eventually had to put on a mouse to specifically complete that challenge. Even in general, there’s simple thumb rule when it comes to choosing the control inputs: If you are more of a shooter guy, mouse is your weapon. If you just want good experience, stealth, grip and compatibility with your game then controller will just do you all good.
Preferring gameplay over graphics, might be a popular opinion but it cant be denied that graphics set up the mood and get the players immersed and invested in the ambience. Hitman 2016’s graphics has more of a modest and environment centric feel, over patchy and shining Kane & Lynch esque graphics of Hitman Absolution. The textures and color tone of the game resembles that of Assassin’s Creed : Unity. While considering graphics the Clarity, believability and performance are three prominent areas that make up for a good experience. And a great amount of detail has been put on the game, so every action and behavior is clear to understand. The lush details of the environment, less noticeable aliasing, nice atmospheric lighting and shadows make the game extremely immersive.
When it comes to performance, there has been issue with mid-range and low-end computers. Its reported by people in steam that game gets really choppy at times and has inconsistent framerates, ranging from 50 to as low as 15. Specially when the player enters a more crowded area with a number of NPCs around. This issue however, is being come-over gradually with each episode and new updates and patches. I had also experienced bad optimization and unstable frames during the game’s release. But with 5 episodes in now, and latest updates and patch installed ( 1.5.1 at the time of writing) , i can now plow through it like a box of Cheez.
The main score gets the hitman tone right. You hear it a couple of times and it feels like you have been familiar with the ambience, the tone is bringing. Its the similar ambience that you have had in classic hitman games. However, it gets repeatative after sometimes and it feels like there is not enough content to place.
The SFX is as you would expect from the game of this level. There is nothing tacky or annoying. For instance, People can be eavesdropped and clearly heard from a near range, to gather Intel or unveil an opportunity.
Simply put, there’s a lot of replay value in the game. The main story in each episode can easily take 1-2 hours or even more if you are going all stealth and aiming for a good rating. Once you are done with an episode, you can replay it and check all the other opportunities that are available to exploit, and they never feel repetitive because each opportunity is creatively different from the other. Then there are challenges in each episodes. Going for each and every challenge can easily take 5+ hours for individual episodes. And then you have live contents such as Elusive targets and featured community contracts appearing every while. The game packs a great value for money, that is there without a doubt.
This game is what you always expected from a great Hitman game. If you were disappointed with the direction Hitman Absolution had taken, don’t worry, the game is back to its roots. Never had a hitman game given the player so much of freedom of approach and so many inventive and ingenious ways to experiment and interact with your environment. From large sandbox levels to the amount of effort put in making everything look richly detailed, this is a Hitman done on the larger scale than any other Hitman game.
Although there were issues with optimisation during the release and people didn’t like the “always online” feature in order to access every feature and unlockables of the game. But with the latest patches and upgrades the optimisation has been greatly improved and Hitman servers have become a lot more reliable.
Its conspicuous that the positives, greatly over-weights the negetives. With a prodigious replay value, live contents, a new epsiodic format and release structure, Hitman 2016 is the new incarnation of Agent 47 for this generation. It keeps the core from the classic Hitman games and combines the best of both worlds. This is the next level of Hitman and it is here to stay.
- Richly detailed graphics, large sandbox design
- Creative gameplay mechanics, freedom of approach
- Immense replay value
- Staying online to access all unlocks and achievements
- Sound score could be improved