Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Hitman (2016): Prologue & Paris - Review!

Not many games give you the opportunity to walk the runway as a supermodel, but if I had to pick my favourite, it would be this one.

I'll be honest, I wasn't excited for this game. I loved its precursors, Blood Money, Contracts and Silent Assassin, but Hitman Absolution left a bad taste in my mouth. It felt too casual, no offence to any fans of that entry. That worry was then amplified by the announcement of an episodic release format for levels. What were they doing to the franchise? First the "Agent 47" and now this? Not like this! Not like this!

Those worries can be put to rest. Hitman (Just "Hitman", no subtitle this time) is a worthy successor to the games that came before. It may only contain one level in the £11.99 intro package (as well as two, smaller sub-levels), but the stages are huge. Quality over quantity they say, and there is no better an example of that than this game. It features some story, but it only serves to show how 47 and his Handler, Diana met, and to set up some training levels for the player.

The main stage is Paris - 47 infiltrates a fashion show housing a shady auction. It's a veritable sandbox of opportunities. Guard routes to find and plan around, key conversations you can listen in on to drop in on a secret meeting. Packed with guests, staff and security with different clearances there could be something different to do every time you play the level.

Challenges give points depending on the way you kill the target, which unlocks new equipment and starting areas, such as starting undercover as a waiter, or in the attic. That's important, because you'll be replaying it a whole lot finding out all the ways to kill the targets.

Conducting the "hit" can't simply be going up to them and shooting their faces, although that is an option if you're so inclined. It's slow, and not for the impatient indeed.

Hitman is about intricately planning a death. You want them to not see you coming, to feel as if they're safe, when in reality, you, as Agent 47 the bald Grim Reaper will promptly be waiting to strike. Whether in a bathroom or on the runway, it's all up to you. Via wrench, badly placed light rig, toilet bowl or your strong, firm Hitman hands, there are plenty of ways to dispatch people.

In terms of difficulty, you can decide how much help you want. You can disable the opportunities system, which gives you hints on different methods of reaching your target, and the instinct mode which returns from Absolution, but this time it only lets you see through walls. I myself played without the opportunities - it gives a more classic Hitman experience as you find everything for yourself.

There's no tweaking the AI, although the game does have some very well programmed NPCs. It all seems very real and organic. If someone spots you and reports you to a guard, they will only report what they've seen of you. Also, the entire building isn't alerted - the situation is isolated until enough time passes for the guards to alert the rest.

There's even plenty to do outside of the main mission. Escalation has you repeating the level multiple times, with more conditions being added making it harder and harder over a span of 5 times. Players also showcase their creativity by making their own hits in Contracts mode, and there's even Elusive Targets- here you only have one shot, and a limited time to plan.

It's also easy on the eyes, which is hard to complain about - all models have a surprising amount of detail considering the amount of them, and the textures on the Playstation 4 were nothing to scoff at either, although I imagine it would look better on the PC.

The sound design is also great - the musical cues when you get spotted or when people are searching for you are intense and fit the bill, and the voice acting and scripts make for believable characters that you want to know more about.

However it does come with its fair share of faults - on the version I had played on, frames dropped significantly when starting a level or when there are multiple objects on screen. Not to mention the load times. I know it is a game about patience and waiting for the correct opportunity, but surely that shouldn't also count in the loading screens as well?

Even with the (admittedly few) faults though, the game makes up for it with stellar gameplay and presentation. A welcome return to form for the series that fans will appreciate. It's an enjoyable start to an episodic series, and I look forward to the next one. If Italy is anything like France, I'm in.

I'd recommend this game to any fans of the previous Hitman games (before Absolution), and anyone who likes being creative in how they play their games.

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