I’ve never played a Hitman game.
Actually, no, that’s a lie, I have played a Hitman game; if you consider playing “Hitman: GO” every day on the subway for a better part of a week “playing” a Hitman game, then yes, I have played a Hitman game. Are the words “Hitman” and “game” starting to sound weird to you? Yeah, I thought so. So let’s stop and actually get on with what I think of IO Interactive’s snippet into their new iteration of their long-running franchise.
My only experience with the series is watching my older cousin playing “Blood Money” on mute on his PC for a couple hours during a boring family dinner party. And though it looked interesting, it wasn’t really something memorable; though hearing the loud noises of gossiping middle aged women I call aunt’s and drunk uncles, may have something to do with that particular experience. Aside from that, other than its name, it’s renowned stealth gameplay, and its Jason Statham lookalike of a main character, I really didn’t know much, if anything about this series.
But playing “Hitman: GO” is what made me jump on this Beta. I love “Hitman: GO.” I never set my expectations for a mobile game high, but this game was impeccable. And the Beta took everything I loved about that little mobile game, and expanded it into a fully realized, next-gen experience with slick graphics and incredibly deep gameplay mechanics.
Let’s get this out of the way, this is a Beta. And so yes I did see texture pop-ins, clipping, slight framerate drops, and minor graphical hiccups during my short time with the game. But those are things I’m sure the developers are well aware of and will be refined come it’s public release. Having said that, I was pleasantly surprised with how the game looked and played. Much like “Hitman: GO” (don’t judge me for constantly bringing this game up, it’s all I have for reference, and feel there are many things I can compare it with, for the better if I may add) the game has a very “clean” look. It’s very polished. Character models look solid with decent facial animations. The lighting has a good tint of blue and other cooler tones, giving it a relaxed but professional, and again “clean” look. During your first training session, you’re put on this ship, that has many, many NPC’s that all have unique behaviours that really bring the setting to life. They’ll chat amongst themselves and react to your movements around them, the usual stuff we’re used to seeing. But still, something about it made the whole place seem more “real.” Especially with all the crew members, sailors, bodyguards and other characters you have to be wary of during your hunt, it simply made your surroundings feel alive. The music and sound design is great, with solid voice performances, environment sound effects, and so on. Though I did wish the classic “Ave Marie” by the great Maria Callas would chime in during one of these sessions. But I’m sure we’ll hear that in at least one mission of the actual game. Though the graphics weren’t something that made me put the controller down and stare at my screen in awe, there is a great amount of polish and fluidity in this game from it’s character models, settings, lighting and colour scheme, and even menu design.
This is where Hitman shines. Let me say that I am not one for stealth based action games. Not because they’re not interesting to me. But because I suck at them. Like, I seriously am laughably horrible at stealth games. However, I have an admiration for them, and regardless of my skill, always want to play them. Ironically the Metal Gear Solid series is one of my favourites of all time. But in the MGS games, what would annoy me was the feeling (at least for me) that you needed to wait, and wait, and keep waiting for that “perfect” time to knock out a guy or make a run to cover. This game plays differently, and in my opinion, in a better way.
The Beta consists of the entire Prologue of the game. It’s the story of how Agent 47 came to work with Diana Burnwood and the ICA. The Prologue consists of two main training sessions, having two different guys you need to take out, in two different locations. One location is, as said above, a large ship, and the second takes place at a highly secured Soviet camp . You can replay them as many times as you’d like, and though that doesn’t sound like much, the array of challenges and tactics that are at your disposal to take out the target, is what makes replaying these stages incredibly amusing. You start off right outside each location, and have to figure out how you want to tackle both infiltration, and method in which way you want to take out the hit. Are you going to toss a coin near a armed soldier, have him steer away from his buddy, then pop up behind him, subdue and take his outfit and pretend to be a soldier? Or maybe do the same with a mechanic or bodyguard? Go near a pile of cartons, place an explosive, and detonate it so that all the soldiers come running outside, giving you the clear to run in? How are you going to dispose of your target? Clean headshot? Rat-poison? Have him get in the pilot seat of a jet, and then pull the eject button? (this is actually real) There are so many different ways you could complete your task, and each play-through will open up new ideas to want to replay the stage. And don’t think that as soon as you have a disguise that you’re in the clear. Because although your disguise may fool some characters once you’ve entered the location, it won’t fool others. For instance if you take a mechanics outfit, sure you can walk past other mechanics, but come in the eye line of the head engineer, and you’re in trouble. These little gameplay additions really add depth to the mechanics and truly makes you want to figure out the best way to go about your mission.
What Worries Me: Though the Beta clearly shows that it can hold it’s own in terms of gameplay and replayability, the one thing that does concern me is…is that it? Yes I’ve replayed both those stages a dozen times, giving it a solid handful of hours, but if the entire game is simply these set missions with possible cut scenes in the middle to progress the story and nothing else, it might get a tad dull after, say, the tenth mission. I’m sure (and hope) that each location will be vastly different from the last, opening up even more ways to tackle the target, but if that’s all it is with nothing in between these set missions, it may become old fast. I’m not sure what I’d want to be honest; narrative set pieces? Car chases? Varied challenges that aren’t connected to the main missions? More bald guys? I don’t know. But there should be something.
“Hitman” is a very long-running series, and though I am not even remotely close to knowing the history of this franchise and it’s past titles; I can say this: This game, from what I’ve played in this Beta, is fantastic. Deep, varied, and incredibly enjoyable mechanics with an overall cleanliness and polish to it’s presentation adds it to my list of games that I’m very much looking forward to in 2016.
Have you played the Beta? Let us know what you think in the comments below!