Hitman is the epitome of a guilty pleasure franchise. The franchise has molded itself in high replay-ability, creativity and endless hours of entertainment. This comes with almost no character development, usually little to no story and really an undefined world. Hitman thrives on you as a player, something the previous title, Hitman: Absolution seemed to forget about. No, Absolution wasn’t a bad game, but it didn’t feel true to the Hitman roots. Could developer Eidos Interactive return to those roots for a compelling, gamer defined sequel?
Who Needs A Full Game
Right off the bat Hitman Episode One is a layered, complex problem. As clearly indicated by the title, this is an episode, not a game in its entirety. The concept is some-what of a double edged sword of, “I want more,” and “Well, this is kind of interesting.” Unfortunately, the double edged sword falls more on the, “I want more,” and really drives that home.
What you get here is not a complete game, and thankfully, you don’t have to pay that. The first episode in this episodic built game is only $15 dollars, each subsequent episode will set gamers back an additional $10 dollars. Yes, you can go out and purchase The Full Experience for $60 dollars, but unfortunately, that will not be available right away, but time released.
The issues really spread out to a few things. One, the game has been in development for so long, why not wait a bit longer until it was finally finished? Two, Hitman’s story doesn’t flourish, or even revolve around this episodic nature. The game’s mission structure supports it, sure but the game almost makes no acknowledgement of it. It seems more like a tact on thing, rather than a developed idea.
Hitman really is all about playing as Agent 47. That’s all anyone cares about, and so really, Eidos Interactive has to do this well, right? Thankfully, Agent 47 and the Hitman experience plays out similar to Hitman: Blood Money. This, of course, to those who are aware, is absolutely a great thing.
Agent 47 has numerous ways to execute targets, blend in to environments and act with things around him. Hitman is really about the player’s experience, and evolving around that. Those who are patient enough, blending in to their environment, chatting with NPCs will unravel a world that feels, dare I say it, alive, in some aspects. Characters will make jokes, point out when they need to use the restroom or discuss day to day issues as they would in real life. The catch is really paying attention to these little conversations, and reacting to them for best results.
As with any Hitman title, the best part is taking out your targets in interesting ways. Thankfully, the experience brings out all the stops with a ton of creative ways that allow for maximum replay-ability. So much so that Eidos Interactive has created challenges that allow you to go back through contracts, and try to unlock these challenges. These challenges range from simply disguising yourself as a guard, or removing targets through different, creative means. Clearly, Eidos Interactive gets what it means to be Agent 47.
Eidos Interactive was big about a lot of things with this franchise, mainly the environments that you explore. While Hitman isn’t an open world game, it creates open world environments that feel lived in, that feel real. Part of this comes from excellent level designs that range from large outdoor environments, to small, immediate rooms that have personal touches. The other part comes from the numerous amounts of lifelike NPCs that roam these environments.
At any time, you can see upwards of up to 300+ NPCs, walking around, talking, drinking wine and observing the environments. Some are simply living their lives, others are apart of the surrounding’s security. Whatever their jobs are, the game makes it feel like these are people doing things, and not NPCs to simply manipulate for your personal advancement.
All of this blends together so well. The Paris contract is a large mansion that feels swanky, a ritzy palace for some French jerk that could happily afford something so lavish. That all being said, it looks absolutely fantastic, bolstering beautiful shadowed details, crisp textures and for the most part, a fine frame-rate that occasionally bugs down when you send Agent 47 through a camera loop.
Drinking Salt Water
Hitman’s design in it’s entirety is a drink of salt water to a dehydrated man. At first glance, it seems refreshing, but before too long, it settles in. The core mechanics work well here, with executions working smoothly, a well balanced cover system and an AI system that feels fair (sometimes idiotic, though) but it feels…undefined.
Of course the undefined bit comes from the game’s unfinished set-up. Again, Hitman doesn’t feel designed to be an episodic game, but really a game that was forced into this design stage, primarily through Square Enix’s ideology. The best analogy to use for Hitman is like buying a brand new car with 1/8th a tank of gas, and when it runs out, you have to wait another three months to drive it again. Does this policy, this tactic, really feel necessary, especially with a new game?
Hitman Episode One has great concepts here. It’s well voiced acted, the graphics are fantastic and the core gameplay elements work like traditional games in the franchise did. Unfortunately, Square Enix’s policies have set it up for a failure that not only question development but really the companies ethics.
We are at a point in gaming, with advancements, that this entire episodic feature feels half hazard, a stroke of lazy and completely self absorbed. Sure, the game is only $15 dollars, and allows you to play two rather large levels. That being said, for what you get, this feels more like a late 90s, early 2000s demo disc that you would receive for free, rather than a game worthy of your cash.
Part of me feels disappointed, the other part feels empty.