Hitman – Paris (Xbox One Review)
Hitman has always been an exercise in patient, and this applies more to Square Enix’s latest instalment than any other – partly due to delays and partly due to the nature of episodic content. But it has been a welcomed wait as IO Interactive have pushed the boundaries and tried to give the player the true Hitman: Blood Money experienced that so many fans have longed for – in fact if you pre-ordered Hitman you probably start every mission in the Requiem suit with those iconic silver ballers in hand.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Hitman, from the constant delays to the terrible frame rate issues of the beta. There are outcries about the sectioned off content and the general approach to episodic pieces in general. As it stands Hitman’s launch is currently under some amount of scrutiny and prior to release there was a number of changes to the model we thought we were initially expected to receive and the package that sits here in front of us now. But we will tackle that in the coming months with further reviews and when the actual amount of content we have purchased becomes clearer.
The story of Hitman is still largely unknown although the Paris mission and the cutscenes that accompany it give you just enough to leave you wanting more come the end of the mission. The start of Hitman sees Agent 47 overcome adversity in the face of those who wish to see him fail and successfully completes his training to enter The Agency. Once his mission and training are complete Agent 47 sets off to France as a monologue accompanies a rather stylish cutscene that shows the highlights of Agent 47’s career. Although this monologue isn’t that of Agent 47, but an unknown enemy that proclaims that the contract is a set up and his aim is to take Agent 47 down. It’s great to see the series really focus on a rivalry between Agent 47 and whoever this mysterious man is, offering a different type of story and enough intrigue to keep you guessing and anticipating the next part of the story, especially if it is executed as well as the montage of murder in Agent 47’s wake.
Where Hitman truly excels is in gameplay. The slow paced and observant nature of the series is alive and well. You will find yourself slowly pacing the Paris and the training simulations to identify every weakness in the security and take great joy in finding the small gaps that allow you to squeeze through unnoticed. Dawning the guise of unsuspecting victims and exposing the gaps has never felt so fluid and exciting. The option to complete missions without ever being seen is still prevalent and even more important now that it feeds in to Hitman’s challenge system. Should you chose to be ruthless in execution or make it all look like an accident is completely down to you. As you learn the ins and outs of every level Hitman becomes deeply satisfying and that’s exactly what you want from a game like this, the feeling that you have conquered insurmountable odds and got away with it.
Although Hitman has tried to rekindle the older formulas from games previous to Hitman: Absolution it has also kept one of the most interesting and rewarding aspects to Absolution, the challenge system. These challenges task the player to look at the mission in a new light and try explore beyond what they can see straight away. And with it being impossible to check all of the challenges off in one completion of a mission, you will find yourself returning time and time again to get everything checked off. On top of the challenge mode you will also be able to return to the missions through the contracts, a series of user and developer created tasks, in which you find new targets in the missions and may be requested to kill them with specific weapons hidden in the level or in a particular disguise. Just like Mario Maker you need to complete the mission yourself and execute your planned idea before it is uploaded. On top of the standard contracts there are also Escalation contracts that slowly increase the number of tasks to be completed in a missions as they build up to level 5. All of these modes require a constant online connection, which does cause some issues, but for those thoroughly invested in the series there is a great deal to love about picking a target and challenging others to execute them in the exact same way you did to set it all up.
All of this would be great if it were not for the constant need for connection to the online servers. Currently both myself and several friends have experienced intermittent server issues, resulting in lost data and missions being cut short. It would be understandable if this were an online game, but the functionality of Hitman is solely an offline experience, aside from the uploading of scores to leaderboards and downloading of contracts. So why is it that I am abruptly booted to the menu amidst an Escalation Contract – a contract in which there is no save function – because I lost connection to the server? Why am I not able to complete the challenges for the missions that are available offline? These are questions that I not only wish I had the answer to, but need answered. It’s entirely unacceptable to offer a singleplayer game that requires online functionality. It completely sullied a large part of my experience as I was left to tread over ground I had already covered countless times and it hurts. It hurts because Hitman much more than a niggle as the ideas posed by the online contracts are terrific and intriguing, but if it’s going to come at the cost of my offline experience I would rather leave them out and strangle folk in solitude.
Hitman could have been great, in fact it is great, but it is held back by some questionable decisions. My playthrough was ruined several times because of server disconnects and it put a dampener on the entire experience, especially when to get the most out of the current offerings of Hitman would require you to reply what little is on offer already. In terms of gameplay IO Interactive have knocked it out the park and toned down everything you hated about Hitman: Absolution and perfecting the patient and exciting nature of Hitman’s lineage. It would also appear the concerns about frame issues have been significantly toned down, although there are a few moments they have been dramatically reduced. Will I be returning to Hitman? Of course I will, but with the hopes of server issues being addressed and more content being added.