Fans of the Hitman series remember it for its complex stealth-action gameplay, The iconic assassin-for-hire Agent 47 has returned once more, making his debut on current generation platforms. Although the game was originally released in the form of periodic episodes instead of a full-fledged release, the entire first season is now available for purchase.
Season 1 of Hitman starts off with a prologue that takes place in multiple locations. It takes you 20 years back to when you trained as Agent 47 during his induction into the International Contract Agency. This is, for all intents and purposes, a tutorial level with the purpose getting players accustomed to mission intricacies. The two prologue areas are essentially training areas set up to simulate actual mission scenarios. It’s a rather short section of the Intro Pack that can easily be completed by following the on-screen instructions. That said, this section of the game sends out a clear message to fans who disliked the more action-oriented approach taken by Hitman: Absolution. Developer IO Interactive has acted upon such complaints with a return to the series’ espionage-centric roots.
The prologue section is followed by Paris, the first large open world level that is set inside a museum, where a fashion show is taking place right in front of a jam-packed audience of NPCs. Here, you’ll find several areas to explore and far more diverse routes to take You’ll also be able to disguise yourself as a fashion model in order to get closer to your target. It’s here that the game’s sandbox design and interactivity truly come together to create a believable setting.
The second level is set in Sapienza. Much like Paris, this city is given the feel of a living, breathing world with believable NPCs going about their routine lives. You’ll encounter waiters going about their job, tourists getting amused by street entertainers, and a priest indulged in listening to the confession of visiters. Large buildings can be entered and fully explored, though you will occasionally encounter a few that can’t. The attention to detail here is commendable, and the game goes to great length to ensure a high degree of immersion.
The building that you will be exploring as part of your main mission is a mansion that hosts a secret underground laboratory. Naturally, the mansion is heavily guarded at all times, and you’ll have numerous ways of infiltrating it in order to take out two key targets in addition to destroying a virus located in the aforementioned laboratory. You’ll have a number of tools at your disposal to make your job a little easier. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Hitman game if you wouldn’t have the option to disguise yourself as one of the security personnel.
The third level takes Agent 47 to Marrakesh, a sandbox area that is split up into three individual regions, which are connected to one another in rather unimaginative ways. Where the regions featured in the Paris and Sapienza maps from the last two episodes were more intricately woven together, Marrakesh feels less intuitive and appealing in this regard. Similarly, it isn’t quite as eventful as the other areas.
The next level, Bangkok, is equally as uninspiring, solely focusing on a luxury hotel instead of the scenery offered in the backdrop. Much of the location’s appeal is lost to the hotel interior, which is hardly appealing to begin with. That said, the level still does manage to convey a sense of activity, with plenty of hotel staff NPCs going about its business.
Unfortunately, Colorado doesn’t fare better in this regard, as it features a rather uninteresting military-themed region for Agent 47 to explore. You’re assigned the task of assassinating four key targets at a remote training camp. As such, your mission is a pretty standard affair and nothing that stands out as imaginative.
Thankfully, Hokkaido, the last level, steers things back in the right direction, and the game’s first season manages to end on a high note. It takes place at a hospital and resort, and both areas feature a distinct architectural buildings appropriate to the Japanese setting. The level follows the design philosophy of Sapienza, which is by far the most fascinating. You’ll encounter a diverse cast of NPCs to interact with, thanks to which you get the feeling of being in a living breathing area.
As far as core gameplay goes, there’s something immensely satisfying about thinking up an out-of-the-box approach to an objective and seeing the game actually let you pull it off. It’s during these moments where Hitman truly plays to its strengths. However, certain aspects tend to detract from what is otherwise an immersive stealth experience. For starters, animations are quite stiff, and they sometimes tend to have a negative impact on your movement and interactions. Secondly, the NPC AI doesn’t always act as intended, often ignoring you as a potential threat despite the odds not being in your favor. Couple both issues, and you have a game that is often at conflict with its sense of immersion.
From a graphical standpoint, the new Hitman may appear a little less-than-stellar at first. However, once you see the huge number of NPCs roaming about the Paris level, each engaged in its own AI routine, you begin to appreciate how technically demanding the game can be in these instances. On the other hand, the game is largely serviceable in the audio department. The sound effects are acceptable but lack the extra punch, and the music is unremarkable for the most part.
Ultimately, Marrakesh, Bangkok, and Colorado take away some of the momentum that Hitman builds with its Paris and Sapienza levels. However, it manages to end on a high note with Hokkaido. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, overall, especially when coupled with the less than stellar animations and glitches in AI routines. That said, it’s still an immersive stealth experience that’s worth checking out by fans of the genre.
Hitman Season 1 is available now for the PS4, Xbox One and PC. It was developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix. This review covers the PS4 version of the game.
Hitman Season 1 Review (PS4)
Part genius, part uninspiring, Hitman is brimming with potential that's partially realized in the game's well-designed levels. At its best, it empowers you with the ability to get creative when tackling objectives. At its worst, it breaks the immersion it tries so hard to build.