Artful Execution – “Hitman” Review

Developer IO Interactive’s first chapter to the Hitman reboot is a promising return to form for the franchise.

What has always made the Hitman franchise a joy to play is the absolute freedom to use tools, the environment and pure cunning to outsmart and outplay the AI. The thrill of the kill isn’t the kill itself; it’s how you get there. It’s not about dropping the chandelier on your target’s head — it’s about knocking out the guard, shooting out the security cameras and stealthily breaking the ceiling winch without alerting security.

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And that’s what 2012’s Hitman Absolution got wrong. While there were moments of enjoyable murder sandbox puzzles, much of the game felt like funneling sociopathic protagonist Agent 47 down a hallway to trigger a cutscene that pushes along some forgettable Tarantino-esque story. But we’re not here to talk about IO Interactive’s previous mistakes. We’re here to talk about their newfound success.

I’ll cut to the chase: Hitman 2016 is the best game in the series since Blood Money. While the levels aren’t as open-world as the city names imply, the first area after the rather small prologue sandbox is easily the biggest, most developed interior I’ve ever experienced.

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Areas aren’t just large for the sake of being large, either. Each level is highly detailed and packed to the brim with smart AI. Nearly every room in each area has at least one way to bring down your target should you find them in the vicinity. IO Interactive gives you the ability to shoot your target in the head, sure, but it’s not nearly as satisfying as putting rat poison in the target’s drink and sneaking into the restroom to drown them in their vomit in a now filthy toilet stall.

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While moment-to-moment gameplay has never been better in Hitman, there’s still an elephant in the room with IO Interactive’s reboot — its release structure. Episodic release of games have been propelled into the mainstream by the proliferation of TellTale Games, but admittedly the structure feels obtuse for a game of this caliber.

The prologue and first mission offer incredible gameplay and even a promising glimpse at Hitman’s overarching story, but it feels like the $5 in eventual savings of buying the full version of the game instead of the chapters à la carte isn’t worth the risk in case the reboot doesn’t maintain its stellar debut.

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Gameplay mileage will vary based on your willingness to replay and refine your stealth tactics. Still, if the trend continues in future episodes, this might just be the best, most refined Hitman in franchise history.

The Verdict

IO Interactive have crafted an incredible first chapter to their Hitman reboot. With unprecedented levels of detail and impressive scale, Hitman feels like the quintessential stealth game available on next-gen. Despite the unorthodox release schedule, this is the most promising beginning to a Hitman game in a long time.

There might not be enough in the first chapter to woo gamers into dropping $60 on the complete game, picking up the Intro Pack is a no-brainer.

5:5

Hitman was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of Square Enix.

Interested in Bear Claw Gaming’s review process? Check out the official scoring FAQ

 

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