Hitman: Paris Review (Episode 1)
+ Beautifully crafted levels which feel organic
+ Everything has an accompanying sound which fits like a glove
+ The return of verticality offers different approaches
+ Large-scale levels feel open world which fits perfectly with the Hitman rhetoric
+ Addition of escalation modes and return of contracts offers a level of replayability which has not been present since the Blood Money incarnation
- Some mechanics may feel daunting for newcomers
- Loadout options are limited
- Slight blemishes in presentation manifest in occasional environmental bugs and repetition of character models
Platform(s) available: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Platform(s) review: Playstation 4
After the side-step of Hitman:Absolution, Hitman developer, IO Interactive needed to pull something rather special out of its hat in order to restore the faith of its series in its fans, enter the first episode of the episodically released, Hitman.
Hitman is an episodic stealth-action video game belonging to the Hitman series, this review will cover the Paris level (which we will refer to as HP throughout the article). Throughout the series, you take control of a man known only as ‘Agent 47’. Agent 47 is the result of a top-secret cloning problem by five powerful men in order to create a ruthless, efficient and dedicated assassin. The agents are then given to the ICA, a global assassination corporation who have ties to every government and state on the planet and are called upon to eliminate the morally inferior.
47 arrives in Paris with two targets in sight, fashion industry veteran, Dalia Margolis and the Russian oligarch, Viktor Novikov. The pair is in possession of the names of several FBI and NSA agents, which they are threatening to release, you must put a stop to this.
The Hitman series has always been about affording you multiple possibilities and choices throughout the contained contracts. HP continues this trend, it offers you the chance to add verticality to your playstyle by allowing 47 to the ability to scale buildings in order to discover non-linear approaches to an area, you can also use this mechanic to bypass those pesky guards with their “stop, you can’t bring weapons in here” attitude and cut the time taken for a contract to be completed in half, which will ultimately impact your overall score. HP revives and re-imagines the ‘challenges’ system which appeared in Hitman:Absolution, this lends itself to replayability in the first instance however under further scrutiny, the mechanic can be interpreted as a way to add ideas to the uninspired or newcomers to the series, be it; “push the target into the river” or “snipe all targets”. The challenges also add a multiplier to your overall score when the contract has been completed, if you’re connected to an internet connection, your scores are added to a leaderboard which can be viewed in “friends”, “National” or “Global” values. Challenges can be daunting if you haven’t played the series before but if you are a returning assassin aficionado, you will most likely slide straight back into 47’s leather gloves. If you do happen to be having any issues with ideas of assassination, the new opportunities mechanic may be of use to you. Opportunities are task-strings which you can follow to assassinate the target in a specific way, they sign-post your next movements and detail any information which may be relevant to the current task. Opportunities are usually added to your log by over-hearing a conversation or picking up an item such as a; recipe booklet or evacuation plan, which pertain to dedicated assassination routines. The purist Hitman fans among you are most likely thinking “that just makes it easy”, I would counter this by saying, yes, it looks easier however the opportunities do not reduce the difficulty or response time of the NPC so if you are planning on completing an opportunity, you must still be slightly skilled at the game and be willing to wait patiently and observe behaviours and patrol patterns.
If you begin to struggle with playing HP, you can activate the ‘assassin vision’ or ‘Hitman senses’, this colours the entire screen with a greyish hue and highlights important items and markers, these can be; targets, opportunities, items and weapons. This mode is entirely avoidable and – unlike Absolution – there are no areas of the game which require you to use this to progress. All of the settings can be changed in the options menu, so if you decide you would like a bigger challenge, you can turn all senses and instincts off as well as your map, this provides the most realistic experience, however, it is very difficult to adopt if you have no prior experience with the game. HP also sees the return of the criminally under-used ‘contracts’ mode from Absolution, this mode allows you to create your own contracts based on your playstyle and actions on the level; how and who you kill sets the rules for the next player to come to the contract. This instalment also sees the addition of the ‘escalation’ mode, this mode consist of five completable contracts, each contract has different criteria which must be completed in order to progress onto the next level. As the title suggests, each contract has higher and more convoluted completion criteria, this can be; kill a target in a specific way, hide all bodies in a set time limit or something rather pedestrian, like,collect a flash drive; there really is no predicting the criteria. This mode offers a welcome change from the standard ‘kill this guy and run’ formula by forcing you to think laterally about each contract and encourages you to take note of your surroundings in more detail.
The Parisian mansion is a beautiful landscape, filled with shuffling NPC’s and polished to perfection, every corner feels like it has been designed pixel-by-pixel with painstaking attention to detail being applied to ensuring that it feels cohesive and representative of a real-life setting. The nightscape is visible on all four ‘sides’ of the mansion map, beyond the barriers of gameplay you can see lights illuminating streets, houses illuminated by carefully placed lighting and a night sky which is illuminated by a glistening moon. Paying a touch more attention to the mansion, you will notice that each wall is adorned with luxury wallpaper, renaissance art or modern fixtures advertising the sanguine brand. Further inside the mansion is the ‘show-floor’, while illuminated from the centre, the surrounding walkways and passages suffer from criminal under-lighting which can often lend itself to confusion and, at times, highlights a section of the map which is not quite finished by displaying a gap in textures or an entire section of flooring appearing to be vacant. You will most likely not notice the surrounding area due to saturation of NPC’s, each NPC is detailed and sculpted, while the same face will inevitably appear from time-to-time, it never happens enough to be noticeable and suspend your immersion into the atmosphere.
Paris is filled with NPC’s interacting organically with each other, acting out their own stories regardless of your presence and fulfilling their tasks and duties completely unaware of your intentions. Each NPC can be approached and will speak a line of dialogue which is based entirely on their situation, be it a cameraman saying “hey buddy, want to move out of the way of the shot?” or a bodyguard remarking “Nice tux buddy, I still can’t let you through here”, every line is delivered with pacing and passion. HP sounds wonderful, the over-arching percussion and whining strings that support the ambient atmosphere deliver a treat for the ears while the quickened smash and thrusting guitars which are used when you ‘blow your cover’ instil urgency and fear, In short, you will know if you are compromised if you listen carefully. An atmosphere as bustling as HPs’ would be nothing without sound. Hitman has been renown in the past for its iconic soundtrack, whether it be the usage of ‘Ave Maria’ on the Hitman: Blood Money menu screen or the heavier rock songs featured throughout Hitman: Contracts, HP is no exception. While the absence of Jesper Kyd is apparent, the introduction of Niels Bye Nielsen brings a new tone of bouncy and energetic impulsive music to a series which has long been an audio showcase of industrial, dark and sombre tones. Accompanying the thumping soundtrack of HP is the individual audio which every weapon, action and interaction initiates. Whether it’s a small grunt from 47 as he climbs a drainpipe, a thump of a wrench landing six feet from his feet or the thump of a sniper rifle bullet as it careens through the air; each sound fits hand-in-glove and never feels forced or faked.
HP is the culmination of the passion for a series and willingness to listen to fan feedback. Hitman: Paris combines all the key elements which make a game enjoyable; story, music, sound effects, mechanics and graphics to deliver the most cohesive, reactive and enjoyable Hitman experience to date. An absolute must for any Hitman fan, if you have never tried a Hitman title, this is the perfect entry to introduce the series. A brutal and slick return and over-taking of a series at risk of stagnation.
This review is based off a retail copy purchased by the reviewer.