The Hitman franchise has garnered millions of followers worldwide since the first game came out back in 2000. And last year’s Hitman reboot surely was welcomed with open arms by hardcore Hitman fans, even if not everyone was pleased by the fact that the game was released episodically from March to November last year.
Danish developer IO Interactive has now released a complete edition of the game titled Hitman: Game of the Year edition though, which adds a new campaign and several interesting extras to the game. So, is this complete package worth it for fans of stealth and action games, and for Hitman fans yet to play this new game in the series? Read on to find out.
Sadly, upon starting the game, first impressions are not good. The menu screen is overcrowded, and to be honest, a bit of a jumble. Here I actually missed the elegant and simple menu design of IO’s previous game Hitman: Absolution, because truth be told this Hitman’s menu screen is slightly confusing, and does present way too many options to the user at once.
At least the menu interface is functional enough, and you will be able to find your way around despite the fact that the menu screen is crammed with options. From here you can access the main campaign missions, Elusive Targets, Escalation Contracts and user-created contracts.
The meat of the game, without a doubt, is the main campaign. This takes place in six beautifully-designed locations, the first of which is Paris, where you have to take out two characters involved in the fashion world.
This pair harbours a dark secret, though, as they form part of secret organization that sells information to terrorists and other unsavoury people all over the world. Taking out these two targets requires that you enter a posh building in Paris where a fashion show is taking place, and assassinate each by resorting to a variety of methods, ranging from poison to a well-placed sniper rifle shot.
Actually, there are many different ways not only to kill your targets but to get to them too, as each level in this Hitman game is a huge, multi-layered location, crammed with characters going about their business.
So, for instance, in the Paris palace which is the setting for the game’s first mission, cooks in the basement will be busy preparing meals for the guests upstairs, while a posh fashion show is taking place at ground level. Meanwhile, on the top floor a secret auction is going on…
Of course, this means that there are different levels of clearance, and that the game’s protagonist Agent 47 can’t enter any part of the level he wishes at any time, as some areas are off-limits to guests. Guards will gently tell you to leave, unless you push matters and things turn violent, of course…
This is where the game’s disguise system comes in, as knocking any other male character unconscious will allow you to put on their clothes, and enter areas you would not normally be allowed to enter while wearing your normal attire.
For instance, you can knock out a male supermodel who’s posing for a photographer on the palace’s grounds and put on his clothes, thereby being able to walk freely through the entire map. Normally, though, most disguises won’t let you cover so much ground. For example, in the game’s Paris mission cooks are not allowed to access the palace’s third floor (where a secret auction is taking place), although bodyguards are.
But the fact you are wearing specific disguise doesn’t mean you won’t run into trouble, and just because you’re dressed as a bodyguard doesn’t mean some of your fellow bodyguards or other characters won’t be able to tell you’re not one of them. Thankfully, the game tells you which characters will be suspicious of you regardless of the outfit you’re wearing, as a white circle appears over their heads in the game.
Also, you might find the process of changing clothes in the game a little jarring, as Agent 47 automatically appears dressed in his new clothes after you hit a button, while your previous gear appears in a neatly folded pile at your feet… Overall, this works well in the context of the game, though.
Aside from Paris, there are other five other locations in the main campaign, ranging from Marrakesh (which features a bustling market with huge crowds and a posh embassy) to Hokkaido, in which you’ll have to kill two targets in a high-tech hospital. You will also travel to Thailand at some point in the campaign, and patronize a luxurious hotel in order to take out an arrogant singer and the crooked lawyer who helped him get away with his girlfriend’s murder.
There’s also Colorado, where you have to infiltrate a tightly-guarded farm in order to take out four perps instead of the usual two. Colorado is less vertical than the other locations, and there’s also less room to manoeuvre, making for one of the most exciting missions in the game.
But the highlight here, no doubt, is Sapienza. This sunny coastal Mediterranean town just feels alive, and it’s not hard to imagine that Sapienza’s denizens would go on about their business regardless of whether you were there or not, such is the sense of place evoked by this Hitman location. There are quite a few interesting secrets to discover in this colourful Italian location, such as a hippie’s residence in the clock tower, making it a joy to explore too.
You get to infiltrate a secret laboratory which could have come straight out of a James Bond movie, and also an Italian mansion inspired by movies like the Godfather and Scarface in order to take out an evil scientist and his partner in crime, arguably making this the best mission in a Hitman game to date.
But taking into account that the game’s locations are so big and there are so many ways to eliminate your mission targets, it’s a good thing the game has an “opportunities” system to guide you around.
As you explore Hitman’s locations, opportunities will be revealed, usually by listening in on conversations. These walk you through the steps needed to perform an assassination, while others simply tell you the steps to follow in order to get close to the mark, letting you decide how to end matters at that point.
For instance, in the game’s Hokkaido mission you’ll discover that one of your targets (a Tokyo lawyer who’s been helping a rival organization) has scheduled Yoga classes, but that the instructor has suffered an injury, and won’t be able to deliver…
You’ll also learn the class will take place in the yoga area, therefore your first objective will be to make any guests leave the area (getting hold of a wrench will be necessary here…). After that the game will instruct you to get the Yoga instructor outfit, and then talk to the lawyer to arrange the class, giving you an opportunity to take her out during the Yoga lesson.
Of course, if you would rather not have each objective spelled out for you, you can always switch to “Professional” difficulty, and figure out everything by yourself. Aside from removing all opportunity messages and map markers, when playing on Professional difficulty there will be more security patrolling each level at spots, and wielding items like a wrench will quickly raise suspicion. You can also be “spotted” by camera, with security coming to investigate quickly (on normal difficulty, being recorded by cameras just reduces your score).
Aside from the main campaign, you also have the game’s Elusive Targets and Escalation Contracts to play with.
And it’s definitely a good thing that developer IO Interactive decided to reactivate the Elusive Target missions for this GOTY edition of Hitman (they were originally released last year during the game’s episodic release). These are assassination missions which are only available for a limited period of time, and if you die during any of these missions, you won’t get a second chance to attempt them. These take place in the locations featured in the main campaign, and will definitely put your assassination skills to the test.
The Escalation Contracts, meanwhile, require you to eliminate a series of targets in one of the game’s locations, with complications being added in each of the contract’s levels. So while at level 1 you would simply have to take out the target and escape, in successive levels you will be faced with complications, such as not being able to knock out anyone, having to hide any bodies within a specified time limit, and even deal with laser-tripwires too…
It’s clear, then, that there’s a ton of content to play with in Hitman: Game of the Year edition. But how much you get out of this Hitman game depends on your willingness to explore each mission’s location and complete challenges. This is because the main campaign was originally released in episodic format, giving players plenty of time to explore each level and unlock achievements. Otherwise, you can be done with the game in little more than 10 hours if you blaze through the missions and complete a few elusive targets or escalation contracts.
But truth be told, each level has immense replay value, and carrying out some of the more original assassination methods like finishing off a paranoid scientist in Sapienza with an explosive golf ball, or electrocuting a singer with a rigged microphone in Thailand, sure is satisfying.
Plus, you can also unlock new starting locations for each mission (being able to begin as a cook in the hospital kitchen in the Hokkaido mission, for instance), which will allow you to approach the mission in a different way and make it easer to complete certain challenges too.
An issue here, though, and a consequence of the fact the game was originally released episodically, is the lack of continuity when playing the main campaign, as you’re dumped to the menu after completing a mission and watching its associated cutscene (you have to select the next mission from the menu).
These cutscenes are superbly produced and fun to watch, though, even if the game’s story – which involves a rogue agent and a sinister organization that’s challenging Agent 47’s employers the ICA for supremacy – is a bit convoluted. It’s still interesting to follow through as you play the campaign’s missions nonetheless.
Once you’re done with the main campaign and all the additional content originally released for the game, there’s also the extra content that is exclusive to this GOTY edition, which existing Hitman owners can also purchase as an add-on to the main game.
This includes a new campaign titled “Patient Zero”, which takes place across four missions set in the game’s existing locations (Thailand, Sapienza, Colorado and Hokkaido). Here you are tasked with taking out a cult that’s developing a deadly virus. These missions are nothing special story-wise, and also don’t feature any step-by-step opportunities like the main campaign missions or any original ways to kill your targets, but at least the last two feature some interesting twists.
For instance, the Colorado mission in the Patient Zero campaign just involves shooting at targets with your sniper rifle from the top of a water tower (a bit like in the 2015 spin-off game Hitman: Sniper). Meanwhile, the last mission taking place in the Hokkaido hospital tasks you with eliminating anyone who has become infected with the cult’s virus. This can turn into the sort of massacre not seen in a game since Call of Duty’s infamous “No Russian” mission, and is more exciting and action-packed than any mission in the main campaign, truth be told.
The Game of the Year edition also offers new Escalation Contracts, which also allow you to wear three new disguises: the clown, cowboy and raven suits. While interesting, these new contracts are not that different to those seen in the main game (which already offers a healthy selection of these missions). Of course, the GOTY edition also includes the bonus missions set in Sapienza and Marrakesh that developer IO Interactive put out in summer 2016.
Aside from this, the GOTY edition features other improvements like enhanced graphics and better performance, but overall isn’t an essential purchase for those who already played through the main game last year.
Despite this, there’s no denying that Hitman: Game of the Year edition is one of the best stealth and action games you can buy today. Hitman fans yet to play this game will discover this is the best instalment in the series since 2006’s superb Blood Money, while newcomers yet to try Hitman’s brand of assassination gameplay will likely be delighted with what’s on offer here too.
Hitman Game of the Year edition
Score: 82 / 100
Available on: PS4 | Xbox One | PC
Reviewed on: PC (System: AMD Phenom II x4, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GTX 970, SSD Drive)
Publisher: Square Enix
Launch date: Nov 7, 2017