Review: Hitman: The Complete First Season (PS4)

Review: Hitman: The Complete First Season (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Hitman: The Complete First Season
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (9.2 GB)
Release Date: March 11, 2016
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: IO Interactive
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
As per usual at PS Nation, this review will be spoiler-free, a feat that is achingly difficult this time round.

I really want to write about the brilliant tutorial missions and the interesting level design, but it’s best to let you discover it for yourself.

If you really do not care about that sort of thing then check out the video below, it’s from my May Contain Spoilers series and features a large chunk of the game.

This is an episodic game and this first part is called the Intro Pack. It has two large tutorial levels and one massive main mission which entails the assassination of two targets and a myriad of possibilities of how to accomplish them.

The first mission is set in a huge mansion and its grounds during a high-profile fashion show and a few other activities that are more nefarious.

It’s only after exploring a few different scenarios that I stumbled upon a perfect opportunity to dispatch one target but the other was far more complicated, at least for me anyway. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you could overhear a conversation that alludes to an ‘opportunity’ to kill a target, this could be a harmless conversation between two wait staff or a few armed killers, and you just have to be close enough to hear.

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If you wish to take advantage of an opportunity, you can begin tracking it from the touch pad pause menu and a simple guide appears on-screen informing you of where to go and what to do. Timing and common sense are still needed to accomplish each component.

I’ve found it fun to see all the many ways of dispatching the targets. You really just have to be in the right place at the right time to overhear a key piece of information or acquire a particular uniform and after some trial and error. The game isn’t all that difficult to master.

Now every Hitman game I played over the years had the same basic ideas and this latest one is no different. Any seasoned players will be happy that the formula hasn’t changed, just expanded upon. The worlds feel more alive than before with hundreds of people in the large play areas.

… no one grabs a door handle in this game …
More of the NPCs have a purpose and seem to be going about their lives, like sneaking off for a quick smoke, crying in the changing rooms, or laughing about a joke. It makes the experience more realistic and fun.

This game runs on an upgraded Glacier engine, the same that was used for the last game, Hitman: Absolution. Because of this, you still get similar issues like the occasional character-stuck-in-door spasms or the grotesque let’s-both-stand-in-the-same-spot moments.

While these look bizarre and take you out of the experience, they do not occur all that often, nor do they break the game thanks to a competent save system.

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One thing that does bug me, and I can understand why IO Interactive does it, is when NPCs and Agent 47 use ‘the force’ to open doors. That’s right, no one grabs a door handle in this game. To make matters worse almost every door automatically closes as well. Now I know most people wouldn’t care about this and maybe not even have noticed until some idiot mentioned it in a review.

I could also mention the instantly changing clothes animation or lack thereof, but I definitely understand why that is not a long drawn out scenario. It’s mainly because only a few people would enjoy watching that. And what if the NPC wasn’t wearing underwear, or the zipper got stuck and the constant wrangling woke the victim just as another bystander walked in to witness the bizarre scene? Things could get very awkward indeed.

… make your own contracts using a very quick and simple tagging method …
Okay, I will refrain from any more mentions of Agent 47 being caught in flagrante or the developer’s nightmares about doors and get down to the real reasons you’re reading this. The gameplay is great, the controls are easy to learn and actions, like climbing a drain pipe, scaling a fence, or creeping through an open window, are all simple to perform yet look skillful and cool while you do them.

IO Interactive has given you a reason to revisit the missions and experiment. Finding and performing various feats rewards XP which unlocks more items, outfits, starting locations, and more. You can also make your own contracts using a very quick and simple tagging method and share them with the world, or play others, including some from the developers. This feature is great and I can already see a few inventive, fun, and clever contracts seeping through.

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Now I must mention the Vita Remote Play. Hitman would have been perfect on that little machine if it weren’t for two glaring issues. First off, the text is very small and difficult to read. Secondly, the L and R triggers need to be swapped as it is annoying to aim and shoot or throw using the rear touch. Aside from that, I could have seen myself using the Vita often.

Intro Pack
Episode 2: Sapienza
Episode 3: Marrakesh
Episode 4: Bangkok
Episode 5: Colorado
Episode 6: Hokkaido

Since this game was originally released over the course of many months in separate episodes, the developers had more time than usual to balance the game and improve it through several patches, including some welcome tweaks to the weaponry and leaderboards.

The story is told largely through cutscenes that bookend each episode. It kept me intrigued throughout and each one is of a high caliber. In some ways, these short snippets were better than what the movie studios have churned out over the last few attempts.

… Every level so far could easily form part of the latest 007 adventure …
Visuals:
Anyone who has played the older Hitman games will feel right at home with the look and feel of this latest iteration. There is a significant improvement to lighting, detail, and scope in this latest game that is also part of the reason why it takes so long to load the massive levels.

Using the PlayStation 4 Pro helps the load times and a few other things. Several patches since the first episode have also improved matters too. I am happy to be able to unlock the framerate when using the Pro and will really enjoy turning on HDR when I get a better TV someday.

Yet the aging graphics engine seems to be holding the series back now. Not so much with most of the environment but the NPCs and Agent 47’s interactions with it. Parts of the experience can feel a little dated. Not to the point where it hurts the game, but there are moments where things feel a little off and take you out of the experience.

The second and third episodes couldn’t be more different than the first. Not only do they capture the feeling of their respective locales, but they also purvey a contrasting way of life. Where Sapienza is calm and laid back with people enjoying the sights, surf, and sun, Marrakesh is busy, tense, and fraught with danger. Every level so far could easily form part of the latest 007 adventure.

The fourth episode is where I went crazy with the Share button. The backdrop is stunning and the hotel is grand and majestic but with signs of its age creeping through. It feels like a functioning establishment and it was one that I really enjoyed exploring. The other episodes have a strange claustrophobia about them even though their actual locations are anything but. I put it down to the excellent level design.

… random NPCs sound great and add a layer of believability …
Audio:
Eavesdropping on a couple talking about a piece of art or the disgusting sound of vomit splashing onto porcelain all sound very real and organic. The world around you is alive with people doing their own thing.

Choking the life out of a victim or sending a hanging speaker system crashing onto people below sounds excruciating and painful. People also react to Agent 47 more realistically now with an increasing urgency and force if you’re caught doing something you shouldn’t.

Voice acting is exceptional and Agent 47 and Diana sound just as they should. All the other characters including the many random NPCs sound great and add a layer of believability to the proceedings. I suggest playing with some headphones as the atmospheric music and audio really help to immerse you in the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This is a single player game but it features leaderboards and the ability to share contracts with the world. I’m glad they didn’t try to make it anything more since not every game needs a multiplayer component.

One thing I do not like is the need to have a connection to the servers. If that connection is lost then the game you were playing is over. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else as the game saves quite often into a rolling six slots and any one of those can be loaded back up at any time. You can also manually save, something that I strongly advise before doing anything risky.

Conclusion:
The six episodes of Hitman comprise a great package that’s worthy of your time and money. Each episode is large and exquisitely detailed with an assortment of ways to reach and dispatch your targets and you will be playing them for ages.

You also have the contracts set by the developers and community that add even more fun to the overall experience and usually involve seeing areas, people, and weapons you probably missed in the main game.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.


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