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
The Intro Pack is a great start to a fun experience. If you’re on the fence about buying the game then I strongly suggest checking this out, as the upgrade to the Full Experience is only a few dollars more than if you were to jump straight in and buy the entire game.

Either way, I feel this is substantial enough to warrant your money. This is Hitman back on form. All the fun and suave sophistication that I want from Agent 47 is present and things are looking good for what’s to come.

I am continually impressed with the high level of detail in every area. The basement of the mansion has a well-stocked wine cellar while unused tables and chairs are stacked haphazardly along the side of a cold and dark stone corridor.

A banquet fit for royalty and a staging area with pastry chefs putting the finishing touches to their creations are just some of the highly detailed things you may see in the floors above.

Episode 2: Sapienza
The Sapienza location shows off how stunning this game can look and the impressive scope only increases with this beautiful episode. You really begin to understand why they decided to split each level up, as there is plenty to do here and a nice departure from the usual feel of Hitman.

Where Episode One featured a massive French mansion, Episode Two is set in the tranquil town of Sapienza in Rome. The play area is huge and very different from the last setting.

The scope of the possibilities is impressive and maybe even a little overwhelming until you get your bearings at least. The location hides a secret below the surface, one that made me feel like a super spy.

This episode really shows the benefit of exploration. Just strolling through the cobblestone streets and onto the seafront will garner you an assortment of opportunities and give a glimpse at how much effort the developers poured into this game.

Episode 3: Marrakesh
This sweltering and densely packed level is almost reaching boiling point with a large protest and civil unrest. All it would take is someone to light the fuse. It has a densely populated market area with several opportunities to gain entry into the sensitive areas where your targets are hiding.

This means there are usually many eyes on you at all times so timing is everything now, and maybe a bit of luck too. This is another location that shows off how great this game can be, especially when you venture into the open market area and see the countless people milling around and browsing at the many stalls.

Army personnel can be seen guarding every corner and important area so you will have to steal some clothing and maybe a keycard or two. Marrakesh is a tricky episode and should take a good while to figure out, it did for me at least, and I seemed to fail on one particular opportunity on every attempt.

This third episode is a very busy and hectic location that amps up the action to another level and it’s a remarkable sight.

It will take some time to walk across the large map because a hitman does not run. Well okay, he can, but I choose to stay in character, although it is fun to barge people out of the way and you have ample locations to run wild if you wanted.

Episode 4: Bangkok
The hotel location here is a pure unadulterated Hitman experience. You still have a wondrous backdrop and countless things to distract you but the targets and my preferred way of dispatching them made it feel like the developers had gone back to the roots of the series this time.
There are so many little things going on and I found myself listening in on plenty of conversations, even though most were of no relevance to my targets. I did find myself compelled to replay the mission and explore a few different and inventive ways of killing the unlucky people, more so than previous episodes.

Maybe I’m getting into the swing of things more with this extravagant place.

Episode 5: Colorado
The initial overview of this mission sets up a daunting prospect with many targets and almost every other person is heavily armed.

However, some of the best kills and amusing missteps made this one of my favorite episodes as I kept making the funniest mistakes. For example, I accidentally dropped some nitroglycerin instead of concealing it which quickly ended one try with a big bang.

This is yet another stunning locale that demands to be explored as I stumbled upon one or two interesting and funny things. The developers still have that classic humor bleeding through each episode and this one is no different, even if the tension is higher than every previous mission.

This level forces you to use every trick in the Hitman’s repertoire and leaves little room for error as there are few blind spots and hardly any stragglers to pick off. I definitely made use of the save slots for this one and spent ages waiting for the right moments.

Episode 6: Hokkaido
I do not want to give anything away here so will not even mention the location. Set your fears aside as you will not be disappointed with the episode or targets. If I had to pick one episode that feels like a Bond movie, it would have to be this one. The others all have their moments but this one just about wins.

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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Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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