After feeling dissatisfied with how Hitman: Absolution turned out in 2012, IO Interactive decided to take up an alternate approach to their next entry in the long-standing Hitman franchise. The idea was to deliver Agent 47 in an episodic format for a series simply titled ‘HITMAN’ and it debuted in March of 2016. Now, over two years later, there’s a Definitive Edition that looks to pull together every episode of Season One, the Patient Zero campaign, bonus episodes and a load of little extras. Is HITMAN: Definitive Edition a must-own killer package, or are you best bypassing it altogether?
Essentially, what HITMAN does is throw you into a multitude of self-contained sandbox levels as Agent 47 in third-perspective, whilst giving you a high-profile target or two to assassinate. There may be additional objectives, but how you go about achieving the ultimate goal in each mission is entirely up to you. And after a hand-holding tutorial at the International Contract Agency facility, which covers enough to ensure you’re well-prepared for the upcoming challenges, the world is your oyster – to infiltrate however you wish.
With six in total, each episode of Season One takes us to a different part of the world; starting in Paris, France for the assassination of a billionaire and the owner of a fashion agency – both of whom have a more sinister private life – all the way through to Hokkaido, Japan, where a former ICA Senior Supervisor and traitor is receiving medical treatment paid for by the secret cabal Providence. The Italian coastal town of Sapienza provides the environment for a standout mission – that’s akin to a scenario in a James Bond film – with a deadly DNA-Specific virus needing to be eradicated alongside those tasked with bio-engineering it. To do so, you’ll need to enter a mansion to put an end to the targets, before finding a route to the secret underground lab – it’s utterly exhilarating.
Whilst the idea of killing so few people in these missions sounds relatively uneventful, it’s the sheer number of possible routes and options available which allow a free approach that’s both intense and rewarding. Want to knock out a waiter to gain access to privileged areas and listen in on important dialogue that may come in handy? You can do it. Fancy eliminating a guard, taking their outfit to get closer to the intended target and pouncing at a moment’s notice? That’s a viable option too. Hell, putting silenced guns and deadly strangling wire aside, you can even poison people, cause convenient accidents with falling chandeliers or electrical faults, and if all else fails… grab a knife and gut everyone like recently caught fish.
With that final strategy though, you’ll be hunted down in no time, because even the slightest suspicious action that’s noticed could send you spiralling into failure. HITMAN is a stealth experience after all, and so hiding bodies, changing from compromised outfits and generally doing illegal stuff is best done out of sight – every single NPC in an area is a potential witness and they’ll grass you up immediately if given the chance. Because of the need to stay under the radar it can take upwards of an hour to complete an episode, with patience and the use of hiding places being the way forward.
For those lacking in patience, it’s still doable and fun can still be had, just with a lot of saving and then reloading when you inevitably mess up – as was the case when I silenced a target in front of a massive audience and then tried to rescue the situation with a massacre. What could be seen as a letdown are the shooting mechanics, which aren’t great and feel in need of refinement, but it’s not a deal-breaker once you get used to them.
There’s quite a lot of replayability present throughout, with multiple optional challenges to complete for each mission in regards the method of assassination, acquiring certain disguises, exit route used etc. The XP from these challenges will level up your mastery for each location, which rewards new starting points, weapons, smuggled items and a higher difficulty to take a stab it.
Unfortunately, I believe the nature of the episodes originally being released periodically suited the series far better than having all of them at once. The concept is great, but the general idea is the same throughout and when you play one after the other, it can become tiresome. Of course, the Escalation missions provide a more focused and fresh challenge within each area, with different kill targets and caveats to fulfil in order to overcome them, but it’s still just more of the same general gameplay. The many community created Contracts are much like that too, despite being utterly bonkers and incredibly difficult, they will really test your strategic skills.
Elusive Targets are rather enjoyable though and these are brand new targets available for a limited time only, accompanied by a cutscene and their very own back-story to set up the hit nicely. These do take place in the destinations that have already been featured, but the infrequent arrival of Elusive Targets, the one life/attempt only condition and the additional lore helps to stave off any potential boredom here.
In addition to the first season of HITMAN, the Definitive Edition also contains the Patient Zero campaign, comprised of four missions. The story follows the termination of a cult leader and anyone involved in attempting to distribute a virus on his behalf. However interesting these new episodes are though, you’re still re-treading over old ground and revisiting locations that you’ve already spent a decent amount of time in. Not like the bonus missions included, which – The Icon mission especially – transform the location to feel as if it’s somewhere almost unrecognisable.
On the visual front, the overall design of each destination is brilliant due to the many hidden passages, rooms filled with decorative items and luxurious buildings. The textures aren’t up to modern day standards though and neither are the character models, looking like high end of the previous console generation. In the sound department there’s nothing spectacular of note, but it’s worth mentioning the intriguing conversations that are regularly occurring as these help bring the environments to life.
Overall, HITMAN: Definitive Edition is chock full of hours and hours of stealth action to play through, with a host of wonderfully creative locations around the world to admire and a ton of clever ways to kill targets. The extra missions included add longevity, with the ever-growing database of Contracts and the regularly changing Elusive Targets providing something a bit tougher for the sneakiest of gamers to tackle. Having every episode available at once and playing them one after the other can prove repetitive though, with the gameplay feeling samey. Sadly, the overarching narrative isn’t anything special and the storytelling could be better all round. It would’ve been good to have better looking character models too and a shooting mechanic that doesn’t feel past it.
There’s no doubt that the Definitive Edition of HITMAN is well worth a look, but it definitely works best when played little and often. Either way, roll on HITMAN 2!