In a couple of years’ time, few people will remember the Windows Phone; fewer still will admit to owning one. I myself only had one because my former place of employment gave every employee the option to have one as a works phone in 2015. Apparently it was something to do with its ability to sync well with our work laptops, but I can tell you now it worked anything but well.
Truth be told, the only reason I opted in was for the sweet taste of mobile gaming and earning Achievements. And I still have it now, despite not having worked for that company for almost a year, but keep that between me and you. The IT department must have been far too embarrassed to ask for a load of redundant Windows Phones back. In fact, it was pretty much redundant back when we were first given them – my Lumia 530 came with a minimal 512MB RAM which meant multitasking on it was nigh impossible. During my time with that phone I managed to send a handful of emails and listened to about three songs on Spotify. But I did play some rather good WP games.
Some real hidden gems were on there: Jetpack Joyride and Temple Run 2 are perhaps the best examples of endless runners out there, and it had the mobile version of Mirror’s Edge too, which retained the same time trial style of gameplay from its larger counterparts. There was even Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy III on there. But by far the most imaginative game I played on the haggard old beast was Hitman Go.
Hitman Go took the core gameplay focus of Hitman – that of killing specific targets either through imaginative ‘accidents’ or stealthily sneaking up behind them – and put it into a board game situation. Hold up, I hear you say, how does that work? Upon first inspection it definitely shouldn’t, and there was a lot of scepticism from fans of the franchise and critics, but even after the first level it was clear just how clever this game was and how much in fact it did work.
Agent 47 was once again the star of the show, but this time you were limited in your movements, only able to move from node to node along pre-determined lines. Hitman Go is best described as a puzzle game: you are given a level and must either get from point A to point B or kill a specified target. Other figures inhabit the board and it is up to you to monitor their movement patterns and find a way to sneak past them. It had a real chess feel to the gameplay, seeing enemy movements and adapting your plan to the situation, or just going straight on the offensive. That is true for all Hitman games, but here that movement is restricted to turn-based.
Restricted might not be the best word, as it implies that going to a turn-based system cheapens the whole game and that is certainly not the case. Turn-based just means you need to think differently about your actions.
All the other Hitman hallmarks were present though, including the ability to dress up and cause distractions. Enemies have different coloured shirts and wearing the same one allows you to slip past unnoticed. Later levels also featured guns to take out a target; sometimes with a pistol, sometimes from further away with a sniper rifle.
Levels took only around a minute or so to complete, and performance was graded on a star system. Finding hidden briefcases – this is still a Hitman game after all – and completing optional objectives such as not killing anyone awarded more stars. These stars were then used to unlock additional chapters, of which there were five at launch on iPhone and Android but by the time it arrived on Windows Phone this increased to seven in total.
Some levels were also based on previous Hitman games, including Blood Money and Silent Assassin.
It was originally the aesthetic that sold this game to me: it was cool and crisp with each environment presented in a diorama, not too dissimilar from recent Xbox One release Wartile and its depiction of Viking warfare on a board game. However, where Wartile featured a more natural look to its environments, all the design in Hitman Go looked like it was created in a clean room. Everything was minimalistic, sleek and had a premium look to it.
Hitman Go was the first offering from Square Enix Montreal, who used this formula and then applied it to other Square Enix franchises and carved out a niche for themselves. Shortly after Hitman, the minimalist turn-based gameplay was then extended to the Tomb Raider series with Lara Croft Go and then moved into a futuristic setting with Deus Ex Go. All featured similar gameplay and aesthetic as the Go series aimed to replicate the success of the original Hitman Go, to varying degrees. All three were well-received but the latter two received slightly more criticism than Hitman.
Did you know, the Go in the title of all three actually comes from Monopoly, the iconic square where all players would pass ‘Go’ to collect £200?
One of the largest problems with the Go series is that they are premium mobile offerings, which severely stunts the revenue you can generate from them. The Canadian studio were also responsible for Hitman: Sniper – also on mobiles – which became their revenue generator and allowed the studio to continue to work on the Go series; these were the better games but didn’t create nearly as much cash as Sniper.
But where do you go if you want to play Hitman Go – or any of the others – now? Sadly, these have never seen a major Xbox release, so if you are looking to play these with achievements you are restricted to Windows Phones, but only if you can find one pre-installed as sadly the App Store no longer exists. They are all available on Android and iPhone but Hitman Go also released on PlayStation 4 under the banner of Hitman Go: Definitive Edition. This improved visuals and contained all post-release content. Whilst Square Enix Montreal have since come out and said the Go games are finished with, these would be perfectly suited to the Nintendo Switch so there may be a small glimmer of hope that they will be ported elsewhere.
What are your thoughts of Hitman Go? Did you own a Windows Phone? Did you buy one or were you ‘gifted’ one? Has the mobile setting put you off what is a solid Hitman entry? Hopefully this article has convinced you to seek a copy out on whatever mobile device you are using, but as always let us know your thoughts in the comments section if you have any memories of turn-based Hitman gameplay!