I’m standing on a balcony, pistol drawn, waiting for the heat to die down. A photographer happened to see me knock out a male model and change into his clothes in broad daylight. Understandably frightened, she called to a nearby security guard, at which point I hightailed it back into the mansion and ran upstairs.
Not everyone had seen my disguise, so I managed to make it through the throngs of guests without being noticed. Unfortunately, as the guards began to spread the news that an intense-looking bald man was choking people into submission and undressing them, they started to search the mansion more thoroughly.
It didn’t take long before they stumbled upon the four or five other unconscious bodies I’d stashed in various lockers and side rooms. Needless to say, I’d failed my mission and it was time to start over. But the great thing about Hitman is that every failure feels like progress, as you learn more about the level every time you play.
To say that Hitman wasn’t on my radar would be an understatement. Other than a few minutes of Hitman: Absolution and an unhealthy obsession with the mobile spinoffs, Hitman GO and Hitman: Sniper, I’ve had almost no experience with the Hitman franchise. Stealth has just never been a major draw for me.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the Hitman beta that launched a few weeks ago, so I wanted to give the full game (or at least what there is of the full game so far) a shot. At this point, it’s one of my favorite games of the year.
Hitman, as it will exist when it launches this Friday, is an episodic game consisting of two training missions and a main story mission with dozens of possible challenges to overcome. As Agent 47, your goal will always be the same — to eliminate the chosen marks — but the path you take to accomplish this goal will be different every time.
For example, that male model I discussed in the intro? He’s one of hundreds of attendees at a fashion show in Paris (the one story mission available at launch), and at some point in the night, he has a private meeting scheduled with one of the two marks.
Had I successfully lured him away from the crowd and disguised myself as the model, I would have had a chance to attend that meeting in his stead, getting the mark away from the high profile guests that she was entertaining at an auction on the third floor. But that’s only one of the many opportunities the game provides.
If the male model route isn’t up your alley, you can infiltrate the room of an important delegate from a Middle Eastern country instead. Very few people have seen his face, so as long as you can handle the two men watching over him and use his outfit as a disguise, you will have the ability to traverse the entire building without being questioned.
Without spoiling any of the potential outcomes, what I’ll say about Hitman is that I never felt entirely out of my depth. The mission certainly isn’t a cakewalk, but it gives the player plenty of freedom to explore and test the boundaries of what Agent 47 is capable of without immediately stamping “Game Over” on the screen.
Also, despite not making a great deal progress in the two hours or so that I explored the Paris level, I never got bored or frustrated. Although the level is absolutely massive, the amount of things you can accomplish on any given run isn’t limited enough to make you wonder why you paid for it, but also isn’t overwhelming enough to scare away players (like me) who don’t want to their heads against the wall for days on end.
It’s a major accomplish, not frustrating an unskilled stealth game player, but there were some technical glitches that had me rolling my eyes. First of all, this is a connected game, so if you ever lose your connection to the Hitman servers while playing, you’ll be knocked back to the main menu, which is incomprehensible.
To make matters worse, it can take well over a minute to load the enormous Paris level. This might be addressed in a patch, but having dealt with it repeatedly while playing this week, I can only say it’s worth fighting through it to play the game.
Hitman: Episode 1 will be available on March 11th for PS4, Xbox One and PC. You can buy the Intro Pack for $14.99 or the full digital version of the game, which includes all future episodes, for $59.99.