Hitman: The Complete First Season Review
Price: £40 (price per episode varies)
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Versions Reviewed: PS4, PC
Before your regularly scheduled review, a caveat: I reviewed Hitman for bit-tech back in March, ending my largely positive review with, 'It's hard to put a score on what is, by its own admission, an unfinished game.'
Now, until a second season is announced, Hitman is a complete game (and priced as such), so here I am, heading back in, aiming to give you the complete verdict.
I wasn't sure on Hitman when I first saw it announced. Like many other people, I shared worries about the delivery method - a AAA episodic game that would slowly release one fully formed level at a time, more than just an episodic arc like Life is Strange; a stealth game that gives players several weeks to pull apart each level.
I've played it for most of the year now, coming back to it for occasional bursts of play as I test out a new idea or experiment with one of the new environments. At 120 hours played, I feel confident now in saying that I was wrong, and that Hitman is both the best game I've played this year and also the best stealth game I've ever played.
Worries that Hitman Absolution's action vibe would persist in this latest Hitman are definitely unfounded, and instead of turning into a bald-headed commando — think Ross Kemp — you're surprisingly susceptible to bullets, perhaps more so than ever. Here, unlike many other entries to the series, there is no upgradable body armour or near-death slow motion giving you one last chance to claw it all back. Take a few pistol shots or a burst from an assault rifle and you're going back to your latest quick-save. You're still the most powerful piece on the board in Hitman's peculiar game of chess, but if you fail to keep a situation contained you'll quickly find yourself surrounded by AI that, while not all that smart, knows just enough to use its combined firepower to smoke you out and bring you down.
The AI is often interesting, behaving as you might expect in a real-world situation. Pull a handgun out of nowhere on a mild-mannered scientist and he'll exclaim in shock and stay put for a few seconds, briefly frozen with fear, before running for cover or the nearest guard. Pull the same trick with a guard and they'll probably pull their gun on you too, but they won't fire immediately, instead trying to resolve the situation and arrest you rather than get a body on their conscious. Hitman is forgiving and you've often got time to react before the NPCs do, something that's always appreciated when you're caught unawares.
The reworking of the disguise system has been a particular highlight too. Hitman has never found a disguise system that properly balanced usability with effectiveness and has changed it nearly every game. This time, however, IO Interactive has nailed it - wear a dude's disguise and his close friends or supervisor might be able to suss you out, but most people will be none the wiser. Similarly, get seen by a couple of people in one part of the map breaking your disguise and you'll be compromised, but your disguise will probably be good for another couple of moments before everyone receives the memo that you are Not a Good Boy.