An Absolution For the Franchise
The sixth entry of the 16 year old Hitman franchise, simply titled Hitman, took on an episodic release instead of the traditional full release of the others. Did this significant change work out?
To get right to the point, yes, it works. I have spent a significant amount of time with Hitman, probably much more than I would have if it had all hit at once. I played most of the episodes for hours because they were so good on their own.
I do not want to spend much time talking about individual episodes as they each have their own review (and all of them are linked to at the bottom). The quality of the episodes ebbs and flows, but none of them hit a lower quality than “just okay.” I do want to note something about my reviews of the first two episodes though: The levels featured in the episodes are some of the best in the game, and the series. But for the first two months, server issues were prominent. Those two episodes’ scores took a hit because of that. Episode 2 is easily the best in terms of content, even if the score does not reflect that.
The biggest knock against this game is the constant online connection that is required. Server issues are next to nonexistent at this point. At first, the game would eject to the main menu if the server connection was lost, but now there is an option to try and reconnect. So even if there happens to be a minor issue, it is not as big of a deal as it used to be. Even so, most progress is stored server side, so an internet connection is required. This has been somewhat improved too, as no progress would be carried over, but now an offline profile stores all of that progress. That is just most recent progress though, it is impossible to unlock anything in offline mode. So even though Hitman is a mostly single player experience, it is an online one as well.
The servers are not the only thing they have updated. IO Interactive as been updating Hitman in small ways ever since the beginning. Even just simple things like the UI are much better. It’s more responsive, better laid out, and reveals more about items and such that make it a much more friendly experience.
Of course the most important additions IO has made are the content updates. Hitman has four types of missions: the main story missions, user created Contracts, Escalation Contracts, and Elusive Targets.
The user created Contracts are a nice option, but one I do not use much. Creating them is simple; all that is required is going into a mission, marking the targets, and then taking them out. IO has a curated Featured list that constantly grows, which highlights the best of the best of these. At first, there was no way to look up specific Contracts, but now there is a very in depth search function. It’s not something I toy with much, but it is a much better experience than at launch and a good option to have.
Escalation Contracts are something I really enjoy. Each one takes place in one of the maps and has five stages to it. The first one is usually a simple target to kill. Stage two tacks on something that makes it a little more difficult, such as having to hide a body in a certain container. This happens up until stage five that eventually turns a simple hit into a much more complex challenge. There is a great variety to the modifiers, such as adding security lasers that have to be deactivated (which isn’t a feature in the main missions). It might seem at first like Escalations take away freedom from the levels, but I believe they end up making the player utilize the spaces in such a way that most would never would have even thought to. IO adds Escalation Contracts regularly, so it seems like I have a slightly new experience each time I want to play Hitman for a few hours.
Elusive Targets are much more of a mixed bag. They are one time only contracts that feature totally unique targets that are held over a set amount of time. This means that it is possible to fail them and never have another chance, or miss out on it completely. The times available used to be sporadic, ranging from two days to six or seven. Thankfully, IO has made the recent ones available for a week and it looks as if that trend will be consistent. Even so, the fact that people can totally miss out on content really sucks. Several Elusive Targets have some really unique ideas. My favorite so far has been The Twin. He travels with his brother always, they wear the same outfit save for a watch. The one with the watch is the target, but harming the other twin means instant failure. Up until I had taken out the target, there was a constant sense of tension that I could mess up and kill the wrong one. On one hand, that tension only works because of the single attempt, but on the other, it means some people will never get to try this mission. I hope that maybe all of the Season 1 targets will be put on a weekly rotation when Season 2 launches.
IO Interactive also just launched a Christmas themed mission that is available for all players. It takes place in a holiday reskin of the Paris mission and the two targets are the bandits from the movie Home Alone. It’s a fairly simple level, and features some really funny easter eggs.
In short, IO has done a spectacular job with updating Hitman since launch. Even though Episode 6 released at the end of October, and spelled the end of Season 1, they continue to polish it and add even more content.
The Verdict: 9.0 out of 10
Hitman is the best entry in the series and IO’s continued support makes it even better. In the eight months since the first episode launched, it has evolved from a great game with some rough technical aspects to a fantastic game in every single aspect. Even better, Season 2 has been confirmed, which means this game can get even better.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Riley Berry is an Associate Writer for MONG who is the loudest silent assassin ever. You can follow him on Twitter.