Hitman: Season One
Adversity often develops one’s character as well as one’s resolution. Are we talking about Agent 47 here? We could be. But no, I’m referring to Japanese gaming conglomerate Square Enix. After the dismal performance of 2012’s Hitman: Absolution, the Japanese company hit some rather rough times, financially. One of the byproducts of those turbulent times was to scale things back a little. So, one of their subsidiaries, IO Interactive, was tasked with focusing solely on the Hitman series, while dropping all of their other mainly adult-themed projects, such as the Kane & Lynch series.
And the highly creative Danish game developer (IO Interactive) came up with a novel (no pun intended) idea—reboot and hopefully reinvigorate the sagging Hitman IP while wholly creating a new gaming model to boot. With their backs against the wall, IO Interactive came out firing on all cylinders with their release of their first Hitman episode, Hitman: Episode 1 Paris.
They wanted us to believe. But the gaming masses were divided, mainly between those who still had a bad taste in their mouths from Hitman: Absolution, and the gamers who still clung to the notion that 2006’s Hitman: Blood Money was the holy grail of the series (which I believed it was as well – until now). Let’s just say that the new Hitman has had to tread an uphill battle between both the skeptics and the naysayers.
Frankly, I was carefully optimistic about the new series’ piecemeal release structure. I say “carefully” because although Episode 1 held a lot of promise for the new series reboot, I was still in a wait-and-see mode. However, I was “optimistic” because I believed that the episodic nature of the series would allow gamers to take a step back from the bombast and hyper-fast-fast gameplay that seems to prevail in gaming culture these days, and instead take in all that a game can offer. Slowing down meant savoring each episode for all that it’s was worth—exploring every opportunity, every nook and cranny of a level, before formulating their dastardly kill-plans in this apex murder simulator. Plus, how can you go wrong with an alliance of Danes and Japanese?
The results turned out to be magnificent.
Let’s start with Hitman Episode 1: Paris. Nestled comfortably within a swanky Parisian district, this French chateau initially made me think: Whoa—this is a lot larger than any of the levels I played in Absolution. Indeed, even though it is one of the smaller levels of the six reboot episodes, it is still around six times more expansive than anything seen in its erstwhile predecessor. Not only that, but it is filled to the brim with people everywhere, and gave us a glimpse of what the new gaming engine could muster. The hustle and bustle of snooty fashion glitterati and their assorted hangers-on not only present gamers with plenty of devilish plans to devise, but it also introduces us to many of the new series’ gaming mechanics—namely, how to incapacitate people and don their disguises, and the multiple ways in which Agent 47 could dispose of his various marks.
Episode 2: Sapienza drastically shifts gears and changes the scene to an idyllic Italian resort village. Although it is likewise jam-packed with loads of people and copious amounts of intrigue, it is a much more expansive environment. This allows for more freedom of movement, as well as additional opportunities for exploration and nook-delving. The episode’s relaxed atmosphere suits the environs well, as Agent 47 sleuths and shifts betwixt both throngs of gibbering tourists and jabbering Italian locals alike.
Things quickly transition to a much more restrictive environment in Episode 3: Marrakesh. Its languid setting stands in sharp contrast to a recent military coup d’état that is happening right before the world’s eyes—and prying eyes will keep Agent 47 constantly on his toes like a hungry wolf stalking its prey from afar, looking for even the most minute opportunity to exploit. Much more clever means are required than in the previous two episodes, with regards to how (and if) Agent 47 can execute his nefarious plans.
Bangkok, Thailand, serves as the setting for the fourth chapter, trading in the dusty markets of Marrakesh in for the lush vegetation and humidity surrounding a posh Thai hotel. The hotel is absolutely splendid in terms of architecture and atmosphere. But players may not want to get too taken in by the natural beauty of the Thai culture—danger stalked every tight corner of the place like a den of vipers, making Episode 4: Bangkok a different beast altogether.
Echoes of the Metal Gear series can heard in Episode 4: Colorado, an unexpectedly delightful change of pace. A sprawling militia camp that has taken over a farming commune and the grizzled men guarding it, are on hand here. These are not your normal observe and report type of security forces, but much more of the shoot-on-sight variety. This level forces Agent 47 to shift his colors like a chameleon once again, and remain hidden the majority of the time, lest he get spotted and be quickly dealt with.
The sixth and final chapter of the First Season takes place in Japan’s frosty, mountainous island of Hokkaido. An exclusive enclave—the combination of a resort for the elites and a murky research facility, is Agent 47 playground this time around. It masterfully demands that Agent 47 make full use of the full array of skills that he has learned in each of the previous episodes, while it also ties up loose storyline threads. On top of that, it offers up extended gameplay in terms of additional content to be explored.
If anything, not only has the Hitman reboot breathed new life back into a series that has been twisting in the wind for some time, but it did so on its own terms, while creating a new gaming platform in the process. It is a masterstroke of both ingenuity and creativity, slowing things down and getting gamers to concentrate on what is at hand, instead of rushing ahead in order to finish an objective a quickly as possible, in order to get to the next one. If anything, each Hitman episode whets people’s appetites for the next installment, building up our collective sense of anticipation.
Hitman: Season One is like a boxed set of action/stealth/adventure movies starring a character who combines the best elements of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, and Denzel Washington’s The Equalizer, all wrapped up into one. I’m sure that somewhere, in some alternate virtual reality, Agent 47 is smiling.
Hitman: Season One in packed with cutting edge visuals that perfectly match its murderous subject matter. However, you have to have an equally fast gaming PC in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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