HITMAN [Episode 2 – Sapienza Review]: Chi be vive, ben muore.
While I am still confused about Square Enix’s choice to release Hitman in episodic format, I am impressed with how polished the game continues to be. Agent 47 has left Paris (in the first episode) and is now in the beautiful and lush Italian city Sapienza for his next mission.
The locale is a marked improvement over Paris as this is an open outdoor area with much to explore. The mission objective is to stop a crazy scientist from unleashing a deadly virus; while certainly not a unique storyline, the implementation of it is still interesting and fun to play through.
As always, there are numerous ways to go about assassinating the target and this time around there seems to be a lot more “flavor” events and conversations to eavesdrop on. The voice acting is still shaky in this series, and what is up with almost nobody in Italy having an Italian accent?!
An interesting side effect of releasing the game in episodic fashion is that it forces the player to thoroughly explore all the options available to them in each mission. While that has always been available in the Hitman franchise, the idea that the publisher is rationing the content out to the players makes it practically a requirement for the players to explore every inch of the levels. I’m not sure this is their actual intentions but it is an interesting aside.
The actual overreaching plot of Hitman still is a bit of a mystery as there are only a few cut scenes that explain what is going on. Perhaps more will be revealed later, but I can’t help but think that the game being released in pieces has a negative effect on the impact of the narrative.
Overall, the Sapienza episode is an improvement over the previous Paris mission and is more of what I want to see from the Hitman series. My connection to the servers (I’m on Playstation Network) was also much more stable this time around though they should still make it so you can play the single player game in offline mode. Hopefully, the subsequent episodes continue to ramp up the quality.
Keep this link bookmarked, as we follow Hitman through various countries each and every episodic month.
***EPISODE 1 – PARIS***
While I enjoyed Hitman: Absolution, the main drawback to that game was the smaller size of the levels that were available for Agent 47 to do his dirty work. Having a giant sandbox with numerous ways to assassinate a target is what made gamers come back again and again to play the series. There is nothing more satisfying than stalking an unsuspecting mark, finding a devious way to off them, then waiting for the perfect time to spring your trap.
With SquareEnix’s newest episodic iteration of the franchise, called simply Hitman, they get back to the roots of what made this game so fun to play. Unfortunately, this experience is marred by questionable decisions regarding online play and the new episodic format…
What is available right now at release is a couple of tutorial levels and one “location mission” that takes place in Paris. A straight play-through of this content will take most gamers between 2-3 hours. Now, it can be argued that Hitman games are about replaying missions and finding all the different ways to kill targets; in that respect you can get several more hours of playtime out of these few missions.
But for whatever reason, Square Enix decided to give a single player game parts that are solely dependent on being online. If you lose connection to the server you will be kicked out of your mission and have to restart at a save point. You can play offline but the offline game uses different saves (who the hell thought this was a good idea?) and restricts you from accessing challenges, spawn points, endgame scoring, and various unlocks. It makes no sense at all to make a single player game rely on being online — not to mention I could only connect to the servers about half the time. Online aspects aside, the actual gameplay is classic Hitman. There are a million (give or take) ways to kill your targets, and the bulk of the game is figuring them all out.
I have always found the stealth game play in this series to be a little rough around the edges, especially compared to games like Metal Gear Solid; just simple things like not being able to drag a body to a safe area while subduing them, the finicky camera while in cover mode, inconsistent line-of-sight from the guard AI, and somewhat stiff controls for Agent 47 himself. For the most part, this Hitman runs smooth despite a few graphical glitches. The character models and animation are average and not exactly pushing the limits of next-gen graphics. I wasn’t impressed with the wooden writing or voice acting either. The levels themselves are constructed intelligently with multiple layers and access points. Point blank, fans of the franchise won’t be disappointed by the gameplay.
Gamers weren’t too happy about the episodic nature of the game and the constant server issues has left many others frustrated. I also wonder what will happen in a few years when the servers for this game are closed; it will be forever crippled and incomplete for the used market. Street Fighter V did something similar, releasing an incomplete game with promises of more content later. While I’m not sure this is a great trend for future gaming, Hitman in itself is a quality stealth experience that may eventually wind up an entirely great one–if those servers ever become stable. Of course.