The Hitman series has become a staple of the video game franchise. It was one of the very first games to introduce the Assassination genre well before the likes of Assassin’s Creed or the more recent Dishonored franchise. With its latest entry, Square Enix decided to follow up with an episodic formula in the hopes of keeping it fresh for an entire year. Those who disagreed with the practice chose to wait out a year to get to play Hitman in its entirety as one package. After a year of updates and episodes, Hitman 2016 finally feels like a complete package in 2017.
The Hitman series has always felt more as a puzzle game than your typical 3rd person stealth shooter. It’s not just about avoiding detection but figuring out how to intercept your target with the utmost discretion. This includes wearing disguises and utilizing various tools to get to your target. There’s also a huge emphasis on options and the latest entry makes it its prime focus. In fact options and the way you tackle missions is pretty much what Hitman 2016 is all about. You’re given a list of objectives (though achievements would be a more suitable word) and have choices to pick them or go your own path. There are six areas you visit each one offering a multitude of ways to taking out your target. Your second and third playthrough could play vastly different than your first.
While typically Hitman has allowed players to approach the mission without much help this time they can opt to follow a guide in the form of “opportunities” which are scripted events that will help the player reach the target. These are mostly acquired by listening in on various NPC conversations. Inexperienced players can take it a step further by following a waypoint objective style system that arguably breaks the challenge players are used to.
Hitman 2016 is somewhat light on the plot. Unlike the previous entries this one puts a heavier emphasis on the targets you’re facing rather than Agent 47 and his elusive past. Here he’s still following his amnesia route with barely any emphasis put on why he’s still fighting. It’s a bit disappointing, especially if you’re a diehard Hitman fan waiting to see what’s next.
At its core, Hitman is a game all about replay value. New targets are also added frequently to each of the six maps adding more challenges and new ways to explore the map. That being said there is a distinct feeling that Hitman 2016 is a shallow game. I mean, yes, the maps are filled with options and things to do but overall you’re still essentially replaying the same maps over and over again which can get very stale quickly. This may please some players but I honestly would have rather they went with a more traditional narrative game with various levels similar to Absolution.
One thing Hitman definitely gets right is presentation. Maps are populated with pedestrians and can feel exceptionally dense. The game also runs like a dream on the PC with a steady 60 FPS, fast loading, as well as HDR capabilities that look particularly stunning during a cave and sunset sequences. The game does however sport a weird filter that at times sucks the color out certain scenes. The streets of Morocco for instance is filled with colorful signs and spices in the marketplace but the filter tends to just make everything look somewhat dead and grey. It’s not so obvious during night or dark scenes but does feel out of place in colorful locations.
AI is somewhat a mixed bag though most of the time it tends to lean on stupid. Enemy guards can be easily bypassed and avoided and even when they’re searching they tend to give up to easily and quickly. It at times feels like they’re defined to follow a certain path and lack the deep awareness seen in other stealth games such as Metal Gear Solid V.
Hitman 2016 is a decent entry to the franchise. It’s by no means the ultimate next-gen Hitman game they were hoping to play, but it lays the foundation for what comes next. I hope the next entry ditches the episodic structure in favor of creating a more memorable gameplay experience.