Despite the franchise’s name, the Hitman games have never been about killing per se.
They’re puzzle games wrapped up in a blood-coated, leather glove, and series developer IO Interactive have delivered arguably the most comprehensive Hitman experience to date with The Complete First Season, pooling together the locations and episodes from the Prologue, France, Italy, Morocco, Thailand, USA and Japan episodes which were released throughout the course of last year.
But while the sporadic episode releases initially appeared a bit haphazard, there’s no denying that IO Interactive have put together something truly ambitious and rewarding with the retail version.
And with that said, this is the best way to play the game, as it allows players to get into their homicidal groove (so to speak) throughout the game’s various locales and to familiarise yourself with the new mechanics, instead of waiting for each episode and clambering your way back into the world of Hitman time and time again.
In traditional Hitman style, the locations are more than levels, but rather playgrounds of murderous conundrums that allow the player’s creativity and timing to shine, rather than handing you the gun. The locations are truly varied – from Italian villas to the crowded markets of Morocco – which are the game’s best assets and keeps players on their toes as to how to approach each situation.
In case you didn’t know, the fundamental idea of Hitman requires players to (ideally) sneak in undetected, track their targets, find opportunities to eliminate them, and slip out the back door.
The patience and opportunistic set-up is as satisfying as ever, and with the larger and vastly more detailed levels the current-gen consoles allow for the best versions of these scenarios to date. You could always go in guns-blazing, but Hitman is all about clinically executed assassinations after all.
In addition to the primary assassination targets, each location also comes with a selection of Escalation contracts, where you have to take out the target using a certain weapon, wearing a specific disguise and by following a very strict set of instructions. They’re tricky, but hilarious fun when you’ve got everything in place and finally get that kill – in a slightly sadistic fashion of course.
And if you really love Hitman and want to take your experience further, you can take part in the Contracts Mode. Many of you will be familiar with this from Hitman: Absolution, where you play-to create, mark your own targets, choose how to kill them and then share your Contract with your friends.
And whether you’re concerned that you’ll be out of your depth as a newbie to the franchise, the game gives both veterans and newcomers a fair chance to be as simple or convoluted as you want with your kills.
The new Opportunities system sees prompts appear when you encounter certain items or happenings in the game world, offering players the chance to track those opportunities through to their deadly end – these can be ignored if you want to rely on your observation skills alone. Each setting also offers numerous challenges that set new goals and open up new avenues to explore and routes to take.
As for the presentation, the game looks great and runs smoothly, even when the screen is crowded with NPCs. There are a few awkward animations (or lack thereof) when moving bodies, but it’s nothing but a slight distraction.
The game does have some notably long load-times, and the fact that you have to be online to play the game, means that if you lose connection, you’re booted from the mission and have to start it again or from your last save, which can be frustrating.
Hitman: The Complete First Season is a fantastic step forward for the franchise and the best version of the game available. Admittedly, some additional missions or content to flesh out the package would’ve been a welcome bonus, but the base game does leave enough replayability to warrant the price of admission. We can’t wait to see what IO Interactive do with Season 2.