IO Interactive’s latest Hitman adventure is finally drawing to a close after 8-month murderous globing-trotting. Having shot, stabbed, drowned and garrotted his way through Paris, Sapienza, Marrakech, Bangkok and Colorado, Agent 47’s final mission in Hitman Season One takes him to an elite hospital facility in the mountainous region of northern Japan, providing a chilling end to this stunning assassination sim.
The Hokkaido episode follows a familiar template to many of the game’s previous missions which giving you near free reign of a huge environment in which to listen, observe and plot your nefarious deeds, but with more eyes watching you than ever, it’s a fittingly tricky climax that won’t go down without a fight. Fortunately, IO’s cooked up a truly delicious menu of intel discoveries, feats and challenges this time round, ensuring you won’t forget your time in a hurry once the end credits start rolling.
Much like previous episodes, you’ll need to adopt all manner of disguises to move freely from one part of the facility to another, but its imaginative takedowns are easily some of the best in the entire series, with many adopting quintessentially Japanese techniques to make them stick in the mind.
That’s not to say that previous episodes don’t each have their own stand-out moments, of course. From the sun-soaked streets of Sapienza to the bustling marketplace of Marrakech, each episode offers plenty of scope in which to dispatch your various marks, and each miniature sandbox constantly builds on what came before, offering a natural sense of contrast while continually upping the stakes. Indeed, it’s the season’s sheer overall variety that makes it so thrilling to play, and I’m almost a little jealous of newcomers to the series who can now soak it all up in one big binge session rather than stringing it all out over several months.
It only takes roughly 2-3 hours to complete an episode once, for instance, but open up the challenge menu and you’ll quickly see a list detailing different assassination methods as long as your arm, along with intel discoveries and feats you can achieve in each mission. What’s more, each location has its own set of Escalation missions as well, which see you take down a different target in increasingly difficult circumstances, giving you even more to sink your teeth into.
It’s not just the amount of diversity that makes Hitman special, though. With such huge game worlds to play with, the attention to detail is truly astonishing, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the third Marrakesh episode. Despite having hundreds of NPCs onscreen at any one time, Hitman’s Glacier engine takes it all in its stride, barely batting a frame as Agent 47 pushes through the food stalls and weaves his way through the protest taking plain in the main square. Elsewhere, lamps, rugs and all manner of goods clutter the streets and sidewalks, adding another layer of dense detail to its overall set design.
It’s a world away from the comparatively sparse fashion halls of the first Paris episode, but fundamentally your goals haven’t changed, as you’ll still need to work hard to get to your chosen targets. It’s certainly a lot more complex than other ‘would-be assassin’ games like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, for instance, as even Syndicate’s new ‘opportunity’ system to dole out special mission-specific kills can’t compare to Hitman’s exquisite creativity. Hitman not only gives you a boat load more tools to play with, but its intelligent AI also makes each and every trophy a well-earned challenge.
Once you’ve completed a few challenges and raised your mastery level, you can also begin each level from different locations within the same complex and don different costumes to give each new attempt a new twist and flavour. It’s an incredibly polished game, although the long loading times on the PS4 version I played will more than likely elicit a few groans of frustration when it comes to reloading checkpoints and manual save files, particularly if you end up getting compromised or gunned down in action.
Still, if you’ve grown tired of Assassin’s Creed and want something more challenging, then Hitman should definitely be in your sights as one of your next game purchases. With six equally stonking episodes now under its belt, Hitman has truly flourished into one of this year’s must-have hits, earning itself that extra fifth star that it missed out on at launch. It’s a Best Buy.