Hitman Intro Pack Review (XONE)

The New Hitman Is A Return To Form

Hitman screen
Hitman screen. Square Enix

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As much as I personally enjoyed it, even I have to admit that Hitman: Absolution was a swing too far towards the mainstream to the point it barely felt like a Hitman game anymore.  Too linear.  Too easy.  Absolution was Hitman for babies.  Enter the latest reboot of the series, simply titled Hitman.  This new Hitman takes the silky smooth gameplay of Absolution but puts you back into the large open sandbox levels filled with options the series was known for, and the result really is the best of both worlds that can appeal to hardcore series fans and more casual stealth fans (like me) alike.

  This is easily the best Hitman since Blood Money, but it isn’t without some technical problems we’ll detail below.       

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Square Enix
  • Developer: IO Interactive
  • ESRB Rating:  “M” For Mature
  • Genre: Third Person
  • Pros:  Looks great; open levels give you tons of options to play however you want; Paris  mission is incredible
  • Cons: Load times; online / offline save system is dumb

This Is Hitman "Episode 1"

The most important thing to know about this new Hitman is that it is not yet a complete game and is being released episodically over the coming months.  Right now you can buy is the Hitman: Intro Pack for $14.99 that includes the base game, two small training levels, and the first “real” level set in Paris.  Then a new large-scale level will be released each month for $10 each.  You can choose to buy each new level individually, or you can buy an “Upgrade Pack” for $50 that will include all of the new content.

  Or you could just pay $59.99 right now to buy “The Full Experience” that will give you everything.  Each level isn’t just one mission, either.  Every level will have multiple contracts and modes to play.  There will also be live events where limited-time targets will appear.  And much more.  All of the content will eventually be released on a disc later in 2016, but for now it is digital only.

I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of episodic games, but releasing Hitman in this way is actually pretty clever.  These aren’t story driven episodes you’ll play once for a couple of hours and then never touch again like most episodic games.  Each new Hitman level can (and should) be replayed many times to fully experience it, and giving players a month to soak each new level in isn’t a bad idea.  I also like the pricing of the first episode.  Paying $14.99 to get your feet wet and decide if you like the game before jumping into the rest is like a dream come true for casual stealth fans.  Stealth games don’t always “click” for everyone, so letting us test it out before plopping down full MSRP is very much appreciated. 

Gameplay

The gameplay itself, however, is pure bliss.  Each level is a sandbox where you’re able to tackle things however you want.  You can be super stealthy.  You can go in loud and kill everyone.  You can use disguises to blend in with the crowd and approach your target.  Each level is filled with alternate paths and routes, so you can go wherever you want and do whatever you need to in order to get the job done.  And once you have your target in your sights, there are always multiple ways to finish the job.

  You can poison their drink, drop something heavy on them, snap their neck out of sight of other people, shoot them, blow them up, drop them off a high ledge, and more.  The thing that always fascinates me about Hitman games is that you can beat a level and only see 10% of it.  It is all of the neat toys and stuff you can do in that other 90% of a level where the game really shines, though, and is why it is all so darn replayable. 

Load Times and Online

There are a couple of technical snafus to talk about, though.  First, the load times in the game are very, very long.  The smaller two levels in the Intro Pack load quick enough, but jump into Paris and you’re looking at a minute-plus of initial loading, and almost that long if you have to re-load when you screw up.  Planning out a perfect assassination can take several minutes, so if you screw it up and have to do it all over again, having to wait an additional minute or two for the game to load really kills your momentum.  Another technical issue is that, for some reason, the game has online and offline saves that are kept separate and progress made in one doesn’t apply to the other.  If you are playing online and get disconnected, you’re dumped back out to the menu.  This isn’t even an online multiplayer game, so having this weird online connectivity stuff is just obnoxious and Square Enix doesn't have the best track record for reliable servers (looking at you Just Cause 3).IO’s reasoning is that they want to be able to track player data so they can tune the game in the future easier, which is admirable, but this is still pretty annoying.  

Graphics & Sound

Hitman is a nice looking game overall.  The character models are a bit hit-or-miss, but the environments are very nicely detailed and the lighting and special effects are fantastic.  There are occasional framerate drops, but this isn’t exactly a game built around fast twitchy gameplay, so I’m willing to forgive them. 

The sound is also well done and solid all around.  Good sound effects, decent enough voice acting (and there is quite a lot of it considering all the NPCs you can eavesdrop on), and fitting music.

Bottom Line

All in all, Hitman is a good first episode of what looks to be a return to form for the franchise.  It remains to be seen whether the future levels match up to the high bar set by the Paris level here, but we have no reason to doubt they will.  Hitman fans will dig it, but casual fans should give it a try as well thanks to the $14.99 asking price.  You can ease in and see if you like it without spending too much.  It is easy to decry that there isn’t enough content here (just three levels in the Intro Pack) but the replay value is very, very high so for the asking price I think it’s fine.  If you have any interest whatsoever in the Hitman franchise, give this one a shot.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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