Rat poison, liferaft and rigged ejector seat — these are just some of the many ways Agent 47 can eliminate his unsuspecting targets in Hitman. The latest entry in the long-running franchise, IO Interactive’s newest features (thankfully) a return to the open level design of Blood Money rather than the more linear Absolution.
I had the chance to jump into the beta on PC this past weekend and play around in the two levels it had on offer. What I found was an interesting couple of missions that serve as a prequel to the main story of the Hitman series. What I also uncovered is that the PC port is not without its flaws.
Its safe to say that Hitman is a step in the right direction for the franchise, returning to its open world roots with a plethora of options to get the job done. Each level tasks you with killing someone and then sets you free, with a little — okay, a lot — of guidance from your handler. After you’ve clocked a mission once you’re presented with challenges, other ways to complete the mission or make it more difficult and serve to give the some additional replay value.
The levels in the beta were both training exercises, areas where budding agents go to prove their worth in a simulated hit. They were framed with some backstory, detailing how 47 came to meet his handler Diana Burnwood. Both of these were interesting, well constructed areas, if a little small.
These areas are packed with people having conversations and revealing new and exciting Opportunities, different ways to complete the hit that are often far more subtle than a bullet to the brain. This has always been where the Hitman series is at its best because, at its heart, it’s a puzzle game more so than an action shooter. Slyly rigging an ejection seat or tampering with a projector are far more satisfying than simple gun play ever could be and I’m excited to see what other Opportunities exist in the final game.
My only major gripe with the game itself also stems from these Opportunities in that the game as a whole is far, far too easy. Not only are the Opportunities highlighted and made glaringly obvious, they’re even marked on your map. So much of what made old Hitman games great was the sense of discovery when finding a new way to complete a hit and then spending time perfecting it to be ultimate silent assassin.
While there seems to be more ways to induce seemingly accidental deaths than in previous games, they’re never hard to find and you’re even taken through them step by step. I’d much prefer finding those instances on my own. The ever present and intrusive HUD plays a large role in this too and is something that I hope is fixed in the final game. At the very least I hope it can be scaled down to take up less of the screen. Having a large HUD may make sense for a console where the player is potentially a few meters from the screen but on a PC less is best.
This brings us to my other worry with Hitman — how good will the PC port be? Judging by the beta, not great. The problems start right out of the gate with an awkward menu clearly only designed with a console in mind. Navigating between options and menus was only achievable via the keyboard, something I find incredibly frustrating in any PC game. The issues continue in game too with a frustrating UI (switching weapons is a pain in the ass) and the aforementioned ever-present HUD. These may be fixed come full release next month, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Ultimately though the beta has made me excited for Hitman, something I never thought I’d be again after Absolution.