What I'm Playing - No. 178
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
I played through the Hitman 1 campaign as part of Hitman 2. It was in the April 2020 Humble Monthly, and I think I’m able to play the Hitman 1 maps in it since I also own it Steam. I’m not entirely sure, I’m just playing what I had access to after installing it. Despite owning almost every Hitman game on Steam, the only Hitman game I’d played prior to this was Hitman: Absolution. That was a while ago, back on Xbox 360, but I remember enjoying it for the most part. It got decent reviews at release too but it seems like the general opinion is that it’s a bad Hitman game. Absolution may have been my starting point in the series, but I don’t have any particular nostalgia for it and I honestly don’t even remember much of it. The only nostalgic thing that hit me when playing through Hitman 2016 was with Agent 47’s signature fiber wire. I remembered using it in Absolution too and that was kind of cool.
At surface level, Hitman might sound like a serious game. It’s about assassinating targets while blending in with the crowd, becoming a silent agent of death. But once you get into the gameplay, you realize at some point that’s not entirely the case. Hitman expertly juxtaposes its serious cutscenes and plot with the absurdity of Agent 47 disguising himself as a chef and killing someone with an expired can of ravioli. There are a bunch of joke costumes and weapons like that scattered around the maps, and to me that’s a big part of what Hitman is all about, at least this reboot series. Somber and dignified on the surface, but a real goofball underneath. I’m not saying it’s all jokes, you could play through a mission without ever using a joke weapon or costume and there are moments when you’re sneaking around where you’ll really feel like a secret agent. But even beyond the joke items, there’s a sense of levity in the game’s presentation. Maybe it’s in the reactions NPCs have to your disguises, or maybe it’s the fact that somehow Agent 47, this bald, emotionless killing machine, can convincingly disguise himself as so many different things. He’s a chef, a gardener, a male model. That definitely plays a role in keeping things a bit lighter. I never got tired of seeing Agent 47 “blending in” while disguised either, just look at this guy.
In addition to being really amusing, Agent 47’s disguises also play an important role in helping you take down your targets by allowing you to access parts of the levels without raising suspicion. Knocking out or killing male NPCs allows you to take their clothes to disguise yourself. For example, dressing yourself as a security guard usually gets you access to a lot of places in each level, but even a waiter or cleaning staff disguise can be useful. There are still some NPCs who will see through your disguise though, these are marked by white circles when using your superhuman senses and on the minimap as well. While these characters can see you, their suspicion will slowly increase, and if the meter fills up they’ll begin chasing you down and your cover will be blown if they get close and stare at you for too long. Your cover is also blown if someone sees you commit a crime, and in either case your status becomes Compromised. That’s when you should start trying to find and put on a new disguise without being seen, otherwise if NPCs see you while Compromised they’ll panic, and guards will shoot you on sight. You could go loud and clear an entire level while being Compromised by killing every guard you come across, but I haven’t been very successful with that approach myself.
Your first attempt at each level will probably take quite a while as you begin learning the level and probably wind up getting killed several times if you’re anything like me. The goal of each one is to eliminate all your targets and escape via one of several exits, and to do that, you have to explore these incredibly fun, multi-layered sandboxes to find your targets and learn their routine. One of the tools to help you learn the levels are the Mission Stories. These guide you through several possible opportunities to take out one of your targets, and are excellent ways to get a feel for level layouts and either when your target will be most vulnerable or how to put them in a vulnerable position, and some also set you up to eliminate them and make their death look like an accident, which means less suspicion on you after the kill.
After you’ve completed a level, you gain mastery experience for that level, and unlock new options during planning. For example, you might unlock the ability to begin a level undercover in the kitchen, saving you from having to start out on the street and find a disguise in order to gain access. The starting locations will probably be most helpful for casual players in saving time, but you also unlock new smuggled item locations as you gain level mastery, allowing you to pick up your chosen smuggled item from the selected location. That could be very helpful too once you have a better handle on the level, but I didn’t use the smuggled items much at all because I’m still only a novice Hitman.
I really can’t express the depth these levels have. It feels like every time I play a level I notice something new. An open window, a pipe you can climb up, there are so many ways to approach these levels and that’s awesome. Aside from the Mission Stories teaching you some potential ways to take out your targets, there are also many Challenges in each level that task you with eliminating your targets in specific ways, but don’t tell you how to get there. Some of these are pretty broad and there’s many different ways you could do it, like assassinating your target with explosives or poison, but some are more specific and you’ll have to really examine your target and their surroundings carefully to figure out how to make that method of elimination work.
As a reboot, Hitman is an excellent starting point in the series. I definitely recommend checking this game out if the social stealth gameplay interests you. That said, how you get access to it will be changing very soon when the Hitman reboot trilogy gets rebranded as Hitman: World of Assassination and the individual entries in the trilogy get pulled from storefronts.
Edit: Actually it’s already changed the day before this post went up.
But either way, it definitely gets a recommendation in my book. My final time for completing each level at least once was 12 hours 12 minutes, although that time also includes replaying some of the levels. There’s also pretty much no ceiling for how much time you could put into replaying these levels either, with a whole slew of other game modes available that I haven’t even touched. Maybe I’ll get into those when I talk about Hitman 2.