Hitman, the newest game from IO Interactive and Square Enix feels like a soft reset of sorts, a great idea that enables both new and seasoned players to get to grips with the many elements of gameplay and not get too bogged down with the characters history. For those that have played a Hitman game in the past will notice very little has actually changed on the gameplay side, the idea being to infiltrate an area, stalk your prey and then decide on the best way to fulfil you contract.
This first downloadable chapter offers three maps to play in, two small ICA Facility training areas based around a boat and a military hanger that act as a tutorial and the Paris level, set in a mansion that is hosting a fashion show. As Agent 47 you need to use your cunning to infiltrate these places, taking out guards, using disguises or utilising the many deadly tools on offer like the classic piano wire to make your way to the target. Killing is the easy bit, getting away with it is where the real skill comes into play, setting up traps and hiding bodies will not only enable perfect kills but also allow for an easier extraction. You can however ignore all this and go loud, but you will soon find yourself surrounded by guards keen to put a bullet in you.
Rather than a gung-ho approach the game requires you to take in your surroundings, being constantly on the lookout for anything of interest and react as you see fit, be it unguarded wine glasses, the itinerary of your target or a handy cupboard to hide in; because of this openness each level allows for some very creative ways to take out your prey. On occasion, as you are walking around the maps you will also be able to eavesdrop on conversations that may open up opportunity's in where the game will pinpoint on the map more in depth ways of killing, like in one of the training missions it will lead you around an aircraft hanger, guiding you to switch off the safety measures on an ejector seat that is about to be tested. Though it sounds like hand holding you still have a lot of sway on how you approach this, or if you want to go it alone, you can always turn off the help all together.
Even with three maps to play and a gap before the next release there is a decent amount of content to keep you entertained; with each map full of different opportunities to uncover that allow for even more ways to achieve your assassinations plus there are also various level challenges like perfect assassin or using specific methods that unlock more options as you play like new infiltration points or weapon drops secretly stashed in drop bins.
Along with the main story missions and the numerous ways to complete them there are a couple of other challenge modes to take on and test your skills. Escalation adds new contracts to existing maps, but rather than the freedom of the story missions there are more strict stipulations in place to complete the hit, like being dressed as a Soviet Soldier and using a pistol complete the hit.
The other mode is a rather cool feature that will hopefully add an online competitive community to the game. Contract mode allows to play each map but instead of you working for a contract, you can make your own up, stalking whatever character you like, highlighting them and then killing them in whatever way you choose, the game recording how you do this and adding it to the stipulations of your challenge.
Having played through the main story and also made a good dent in the many side missions this first piece of content is thoroughly enjoyable however you do need to be aware of the overly long loading times, as for every time you die the game needs to reload from the last save point which can take some time. This is extra frustrating since this game requires lots of replays and failed attempts so early on you will see the loading screen more then the in game action. It does get better as you progress, though this is more down to you learning the layout of the game and the targets whereabouts rather than the loading speeding up, make too many wrong moves and you will be cursing these screens after a while.
Hitman is a great return to what makes these games so enjoyable. Even if you do not commit to the remaining episodes this part offers plenty.
(Version Tested: PS4)
+ Online Contract mode.
- Loading times.