It feels like Hitman has been in the news for months now with various pre-order snafus and just plain confusion about its release. Hitman Episode 1 (or Intro pack) finally released earlier this month and there are some things that really impressed me about it, while others just soured me on the experience.
Having Hitman go back to a mission structure closer to Hitman: Blood Money, with sandboxes as opposed to the linear experience seen in Absolution, is great and this is one of the things that salvages some poor decisions in this episode of Hitman. So what exactly did Io Interactive release with Episode 1 then?
Firstly, it feels a bit weird to keep saying episodic when this didn’t feel like one from an episodic game vis-a-vis an episode of say Life is Strange. This episode includes the tutorial mission, which ends with a final test involving some intervention, and one main mission that takes place in Paris called The Showstopper.
This content can take you between two and three hours to complete, but there are many things that make replaying it fun. The Contracts mode lets you experience the same locations, but by going after different targets. These new target contracts have different mission requirements, which encourage exploration. By default, the settings make everything visible to you easily and it feels like you’re being spoon-fed. A quick tweak of the gameplay settings will ensure you experience these missions the way you want, without UI distractions and hints.
Visually, Hitman is impressive. The environments are detailed and some of the visuals will blow you away. When you enter the fashion show area in the Paris mission, it is quite a sight to behold. There’s also a lot of attention to detail, with small things that tie into the gameplay so well. The actual in-game interface is great as well, which is something many developers don’t pay attention to.
I hope future episodes come with performance improvements because that’s an area where the game could be a lot better. There is some cutscene stutter while the camera pans across environments in the open areas. It is great to see developers offer players the option of playing with either a 30 fps lock or a variable framerate, but super long load times are not fun at all. The variable framerate also has massive differences in areas and makes things not feel as smooth as they should. Another annoyance is the NPC chatter. Almost every NPC will comment on what you’re doing, which is annoying.
Overall, Hitman Episode 1 feels more like a game released in an unfinished state than the first episode. Developers need to stop booting you out of the game or mission if a connection to a server times out or fails in a game that isn’t multiplayer-focussed. In its current state, I cannot recommend buying Hitman Episode 1 unless you’re really craving something like Blood Money and can tolerate an annoying online system. Hopefully things will improve with the new content set to come in each month for those who own the complete experience.