Hitman (2016) not only reboots the franchise but introduces a new retail model where in every level is released independently and the player can choose to buy the whole game once they are all out or buy each level as it comes out. As someone who bought the 2016 and the 2018 games as part of a sale bundle, I can’t speak to the effectiveness of this model but I can speak to the 2016 game’s success as a reboot.
Hitman returns to its roots with large levels that have multiple points of approach. You are encouraged to snoop around, discover the many ways in which the objective can be accomplished, and then pick the path you like best. Not a single level can be finished without at least a few reloads. You are bound to be caught but that’s okay, and in fact, the nature of the game. As you get better at reading your surroundings, and understanding enemy patterns, you get better at moving through the terrain. The game rewards research, patience and discretion, and while it can get a bit annoying when you keep missing your window of opportunity, the nervousness that comes with attempting something risky is quite addictive. The same can be said for the jubilation one feels on successfully completing the challenge.
Furthermore, the levels are designed to be replayed, with the initial completion unlocking entirely new starting points that significantly change your game plan. I am yet to attempt one of the replays and that is partly because at completion, only one or two levels feel memorable enough to revisit. This is not to say that the levels are not well designed or entertaining. The initial run across all of them is quite rewarding, I am just not someone who regularly replays games. I return to a few games and usually after a year. That said, to those who want to land the more crazy kills, and are just completionists, Hitman has much to offer.
The one thing that did annoy me is that other targets on a map did not react after I had assassinated the first target. It felt a bit silly that nothing changed in the behaviour of the remaining targets or his/her guards despite their ally being found dead.
Where I think the game stands out is its limited tool kit. The game does not equip you with a range of weapons and devices designed to infiltrate Fort Knox. Instead, more often than not, you rely on coins and the instinct mode. The instinct mode, somewhat like the detective mode in the Arkham games, lets you see non-targets and targets through walls. The coin helps distract them. I pretty much played the whole game, relying on these two tools only. Guns were abandoned as they were often a hindrance when it came to getting past security. And almost every assassination was more fun to stage as an accident than an outright murder. Which meant that I was reliant on the environment more than the tools I carried. I think this minimal approach really brought the game to life, allowing me to focus on the NPCs and their actions rather than the mini-map or what my various gadgets were telling me. It also simplified my approach. Instead of getting caught up in which one of my tools is best suited to the situation, I could focus on what paths were available to me on the map and posed the least amount of threat. Essentially the game became a 3D puzzle with NPCs as the traps to dodge or deceive.
I recently returned to the Batman Arkham games and it felt like such a stark contrast to the minimal elegance that is Hitman. While the two games are entirely different genres, my brain which was tuned to the elegance of Hitman kept getting annoyed at the overload of information that the Arkham UI offered. All this to say that Hitman is quite enjoyable and a really good assassination game with remarkable map designs and excellent social hacking mechanics.