Hands-Off Preview: Hitman – Flawless Execution

on September 8, 2015 11:00 AM

For the better part of a decade-and-a-half, Agent 47 has trotted across the globe on missions of vengeance, stealth, and skill, with the long-running Hitman series providing players with a level of freedom in taking out targets that few other games have provided.

Combining stealth, action, and a healthy dose of strategy, Agent 47 is returning later this year with a reboot/re-imagining of sorts in this December’s Hitman, with the latest title marking a distinct new take on the Hitman series.

Debuting this December with a variety of missions, Square Enix and IO Interactive’s Hitman is opting for the long-term strategy with new content, missions, contracts and more to debut throughout 2016, marking a stark new direction for the series compared to previous entries. Despite the bold new direction, how is Hitman shaping up so far? Luckily, we were able to get a brief glimpse of that.

DualShockers attended a small press event for Hitman in New York City, with a chance to see a hands-off presentation of the latest Hitman to see not only how the game’s new direction will influence the latest iteration of the long-running action series, but importantly to many fans of the series how it plays compared to previous titles: in all cases, fans should be happy on both accounts.

Like previous games, Hitman places players in the role of the calculating Agent 47, with each level providing players with targets to eliminate with varying criteria. However, the true beauty of the Hitman series has been the game’s freedom in letting players choose how they want to eliminate a target, whether they go for a “guns blazing” approach, a stealth takedown, or more tactical ways using the environment to their advantage.

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We were given approximately a 15-20 hands-off preview of the title prior to its release this winter, with the demo giving a glimpse of one level of Agent 47 infiltrating a swanky and elaborate mansion party with plenty of opportunities for the perfect hit. While initially pleasing to the eye with its bright lights and vivid colors, the objective for Agent 47 is still nonetheless to execute the perfect kill, and the latest take on Hitman looks to offer more options to complete a hit than ever.

During our demo, the dev team activated a flyover cam giving us a detailed look at Agent 47’s mission, and more specifically how the environment will play a part when completing missions. Weaving in and and out through the mansion estate where Agent 47 was assigned to take out two targets, the dev team highlighted numerous different ways that a target could be eliminated, ranging from down-and-dirty to far more elaborate, yet cunning executions.

While flying through the mansion, the dev team highlighted just a few of the ways that missions could be completed in more straightforward ways, while highlighting the elaborate construction of each area to provide as many ways as possible to execute a clean kill.

In particular, while browsing outside the mansion players could climb up on pipes and gutters leading to the balconies, or use the mansion’s outdoor-mounted speakers and drop them on a target. Or, there’s always the good old-fashioned going in guns-blazing: however, in a mansion filled with dozens, if not hundreds of people, it may not be the best of plans.

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The dev team showed how clever manipulation of the environment, NPCs, and more can lead to more tactical advantages, and better yet, greater rewards for more flawlessly-executed hit completions.

In just one example, the developers showed us an AV maintenance team just outside of the mansion grounds, where a quick disguise and some cunning can provide a clean kill. By taking out one of the maintenance team and donning their disguise, weapons that normally would be confiscated by the mansion security can instead be hidden inside crates of cables and wires – with mansion security being none the wiser.

For an alternative approach, the dev team showed a tactic that requires a little more thought and planning, but serves just as equally well. In the same circumstance where mansion security would confiscate Agent 47’s weapons in entering the building, instead our team member planted a remote bomb nearby two security guards.

Rather than the usual approach of what I expected in setting it off, instead the developer flicked a coin to draw the guards’ attention near the bomb: upon further investigation, one of the guards instead picked up the bomb and brought it into the mansion for testing. Essentially, that guard just smuggled in a remote bomb for Agent 47 to use later for completing the hit.

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The greatest strength of the previous Hitman games has always been the series’ willingness to let players operate how they please. Whether it’s choking out an enemy with a garrote, or donning a disguise for further executions by poison, gunshot, and more, the possibilities in the latest Hitman are already proving to be versatile and open-ended.

Even with our glimpse of 15-20 minutes from the game (mostly of the environments and their various routes), it’s already easy to tell that the levels in Hitman have been designed with openness in mind. Essentially, players of nearly any style can find an approach to take that suits their needs, and with the latest Hitman those possibilities are the name of the game.

There are still plenty of questions waiting to be answered on what final shape the latest Hitman will take: we were given a pretty in-depth look at the level design and development approach, though little just yet of the gameplay from our session with the game.

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It still remains to be seen yet just the full extent of how the game’s unorthodox release strategy will take shape, with the game to release a portion of content in December and follow through in 2016 by regularly releasing new content throughout 2016. The new content from our impressions seems to be a more episodic take on Hitman than in the past, with an overarching story to be played out over the course of next year alongside new missions, contracts, levels, and even limited-time content such as contracts that can only be done within a set amount of time, or only come around once before they’re gone.

While there are still plenty of questions that some may have about the latest adventure for Agent 47, it’s clear from our preview session of the game that it’s going to be a different take on Hitman that will keep you on the hunt for targets well after its release in December. Nevertheless, Hitman already shows it will reward patience and strategy, which means you may want to start planning that perfect hit now in time for this holiday.

Hitman releases for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on December 8th, 2015.

 /  Features Editor
Ryan is the Features Editor at DualShockers, with over five years' experience in the world of video games culture and writing. He holds a BA in English & Cinema from Binghamton University, and lives in New York City.
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