While what’s here isn’t offensive, this chunk of Hitman does very little to encourage further episode purchases.
The rash of episodic series may have found itself a boundary, through which Square Enix seems ready to step without considering the consequences. Their perennial stealth-action series of the past 15 years is the one to take the step through this ill-defined barrier, and does so without a hook, bridge, or much of any reason for people to return to Agent 47’s latest adventure. This Intro Pack is advertised as the first fourth of a complete game, but just feels like a $15 tutorial with too little content or entertainment to pass the episodic entrance exam.
This piece of Hitman comes with a literal tutorial and a Paris mission, the former seeming to detail 47’s admittance into the International Contract Agency while the latter takes place years after the fact. The story here is a complete miss; it only seems like the red-tied assassin is being initiated in the Agency because no one really confirms nor denies that theory, and the story surrounding the Paris mission feels absolutely barren. No threads are even started as 47 doesn’t really care what the two targets are doing there, just that their bodies go cold in a clandestine way. All of the character and plot found in Absolution, though controversial, feels leagues ahead of this false start that expects a continued desire to purchase and play over months instead of just the standard launch week, and it utterly fails in this initial wave of staying power.
So that desire to keep on moving has to come from the gameplay side of things that, while not on the level of some other recent stealth-action games, is still entertaining in its variety. This game falls a little more towards previous Hitman entries as far as your approach to situations as opposed to Absolution’s relatively gun-happy approach. Patience and planning are your allies with which you can craft about half a dozen unique ways to the grave for either target in the Paris mission with most of them being satisfying and some far more creative than a simple bullet. Unlike previous games where he was mostly a mute, 47 can blend into his disguises a bit further here, talking his way through delicate conversations or calmly bringing out any information a target has before striking. This leads to an ultimately wider repertoire of approaches, but not ones that will seem accessible or have the immediate gain of a new gun.
You may have to slink and sleuth, searching for an opportunity you find suitable for your talents and worthy of your time as many are multi-step tightrope walks. Doses of discovery are up to you to set as you can be guided through each step of a gran plan step by step or take the time to comb a level with your enhanced senses, and neither of those options are ideal. The pace already feels so plodding and deliberate that even with the discovery icons on, the set-up can take a good long while. Still, you will want to be very, very careful in this stage because of two factors: You will not win many gun fights, and the reload to a checkpoint or save file is not prompt. You can load from previous checkpoints (both of the manual and auto variety) at any point, saving you potentially over an hour of prep work depending on your dedication.
As you’re being as stealthy as possible, the two environments – plus a painted training ground – don’t exactly hold as bastions of quality. As in Absolution, crowd sizes are some of the largest in gaming. On the other hand, they very rarely serve to your advantage, or even your neutrality, as every single one is just another witness to account for as you make your approach. The details are there with conversations you can overhear and fairly decent crowd A.I., but the Paris elite just doesn’t do you many favors beyond an occasion outfit switch. Also, bugs; stretchy character models, phasing through floors, some people in the crowd walking backwards or into objects, and so on goes the sections of unshaped code leaking through the walls. The graphics at their peak aren’t all that impressive minus the crowds, leaving Agent 47 looking better than ever without having his game stand out visually.
The Intro Pack for Hitman, all said and done, was about two hours of methodical movements, restarts upon death, and attempts to break away from formula that ended in further restarts. If the time-to-dollar ratio is your selling point, this may be a pass for you. There are online contracts and multiple save points unlocked for you to experiment with new approaches in assassinations, but it’s the same on top of the same without a change in venue or end result. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, of comparably less content for more money, at least gave you side missions and offered you relocation of enemy forces and play styles. No matter which approach you take in Paris or the online contracts, none of the paths feel remarkably different or engaging, adding more weight to the feeling that even the complete game won’t feel as “complete” as previous series staples.
I’m not looking forward to the next episode of Hitman, and that comes to Square Enix’s door on multiple levels of decision making. There is no story to bring me back, no pieces of Agent 47’s past left up for debate, and probably nothing besides found outfits that will carry to chunk number two. Even the gameplay found in this Intro Pack, while still engaging and fun, feels lacking after your first run through and ultimately runs closer to par for the series, minus a slight tilt back towards stealth. History shows that the glaring issue with this entire episodic idea is that Hitman’s gameplay has never really evolved over a single entry. You’re an assassin and will, therefore, assassinate people. Seeing as how I can now boot up this first fourth should I ever feel the desire to coldly kill some rich jerks, what bullets do you have left to shoot for the next chunks of this full game, Square Enix? Because that clip seems pretty empty from here.