Monday, 15 February 2016

Hitman BETA: PS4 Review

Hitman BETA: PS4 Review

Released by Square Enix
Developed by Io Interactions

Over the weekend, Square Enix took us back into the world of Agent 47.

Following the quite frankly stylish but utterly atrocious Hitman: Agent 47 movie, there was some debate as to whether a return to this world would be a welcome one. And that was further compounded by the fact the game is going to be episodic.

However, after the launch of the BETA and some time with the almost robotic Hitman, it's fair to confess that this looks like a return to form for the series and offers up a chance to maybe take the game further into other previously unexplored areas.

Labelled “The Prologue”, the Beta takes place twenty years before the Paris Showstopper mission. Set in a secret ICA training facility, the Prologue features a pivotal moment in Agent 47’s life - his introduction to the ICA and very first meeting with his future handler Diana Burnwood. The Prologue features two free-form training hits, which will introduce players to the features and mechanics of the upcoming HITMAN game.

Starting off on a boat in Aussie, the first job is to eliminate Kalvin Ritter - but first you have to infiltrate that boat, in the least possible suspicious manner. Which means taking a disguise off a mechanic, heading into the bowels of the boat and ensuring that you can track Ritter down. Tracking of the target is easy enough (simply press R1 to bring out the baddie in a red hue) but whereas walking around before was easier due to NPCs not paying any attention, this time things have taken a turn for the more realistic.

Hang around the guests on the boat - either as a mechanic or as a member of the yacht crew - and they start to get suspicious,a white bar in the style of Far Cry growing with their mistrust. Stick around too long, and they alert the authorities, something you really don't want. 

Stealth is as always the key to the game. For fun, trying to execute people in broad daylight - be it your target or the police guards around - does little to help you achieve your aim and much to end your game in a hail of bullets. 

On the very first mission, there are frustrations - a lack of consistency on when you can vault means if you commit a sneaky execution and want to get to the car on the docks, you can't simply jump off the boat which seems ludicrous when you realise you can vault over crates. Equally, there's no way to run at the start either - meaning if you've done your hit and want to clear the area, you are confined to slow canter, hoping you are not discovered. This is only in the first challenge but it's a bit of an odd concept.

It would be great to have some kind of health bar too; when being fired upon, I had no way of knowing whether it was possible to survive a bit longer or this was it. Granted, these attitudes are against the ethos of Hitman, but a level of reality may have been a smart move. Equally replay points are somewhat haphazardly dotted around, meaning they only crop up at certain points of the mission - simply put, there had to be a lot of replaying the early parts which was frustrating in the extreme.

Mission Opportunities are a good touch though. Once the Ritter hit had gone down, I was given other chances to redo it in different ways; it's a smart way to encourage the replay factor, but it'll be interesting to see if doing so rewards you or is only for the extreme completist who would rather use rat poison to kill off a target than your infamous garotting techniques. A second hit involving a chess master, a jet plane and a trickier set up makes the game more interesting and strategy more essential, so it's good to see there's a mix of ideas in place. With opportunities revealing when other characters talk, there's definitely more of a proposition of an in-depth game in place.

I applaud the MO for doing things differently and achieving the same end. It's going to help those frustrated by the episodic release, but it's going to make Agent 47's return worthwhile. 

The sandbox capabilities of this BETA show there's real potential for deviation and deviant behaviour. Graphically, the game looks polished but it's still too early to tell what more can come of it. The NPCs' unreliability adds a lot to the Hitman world and gives it a sheen of realism.

All in all, it looks like Hitman is on target - let's see where Agent 47's journey goes.

Hitman delivers its payload in March

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