Screenshot of the Week #78: An iconic hit!

by on April 3, 2016

 

                I’ve always
been drawn to games with slow paced realistic and meticulously detailed gameplay
and Hitman series has always been about that.
                Hitman
is a testimony of technological evolution and how this evolution positively
affects gameplay. Those who have played the entire series surely know what I’m
talking about. There is quite a gap between the exploitable and glitchy first
games (still good games!) to the masterpiece that was Blood Money. That gap was
mostly created through Glacier engine which had the power to create, at that
time, one of the most immersive and well designed games. A combination of good
graphics, fluid animations, a capable AI, great level design and gameplay
innovations gave us to one of the greatest stealth video games of multiple
generations. But the series took a detour in 2012 with Hitman: Absolution. Absolution
tried to make the game accessible by conveying storytelling with arcade game
mechanics, both elements that aren’t well suited for the series.
                Four
years after what I thought it was the end of the series comes a reboot that has
an older soul in a newer skin. Hitman has returned to his roots, caring less
about the storytelling and with a bigger focus on the gameplay. Episode 1 (yes,
it’s episodic now!) comes with the prologue missions which serve as a tutorial
and an actual mission in Paris.
                Right
off the bat I could easily spot the intricate level design that made this
series so great. Multiple and intertwined paths are everywhere you look, offering
the much needed choices to get closely to your target unnoticed. The contracts
from Absolution are back to take advantage of the great level and combined with
the challenges add a great deal of replay value for every single mission
available. You can get hours of entertaining gamplay out of a single level, never
having to see an assassination going the same way as the last. This bodes well
with the episodic release as one has the time to completely see what a level  has to offer before moving up to the next one.
But level design wasn’t really a problem in Absolution either.
                The big
change comes in the overall gameplay which isn’t much affected by the
consolization that got its predecessor. The game is slow paced but smooth, with
Agent 47 equipped with all the tricks in the hitman playbook. As a (bald) master of
disguise, Agent 47 can pass unnoticed getting closer and closer to his target
with each new change of outfit. When having to deal with those that aren’t so
easily tricked by appearances, he is always faced with choices. Sneaking past
them could work either by running from cover to cover or finding a way to cause
a distraction, but there is always the more aggressive approach of silencing
those that stand in the way, temporarily or permanently. With an entire arsenal
at his discretion and environmental objects that can be turned into weapons,
Agent 47 is never out of options. This attention to gameplay mechanics is what
made the series great and it’s what’s going to bring it back to its glory.
                I said above
that Hitman is a testimony of technological evolution and I’m glad to say that this
statement stays true even after all these years. The new game looks amazing and
runs much smoother than I expected (with a few exceptions). With the graphics
and the animations at some of the highest levels, what this game needed to come
to life was a competent AI and this is where things get tricky.
The AI behavior is great from the NPCs spoken reactions to the
player’s actions to their own actions against them, the NPCs are truly living into the game’s
world. But as it happened with games before (The Phantom Pain), a complex
behavior doesn’t translate into difficulty and such is the case with Hitman.
There are moments where the AI fails lamentably by not transitioning to a more aggressive
stance towards the player. Patches have fixed some of the problems, but Hitman
is a game where the weakness of the AI is so easy to spot and exploit. Sadly,
in the latest years the developers haven’t really invested much in perfecting
this technology.
                Hitman
Episode 1 release hasn’t been received so well. Part of this comes from players
being angry about the game being released episodically. The technical problems that
plagued the release didn’t help the game image either. Much has been fixed but
there are still annoying little things that shouldn’t be seen in an AAA game
that took so much time to get done. Still, this is a new beginning, and a much
better one than I thought it will be. I’ll have to wait and see what Io-Interactive
holds in the sleeves with the future episodes, but after playing a part of this
episode I want to be positive about the future.
Agent 47 is a bully !
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Thanks!!!
Nodrim