Hitman

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Monk Ed
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Hitman

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Postby Monk Ed » Thu Mar 16, 2017 6:00 pm

This game is fucking awesome. I can't tell you how pleased I am as a fan of the franchise to see it return to form so successfully after the brief dip that was Absolution. At first I actually didn't like it, but once I started seeing how the elements of its design play off each other, I began to marvel at the beauty of it all.

Better than Blood Money? I think so.

There's no one element that makes this Hitman entry so good, but I can name one that stands out: communication. Hitman 2016 communicates its rules, objectives, boundaries, and the consequences of the player's actions better than any other in the franchise, and without ruining the challenge by giving away too much. Its methods range from the subtle to the explicit: NPCs talk to themselves and each other about local hazards and security issues the player can exploit, but there's also on-screen text that relays mission-critical info, and an "opportunity-tracking" system that I don't know much about because I turned it off because I thought I had enough help already.

There's also the Instinct mechanic, a button you hold that lets you see people's outlines through walls. On paper, it sounds game-breaking, but I found that it really improves the flow of play; I loved being able to know whether someone was just about to come around a corner or through a door before I committed to some act I wouldn't want to be caught doing. I felt more in control of my decisions and greater ownership of the consequences, good or bad. Yes, the minimap serves a similar function, and there are other ways to make sure you're choosing the right moment to act unseen, but I found the Instinct mechanic to be more intuitive and fun, and the game to be plenty hard even with its help. If you happen to disagree when you see it in practice, you can turn it off, as with many of the helper features.

Unlike previous entries, there's more to shoot for than just ye olde Silent Assassin rating. To unlock new stuff, you must complete "Challenges", of which Silent Assassin is but one of many available on each mission. Most of these don't care whether you're a "silent assassin" on your way to completing them, so unless you're pursuing the ones that do, the pressure to play "perfectly" is greatly reduced. (In fact, some require you to violate the conditions of a "perfect" run.) The mission-specific Challenges double as a guide to what you can do on each mission and hint at how to do them. I've likely already seen more of Hitman 2016 than I ever did of Blood Money, and that's entirely because of this combination of guidance and incentive.

The list of things I didn't like about the game is very small, though some are the big kind of small.
  • The control scheme was fine after I got used to it and came to understand why it was arranged as it is, but you can't change it, not even to switch the stick clicks. (I was able to get around that by remapping the controls outside of the game, but I shouldn't have needed to.)
  • I'm not a fan of the "Suit Only" Challenges, especially "Silent Assassin, Suit Only", because they ask you to ignore the franchise's central mechanic (disguises) and do it for no sensible in-universe reason. I would have liked to see a return of Blood Money's equivalent challenge, where the limitation was not on disguises but on how many people you're allowed to knock out on a mission, which consequently reduces your opportunities to take disguises but does so in a way that makes perfect sense in-context.
  • Lastly on my list of little gripes, I'm annoyed by how many NPCs can see through my disguises; sometimes I have this reaction like "Why did I even bother to put this on?"
My most serious gripe with the game has nothing to do with the gameplay, but rather the story and tone. Although Hitman 2016 doesn't take itself quite as seriously as Absolution (thank goodness), it still takes itself more seriously than Blood Money did. The targets are more humanized and sympathetic than in any previous game in the franchise, and while the developers seem to think this is an improvement, I'm not so sure. But that's not to say I'm completely against it; fond as I am of my memories of Blood Money's more lighthearted approach, there are times when I do find myself appreciating the artistry of Hitman 2016's moderately more serious one.
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