IO Interactive made a bold move by releasing a AAA title with an ‘episodic’ business model. More so for the fans than the industry, episodic content is something in the eyes of today’s gamers associated with pay-for-play kids games that give parents their much-needed quiet time. It screams ‘find out how to squeeze me dry of as much of my money as possible’. In the UK, economy and exchange rates aside, Sony Europe seem to simply switch out the $US Dollar symbol for £GBP in their online pricing. Downloading a brand new AAA title via PlayStation Plus will set you back £59.99 (not including DLC), when you can pick up the disc copy on the high street or Amazon for £40. Even though the depreciation is heavy if you hold on to the disc for a while, you still have the option to trade it in or sell it on via eBay (or even purchase second hand, cheaper, if you can wait a few months after release). Otherwise it’s just locked on your hard disk, hoarding that much-needed storage space that AAA titles and their various content updates demand.
However, IO Interactive seemed to have struck a balance with the pricing. Hitman: The Full Experience Game Pack cost me £44.99 via PlayStation Plus, which gets you:
– 6 locations (or “episodes”), with heavy replayability values
– 2 shorter bonus episodes
– “The Sarajevo Six” (6 exclusive PlayStation 4 contracts)
– Weekly online contracts (“Elusive Targets”)
– Escalation modes
– Developer and community created contracts
– Various bonus suits and equipment items to unlock
For all of this I haven’t paid a penny more. I could have purchased these individually as and when they were released, for around £8 each. It feels so refreshing to know that the developer isn’t holding anything back because they see an opportunity to cash in on DLC. As the episodes have been released in consecutive months it has given me time to fully explore and appreciate the content. Other games have been somewhat exhausting, but Hitman still feels like a new game to me after purchasing it 12 months ago. Each new episode and elusive contract feels like an event, with the right amount of content for both heavy gamers or casual gamers who perhaps cannot invest a lot of time in it.
Now on to the good stuff; the game itself! The making of documentary sums it up well; it’s the globe-trotting glamour of Hitman 2, the sandbox gameplay from Blood Money and the mechanics from Absolution. IO have attentively studied the feedback from Absolution; which graphically looked stunning, but lacked the glamour, grandiose assassination set ups and level variety due to its North American locale. Hitman brings the tone back to a classical level with its trademark dark tone (people seem to overlook Contracts, which I thought was great). There are tonnes of ways to get your target. You can “go loud” or sneak around in the shadows for the “Silent Assassin” mission rating. The locales have an abundance of screwdrivers, scalpels and hammers to kill or incapacitate an NPC. It feels great to have this freedom from a Hitman game. The locations themselves are beautifully detailed. Whilst I was still familiarising myself with the new direction of Hitman with the opening Paris episode, the next one in Sapienza stole my nostalgic heart. It was like returning to Hitman 2: Silent Assassin on PS2 (the first game that I played in the series).
There is plenty of side content and replayability to keep coming back to. Contracts mode is back from Absolution in an improved manner, along with the ability to create your own and upload to the community server. I must confess that I haven’t explored this feature in great detail yet, so isn’t really accounted for in this review.
It’s not the perfect Hitman game (yet), but the monthly episodic nature of each location puts it within arm’s reach of its Danish developer. It’s a game that can directly evolve based on reviews and community feedback throughout a season, just like an addictive season of your favourite TV show. To gain that extra star for a full house, I only ask IO to bring back the briefcase sniper rifle from Blood Money!