Hitman PS4 Beta Impressions

Title   Hitman
Developer  IO Interactive
Publisher  Square Enix
Platform  Windows PC, PS4 (played), Xbox One
Genre  Stealth, Action Adventure
Release Date  March 11th, 2016
Official Site  https://hitman.com/en-gb#

hitmanbeta1With five years between it and the divisive Hitman: Absolution, Hitman looks set to right some of the wrongs of the last game and recapture fluffy fan feelings by wisely manoeuvring itself closer to 2006’s fan favourite and highly respected Hitman: Blood Money. Beta players were recently let loose in the game’s prologue, set twenty years ago, focussing on the enigmatic Agent 47’s early forays with the International Contracts Agency and his first meeting with his handler, Diana. It is, as we would expect, a non-linear experience in which trial and error allow the player to forge their own path through the missions to achieve their ultimate goals. The assassination sandbox we know and love then, but is it what we’ve been waiting for? Or ‘how Blood Money is it?’

Although there was only the prologue to play about with, there was rather more meat here than first anticipated, with two missions to whet the appetite. The first part of the prologue is a tutorial, which has been staged to be a replica of an infamous mission by another agent, and set aboard a luxury ship. The setup has been recreated on a large set, with actors and copious amounts of plywood, to allow our newbie agent to prove himself and learn the ICA ropes. Not that he needs much help. The second mission is 47’s ICA final test, which is also a duplicate of another agent’s mission, and takes place in a military installation, complete with aircraft hangar and jumpy guards.


The tutorial starts with you dockside, sans your trademark suit, and needing to find a way on board the ship. I noticed immediately that 47’s inventory was somewhat lighter this time out, and my thoughts that it could just be down to the tutorial were not borne out when I reached the test mission. While 47 retains his trademark Silverballers and Fibre Wire, along with a few coins and explosives, gone are the sleep and poison hypos, which was a great shame.

Also missing is the ability to sneak up on someone while armed and take them hostage. It may not seem like a big deal to some, but this technique was invaluable back in Blood Money – it essentially provided the player with an endless non-lethal way in which to incapacitate people. Take them hostage, knock them cold, and sneak off, hide the body, or nick their stuff, Silent Assassin rating still intact. Now you can only subdue them physically with some pointless button mashing or eliminate them. No wandering around a level with a gun to their head, using them as a shield.

hitmanbeta3Fair enough, subduing amounts to the same thing as the hostage taking as far as non-lethal takedowns go, and that’s great, but there was something appealing about jabbing a hypodermic in someone’s neck and then stuffing them in a laundry basket. And taking a hostage and gunning down everyone who approached was practically the only way to beat Requiem on the higher difficulty levels in Blood Money. It was a damn useful move to have in the assassin’s tool box, especially when things go pear shaped. And in Hitman that can happen pretty damn quickly.

On the same subject of things missing in action was shoving. Again, big wow… Unless you especially enjoyed being able to shove someone down a staircase, over the railings of a snuff-movie baron’s pad, or the side of a steam ship for a quick insta-kill. I enjoyed that element of Blood Money a great deal and, sadly, that too appears to have gone. It was a great way to ‘accident’ people without the need for any equipment or risking too much commotion.

Getting stuck into the tutorial I found things to be a mixed bag early on, but gradually warmed up to the whole thing once I’d run through the first level a few times and got used to the extremely jumpy NPCs that can ruin your cover or follow you, shouting, with seemingly little provocation. During the tutorial the game guides and prompts you, depending on where you go and what you do. Should you be in the right place, you will be directed to enter certain rooms, or try different things, which slowly introduce you to the various moves, techniques, and possibilities that the game has to offer.


For example, it wasn’t until my second playthough that I wandered past the galley and was prompted to enter, whereupon it was suggested that I pick up a conveniently placed hammer and hurl it at the unfortunate member of staff manning the stove. After knocking him cold I swiped his uniform and dumped him in the freezer out of sight. Ker-ching, I could now move up to the next deck without suspicion. Other playthroughs saw me experiment with other routes and options, with exploration rewarding me with more alternatives than I would likely use. Indeed, the tutorial mission alone provided such assassination possibilities as drowning in a toilet, fibre wire, wrench to the head, being blown to pieces, and a fortuitous accident involving a life raft.

As far as accidents go, as mentioned earlier, you can’t just shove someone over some railings or into a pool or knock them out and throw them over a ledge any more – at least not at this stage. In the prologue there were environment accident setups, which required you to locate and use a specific piece of equipment (the game will tell you exactly what) in order to pull them off, whether it is a wrench or crowbar, for example. In the tutorial it was a crowbar needed to loosen a life raft. It makes sense in context, but it is arguably pretty pointless considering how easy said equipment was to locate.

hitmanbeta5In fact, the sheer amount of stuff lying about was almost amusing. In the final test mission for example, a wrench is needed in order for you to sabotage a jet for a dramatic accident. The game practically stuffs it in your face. It may as well have screamed ‘have you noticed the wrench? Did you see the other wrench? LOOK here’s a WRENCH! In previous games there were plenty of handy weapons lying about, but it never seemed over the top, somehow. Here, we have poison, hammers, crowbars, and probably Deadpool scattered all over the place in multiple quantities. That said, the location being an engineering bay made the quantity of wrenches seem slightly less outlandish, but it still stuck out. You even happen on coins in convenient places where you are most likely to need them and I couldn’t help but feel the game was making things a little too easy. Not that I was advocating a Blood Money Opera House style mind fuck, but it set alarm bells ringing that were already starting to stir.

Instinct, introduced in Absolution, is still present but has been pared down and is arguably pointless. It now simply highlights the target and things of interest, which can be useful if you are new to the series or having trouble coming up with a solution to a problem, but with the map available its inclusion is questionable. Thankfully, like many of the game’s other features which try to hold your hand, you can opt not to use it. Blending, on the other hand, is a far more useful addition. At certain spots, while in a specific disguise, 47 can blend in, performing basic actions such as tending a bar or tinkering round near a jet in order to avoid detection by people who could potentially bust your cover (they are marked with a dot above their heads), or as a way of gathering information by way of observation or eavesdropping.

Disguises are very much intact and as important as ever and work pretty much the same as they always have. Knock someone out and nick their stuff, or otherwise find a handy uniform stuffed into a sack, usually lying around in a locker room. It isn’t all plain sailing for our costume-happy agent, however, as certain people (usually those who share the same uniform) can identify that you aren’t one of the them and will quickly leap from suspicious to ‘screaming the fucking house down’. They are best avoided entirely. Simply walking past one is enough to bring the world crashing down as the suspicion level is on a hair trigger. There is no slow working up to all hell breaking loose – it happens pretty damn quickly. Even walking away and trying to break line of sight is tough, as you are pursued, with others joining in before everything goes further south than that Mountie and his dog.


For those who love costumes, Opportunities are a great way of exploring their possibilities. These are marked on your map and can be tracked, with the game (via Diana) directing you through the various stages involved in order to pull off a kill. In the test mission, for example, an early opportunity involving the jet can be tracked, with Diana guiding you through the setup, sabotage, and eventual steering of your target to the scene. As interesting as they are, again, it is hand-holdy, and the opportunities that are there can be discovered and implemented alone if you would rather shun them.

Ultimately, while there were issues with things being made too easy, it was an interesting showing, demonstrating potential. While the odd episodic nature of the game’s release will undoubtedly cause some rage and impatience – unsurprisingly – there is much to be winkled out. Even these early levels were a decent size, with many nooks and crannies and methods to explore. The world was alive, the ship full of guests and guards, staff and workers and the military base full of guards, workers, and officers. Everyone went about their business: workers idled, guards bitched about the guests, and guests wandered around sipping drinks or talking about art. It made it easy to slip into and just exist in and it bodes well for some (hopefully) sprawling levels later on.

hitmanbeta7The game actively encourages creativity and exploration with its challenges. These are split into several categories, only three of which were available in the Beta: Assassination, Discovery, and Feats. Assassination has few challenges in it, at least at this stage and includes goals such as kill your target using no disguises – suit only. Another is to finish your mission having utilised every costume. Discovery is a somewhat easier category and will suit explorers, creatives, and dawdlers. Challenges include finding specific objects or weapons, pulling of certain accidents, or activating/interacting with various things in a mission, such as the slide projector in the final test. Feats involve different ways in which you can complete your objective, such as engineering an accident, etc.

The challenges appear to have inspired mixed feelings among fans. While they provide some longevity to the game, and give players specific goals to strive for within the framework of the assassination, they also remove real discovery. With a glance, the game gives away all the possibilities for a mission, robbing the player of a chance to poke around and find things for themselves – there is nothing quite like that Hitman eureka moment when you discover and pull off an awesome hit or accident. The experimentation was always an absorbing and rewarding part of the game. As with much I experienced, it seems then that this feature may best be avoided by those looking for a more pure experience. While the features such as the hover prompts, HUD, Opportunities, and challenges can seem like the game is trying to make things too easy, they can mostly be avoided if you want to experience the game and everything in it for yourself.


It isn’t Blood Money,and it may be trying to make things a little too easy, and you may hate the episodic nature of it all… but strip it back and play your way and it is probably as close as you are going to get. While I personally mourn the missing features like the shoving and hostage taking and the nifty after-mission stuff, like the special ratings and the newspapers, I have no small amount of hope that Hitman will turn out to be a decent game. Let’s hope by the time it’s done and the dust has settled, we have some truly iconic missions to look back on. Blood Money was always going to be a hard act to follow, and while Absolution didn’t float as many fan boats as it should have, maybe this one will sail closer to success.

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