I was actually quite late to jump on the Hitman bandwagon. The new one, that is. I’ve played and loved all previous installments of the series, but the news that Hitman 6 (or Hitman(TM) as it insists on being known) would be episodic was enough to put me off picking it up at launch. A few months later down the line and the positive reception of the first two of its sprawling open levels and multiple approaches was enough for me to take the plunge.
Much has been talked about Hitman(TM(R)(C)(Solve for X))’s new ‘Elusive Targets’, but for those of you who haven’t heard, IO Interactive will be periodically dropping new NPC targets into existing levels, giving you strict time-scales to complete them, and most importantly, giving you only one chance. Bungle the hit, and the target will disappear for good.
To an extent, I applaud the new approach. It’s Hitman as rogue-like. where you get just one shot at ensuring your target’s perma-death. No saving, no second chances. If you mess up, there’s no going back. Practically though, the difference between succeeding and failing at an elusive hit is exactly the same. Whether you kill the target or not, once the mission ends he’s gone and there’s absolutely no way that you can get him back. If you missed the chance to listen to the target’s telephone conversations, banter with his body guards or just wanted to watch him wander around to see what he gets up to when not being drowned in a toilet, I’m afraid that’s tough.
Having succeeded in the hit, I now have a shiny reminder on my menu screen reminding me of it, but there’s still no replaying it. There’s no trying different approaches and no perfecting techniques and that’s a major disappointment. By all means penalise players for failure, but if players succeed in their mission, why take it away from them permanently? They’ve already proved they can kill the target with the added stress of perma-death, now why not let them experiment?
The second problem however is all about timing, and I’m not referring to the rather tight 48 hour real-world window in which to off your target. Having waited nearly two months to pick up the game, my purchase coincided rather neatly with the appearance of Hitman’s first elusive target, an art forger by the name of Sergei Larin who had popped up in the Paris level. Given the choice of playing the conventional level for the first time or taking a shot at the elusive target, I chose the forger.
As it turns out, I think I was right. With no knowledge of the level, no idea of what I was about to walk into or where my target could be found, my first experience of the new Hitman beyond the tutorial missions was a one-shot permadeath attempt with no second chances. It was the tensest, most terrifying experience I have ever had from a Hitman game, and yet somehow, against all odds and pretty much every experience I’ve ever had with Hitman levels on my first attempt, I managed to pull it off. Admittedly, it wasn’t pretty – no ‘accidental’ deaths or improbable personations, just a single silenced bullet to the back of the skull. Clinical, accurate, followed by the tensest exit from a Hitman level I’ve ever experienced.
The problem itself hasn’t happened yet, but it will. Inevitably, an elusive target will come to Sapienza, Hitman’s second and more highly regarded level. The thing is, when it does, it will be too late. After nearly a week of playing, I know Sapienza like the back of my hand. There is nowhere I cannot go, whether it’s in the open or secured behind key-card access and armed guards – give me a couple of minutes and a costume change or two, and I’ll be there. So what chance does the second elusive target have? It doesn’t matter where you put him, or how restrictive your time-scales are, I’m pretty confident that I’ll succeed.
So it’s too late for Sapienza, but Hitman’s third mission is rapidly looming on the horizon.
IO Interactive, I dare you – When you launch the third level, put the elusive target in the first play-through. Don’t give players the choice, just say ‘the target is here. He’s not going to be here next time you play. I know you don’t know the location, but that’s not your target’s problem, is it?’
If you want a tense experience, that’s the way to do it.