After a rich end of the year with high-profile premieres, the entertainment industry takes a day off every January. It would seem that the people have a post-holiday blues on the verge of depression – it’s time to release bright (and warm!) New items. But no, there were only one or two blockbusters in this snowy time, but there are more than enough remasters and niche releases. How to entertain yourself in such conditions, how to escape from the suffocating routine, when there is dullness and ice outside the window? Yes Easy. Accurately in the midst of frost, the brave IOI team found an excellent remedy for winter apathy – Hitman: World of Assassination. Pack your bags, agents, we’re going around the world with a garrote at the ready.
A sign of mastery in Hitman: World of Assassination
Sequels, as you know, the same lottery. Although history knows many examples of worthy (or superior to the original) second and even third chapters of well-known series, it is always dangerous to think ahead with new products. Will they screw up the formula? Suddenly lead the brand somewhere wrong? After all, the most talented teams and venerable creators are not immune from sudden mistakes and rash decisions. However, not everything is so scary: even today, in times of victorious hype and regular deception of the public’s expectations, there are series in the world, from the continuation of which you get exactly what you expect from the day of the announcement – or more, if you’re lucky. The latest Hitman: World of Assassination, as you might guess, is one of them.
No flashy trailers. No loud promises and bombastic speeches. It’s just a series of stealth/puzzle games with a unique “masquerade” gameplay that has been systematically wandering from part to part for two decades. As they say, I tried one, and you already know perfectly well what to expect from the next – with a couple of reservations here and there. Stability? She is the most.
Nevertheless, this state of affairs has an obvious minus: sooner or later, pacifying constancy turns into boring banality. Alas, in this regard, the fresh Hitman: World of Assassination was on the verge of a foul – long before the release, everything with the game was clear inside and out. How the novelty will look like, what will be in terms of gameplay, even the possible plot twists and those were in full view from the first trailer about hunting in the Berlin forest. Is it bad that behind the beautiful number 3 there is a big addition with a couple of new ideas? It depends on the performance – and with him, the series has everything in recent years. So, on what note did IO Interactive end the Assassination World trilogy?
The third season of the spy thriller picks up right after the DLC episodes of the previous game – Agent 47 and his team have gathered all the most important information about the elusive Providence organization and prepared a plan to eliminate all the heads of the criminal hydra in one fell swoop. But, of course, in such a story, nothing can go like clockwork: cunning politicians and businessmen always have a whole deck of aces up their sleeves in such cases. The situation quickly spirals out of control – and with it, the cold-blooded Forty-Seventh spirals out of control.
An intriguing plot, however, no matter how dynamic the central story may seem, the structure of the campaign remained absolutely unchanged. As before, six missions are available from the very beginning to choose from – each in a unique huge location and several targets that need to be eliminated, preferably without excesses (although no one bothers to spit on the masquerade and decide fate as you please). We must pay tribute to the places of action, the authors picked up an extremely diverse one: for example, in the course of his war with the Illuminati, the 47th will visit a luxurious skyscraper in Dubai, walk through the secret passages of a gloomy mansion in England, sprinkle blood on an Argentine winery and suddenly make a rustle in an underground club somewhere on the outskirts of Berlin.
Completely different in spirit and mood, all these locations are united by one feature: an incredible, sometimes maniacal level of elaboration of everything and everything. In the best traditions of the series, the designers have created an almost tangible world that from the very first minutes feels surprisingly believable and, surprisingly, alive. Although the logic of the universe is hardly any different from the “Destination Destination” pentalogy, even when frank game happens on the screen, for some reason you believe in what is happening – thanks to witty dialogues, captivatingly logical architecture and ingenious in their fleeting author’s strokes. In what other stealth action game, not some guards, but a maid and a bodyguard flirting in the corner can become an unexpectedly serious obstacle on the way?
However, the main star of Hitman: World of Assassination is not at all magnificent in its natural scenery, which in itself would do honor to any blockbuster. The highlight of the program is undoubtedly the gameplay – still unique and addictive. Its essence is simple: you need to get into a well-protected zone where unsuspecting victims live, deftly merge with the environment through disguise, pick up tools for killing … And there, how lucky.
Accident, poison, lead poisoning in the back of the head from a respectful distance – even the most banal options for fulfilling orders at each level are heaps. And if you want thrills, no one bothers to act according to the Solid Snake method: spit on the masquerade, hide behind drawers and cabinets, quietly penetrate where you don’t need to and quietly wash off as soon as another bastard from Providence expires. There are a lot of possibilities – and everyone is free to choose a style for themselves.
However, the most relish in the Hitman: World of Assassination is the search for much more cunning, sophisticated methods of reprisal against villains. No one bothers, of course, to work one-on-one, relying solely on garrote, but there are always better, more inventive options. It’s much more fun, for example, to pretend to be a private detective who was called to solve the alleged suicide of an elderly aristocrat, arrange a full-fledged investigation and – as a cherry on the cake – hang the blame on an innocent person. Or give the victims a tour of the winery full of ambiguous jokes, with a mandatory demonstration of the operation of dangerous equipment, as soon as the opportunity arises.
In its best moments, Hitman: World of Assassination awakens an almost childish curiosity: what if you do this, that, that? Can I finish two targets at once with one bullet and get away with it? And although all this probably sounds incredibly familiar (if only because the two previous parts were exactly the same), there is little in the triquel that feels completely secondary and hackneyed: outside the cut-scenes, the authors skillfully flirt with expectations, turn familiar situations upside down head, every now and then they are forced to improvise, not to rely on hints or an overly cheating interface. At some levels, IOI completely pulls Agent 47, and with it the gamer, out of their usual environment – in particular, the mess in Germany looks like an inventive deceit of expectations, worthy of being called one of the best episodes in the history of the entire cycle (at least on the first run).
Another curious feature of the novelty, which not everyone will catch, is the distinct desire of IO Interactive to pay tribute to all the previous adventures of the killer with a barcode on the back of his head. Whether it’s rainy Chongqing, as if escaping from Contracts, or the finale, with its hypertrophied straightforwardness subtly reminiscent of the action endings of Blood Money and Codename 47, there are just a lot of references and rethinking here. Some scenes are even clearly inspired by the controversial Absolution (as a rule, something explodes in them and you have to run headlong somewhere) – with the only difference being that they are made much better and are completely optional after one playthrough. Like the delightful intro of the first season, Hitman: World of Assassination is not just the conclusion of the trilogy, but a beautiful ode to all the old troubles and contracts that the protagonist went through.
Excellent design, addictive stealth, a well-developed world and the obvious desire of the authors to constantly surprise – all of the above certainly sounds like a reason to award the fresh HITMAN at the highest level, give it “Amazing” and recommend it to everyone and everyone. Well, not without this: as an inventive stealth action game, the game really succeeded from all sides. It is all the more sad that along with significant advantages came relatively small, but annoying shortcomings. It would be blasphemy to lower the rating because of them, and at the same time, keeping silent about them is also not an option.
Deja vu in Hitman: World of Assassination
The most obvious and serious trouble with Hitman: World of Assassination, which is ironic, does not apply at all to the gameplay and plot, which has been taken for spitting for so many years. The main scourge of the entire trilogy can be described in one word – online. Pointless, useless, merciless.
Although the idea to make a single platform for the action-packed thriller failed many years ago, after the departure of IOI from Square Enix, the studio stubbornly continues to tie everything and everything to its every now and then podlagivayushchy Internet server. In recent years, such tinsel is no longer as annoying as before (after the patches, the authors “taught” the game to recognize and use unlocked equipment offline), but the execution is still condo. Want to upgrade your skills, unlock new weapons, and do interesting challenges? Get connected to Wi-Fi or go through the woods. Ah, something went off in the middle of a mission? Sadness, trouble, for some reason you can no longer use saves, start from the beginning or log in until you drop. And this despite the fact that absolutely all missions are designed for a “single” – even from the sniper tasks of HITMAN 2 they threw out the co-op mode. Why such perversions, even if there is no cooperative?
This also includes another potential source of migraine, which is in no way connected with the hunt for the Illuminati – the system of transferring levels and progress from the previous parts. It is, to put it mildly, not intuitive, to say the least. Well, at least the old contracts are working properly.
As for Hitman: World of Assassination itself, regardless of the internet and content mess, its gameplay suffers from embarrassing blunders. For example, although the stealth mechanics are very good, and the levels are designed to the highest standard, the action in the game is still mediocre – there was no progress compared to HITMAN (2016), and there is no … The vast majority of guns sound poor, shoot askew, and in general, the local shootouts are not at all like the lawlessness from some Blood Money, or even more so Absolution. Of all the firearms, only sniper rifles are peremptorily good – they zhah as they should and invariably send victims into a comical pirouette.
However, enjoying the flights of the puppets will not work – the local AI still calculates the position of the Voroshilov shooter literally one or two. It doesn’t matter what kind of gun the bald professional took with him and where he shot from, simple guards and watchmen are somehow able to estimate the distance and direction of the shot, and also recognize the outfit and zodiac sign of the unlucky killer at a glance. The problem existed for a long time, and, alas, it was not possible to put an end to it.
However, most of all in the novelty (and with it in the entire trilogy) disappoints the plot. Boring, banal, not exciting enough to catch and not dumb enough to somehow touch. It’s not entirely bad, of course: there are interesting ideas and even potentially non-trivial themes that can flourish in capable hands. Not fate: the potential hinted at by the skillfully filmed cut scenes of the first season, safely and finally flew into the pipe in the triquel. What’s more, the script is extremely obvious by the standards of the series – longtime fans will surely notice how strongly the final third of the campaign is similar in spirit to one of Agent 47’s past adventures.
And finally, the last one is not exactly a flaw, but rather just a gloomy conclusion that comes to mind sooner or later: Hitman: World of Assassination shows that the series, after many years of evolution, has hit a ceiling. She simply has nowhere to develop in terms of mechanics and ideas, because not new heights await ahead, but only secondary and banal.
Yes, you can make the shooting more interesting, bring the AI to mind, change the engine and add working elevators, but the killer simulator formula has almost become obsolete. Connoisseurs have already seen all the most interesting. They already know in advance what kind of set-ups the developers are capable of, and without even looking at the list of “challenges”, they can figure out how to finish off the next rich man. Of course, this time the designers jumped above their heads, created perhaps the best set of levels in the newest trilogy … and yet it’s a dead end. Perhaps temporary, but a dead end.
In January 2014, 15 months after the premiere of Absolution, IO Interactive published an open letter to fans. In this relatively small text, full of vague phrases about the next, “correct” part of HITMAN, something more than just another PR chatter was read between the lines – an apology. Sincere recognition of one’s own mistakes and readiness to correct them, “to do the right thing”, no matter what the cost. Today, developers often write and shoot appeals of this kind, in which they apologize to their audience with puppy eyes, but not every team is able to keep the promise given to the public. IOI, to her credit, she did. She got HITMAN back on her feet, and she did it almost brilliantly.
Of course, not everything went smoothly: the idea of a common platform for all seasons quickly cracked, publishers had to be changed, and the leapfrog with content and price in Russia is hard not to mention a stronger word. But if we discard the dregs that are happening outside the game and focus on the main thing, on the content, then the saga “The World of Contract Murders” was a success. And as the resurrection of IP, and as a stealth action. As for the finale, it can rightfully be called the best part of the trilogy: wonderful level design, catchy gameplay, an abundance of little things pleasant to the heart and sometimes an impressive picture speak for themselves. Fans are unlikely to be disappointed.
Nevertheless, it’s time for the killer to rest. Agent 47 perfectly demonstrated all his tricks and techniques, and nominally he is still somewhere, but another sequel with the same mechanics and ideas will be frankly superfluous. It’s time to pull the stopcock and beautifully go into the shade. Let HITMAN 3 remain the swan song of the famous series – one can only dream of a better farewell tour.
Note: I was unable to try out the VR version due to the lack of a PlayStation VR.
Pros: great stealth gameplay; sometimes just amazing graphics; impressive level design; surprisingly sensible directing of individual episodes; bright and lively dialogues of extras; variability; replayability; an abundance of surprises for connoisseurs of the series; the ability to transfer tasks and progress from previous parts.
Cons: mediocre and secondary plot; still stupid link to online; dancing with a tambourine for the sake of old content; some escalation contracts were released as a deluxe edition exclusive; weird AI; rare (non-critical) bugs; lack of Russian localization; technically it’s just a set of new levels, not a new game.