Disclaimer: This beta was enjoyed on PC. Minor spoilers ahead.
Today, I got the opportunity to play through Io Interactive’s Hitman beta. I have been really excited for the return of 47, my favorite bald-headed, barcoded assassin. Sometimes public betas are a disaster, but this certainly was not, although it was rather short.
The beta is comprised of two training missions and will also represent the full prologue for the game when it launches on March 11th. It tells the story of how 47 got started with the ICA and how he became associated with his handler, Diana Burnwood. I’ve played through each of the two mission multiple times now, eliminating my target a different way each time.
In the beta (and I’m assuming it’ll be in the full game too), Io has added a new twist to the various ways in which missions can be completed. Specifically, when NPC’s are having a conversation amongst themselves and 47 moves close enough to hear it, and if said dialogue pertains to an important clue or method by which to kill 47’s target, then a player can opt to “track” that line of dialog. Once a player has opted to track this conversation, new objective markers will appear on-screen directing the player to places or things of significance that are necessary to achieve 47’s goal using this new information.
Let me give an example. On the second mission I overheard a conversation between two fighter jet mechanics; one was telling the other that it was necessary to give 47’s mark a safety briefing on the jet’s ejection seat. A new objective marker popped up that took me straight to another mechanic who was all alone. Enough said—kill him and get the uniform. Done.
The next marker pops up and directs me to a spot on the fuselage of the fighter jet. I proceed to “fix” the ejection seat mechanism. Ok, now what? Strangely, the hints and markers stopped here. Clearly, the idea was to cajole my target into the cockpit and have him eject himself to death under the poor guise of a safety check. Eventually, I figured out I could actually speak to my target and just ask him to perform the safety check with me. He followed willingly, one thing led to another and, well…he ejected himself. Mission accomplished.
It’s a departure from past Hitman games where players still had many possible methods for completion, only they weren’t spelled out rather obviously with markers. In the few times I’ve done it, I found it helpful, but I’m worried it gives too much away, lifting some of the challenge and mystique from Hitman’s normally unobvious nature. It might be a nice feature for novices, but not for hardcore Hitman fans.
The gameplay mechanics and controls were easy and familiar, making it very intuitive to pick up. The graphics are fantastic and the environments are detailed, leaving little to the imagination. Frankly, the whole experience felt very finished, more than I’d expected.
Io has always been good at creating realistic and humorous dialog that seems natural; I’m pleased to say the NPC’s this time around are no different, perhaps better. I overheard two ladies saying something to the effect of, “Oh my God! Have you tried this ‘texting’ thing yet? It’s addictive!” There was also some great back and forth banter between the target I was stalking and his business associate about how they hated technology—while they were standing in front of a CRT monitor circa 1995.
Hitman (the beta, at least) feels like Hitman, only newer—and that’s also what worries me.
I’m glad 47 is back. And yet, I worry that Hitman could suffer by not doing enough to be unique, to differentiate itself from its past versions and not taking risks. I realize this is only the beta, that things will change, missions and maps will become far more complex and challenging, but I hope Io has something up their sleeve to set this game apart from its past.