There's a lot of things to like about Hitman Episode 1: Paris. IO Interactive has mixed the beloved sandbox style maps of cult classic Blood Money with the smoother gameplay of Absolution. The game takes place before the events of Absolution, complete with a tutorial mission that serves as a training ground for a younger Agent 47. During this tutorial, the game quickly introduces you to its new disguise system. No longer is your disguise linked to an "Instinct" meter that drains, and are more realistically implemented. Wearing the correct disguises will allow you to blend in with most people around you. Some NPC's will still be suspicious of Agent 47 even in disguise which keeps things interesting.
The tutorial also gives players a taste of the clever ways Agent 47 can assassinate his targets. After the tutorial concludes, Agent 47 is sent to a Paris mansion to assassinate two targets during a fashion show. I couldn't help but notice how dense the Paris map is. There are multiple areas to explore, each with its own assassination opportunities. It seems like everything you come across in Paris can be used in some sort of imaginative way to kill someone. Paris begs to be explored and rightfully so. I've played the map countless times now and I'm still finding new ways to kill targets.
Hitman ramps up the gun-play difficulty quite a notch from previous games. I couldn't really go head to head with groups of enemies in a firefight like I could in other previous titles. Agent 47 is usually bleeding out after 3 or 4 shots. Instead, the game encourages players to get creative with their kills. I've rigged a reporters camera with explosives to detonate during an interview with the target. Disguised as a stage crewman, I managed to slip past security and drop a speaker on my targets skull. Other ways I've got my hands bloody involve drowning, poisoning, choking, sniping, and of course "accidents".
Hitman rewards patience in multiple ways. The first time I played the Paris mission it took me over 2 hours. I stalked both my targets and learned as much I could about them and my environment. I knew what type of alcohol they preferred, people they spoke to, routes they walked, but most importantly I was taking mental notes of the dozens of different ways I could end their lives. Listening to conversations will reveal "Opportunities" which will show you unique ways to kill targets. There is an option to take off features like this for all the purist out there as well. You are scored on every mission depending of various factors such as non target kills, bodies hidden, stealth, etc. This score can be boosted by completing some of the in-game challenges.
Unfortunately, this is where Hitman's issues began to show up. You must open the menu in order to monitor your stats like assassinations and challenges. The menu is extremely frustrated to navigate through. Tabs are cluttered and unintuitive. Sometimes images just simply wouldn't load up at all. Making matters worse, at times the menu is completely unresponsive to controls. This may seem like a minor gripe, but the game forces you to use the menu too frequently to have to deal with these issues each time.
Another rather odd decision was tying saves to an online state, rendering them unplayable offline. If you aren't connected online, you can't even monitor your assassination progress, challenges, etc. This issue is too made worse by the fact that the servers weren't' always reliable during the launch week I played. Multiple times I had to start my mission over or reload a checkpoint (suffering yet another extended loading time) simply because I lost connection to a server while playing a single player game. It's disappointing to see an otherwise enjoyable experience marred by technical issues such as these.
I'm still impressed by the amount of content and attention to detail IO Interactive packed into one map. I've spent well over 10 hours in Paris and can't wait to see what's next for Agent 47. Contracts also make a return and feel more in place this time around. Contracts allow for players to create there own assassination missions using the Paris and tutorial maps. Unlike Absolution's smaller maps, Paris map size makes Contracts more viable as it gives players more space to make missions.
Killing hasn't been this fun since Blood Money. Despite the technical issues, Hitman is off to a promising start to the "season". The smooth controls, beautiful visuals, and incredibly detailed level design does a solid job in bringing the world's deadliest assassin to current generation consoles.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09