For more than two years, I’ve been watching CallMeKevin and RTGame playing a whole host of games – both popular and obscure. One series that both would occasionally play is Hitman. The sandbox nature of the series attracted me to it, but I never jumped immediately. If this is a story that sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It’s the same situation I found myself in with Farming Simulator and seeing the Yogscast play it during the Jingle Jam.
Between my birthday and Christmas of last year, though, I picked up the Gold edition of the second game of the World of Assassination trilogy. I had looked through the winter sale to see a drastic reduction in price on it, and thought that if I ended up not liking it, I hadn’t taken such a big risk with it. I should have learnt from Farming Simulator. It became an instant hit with me.
I’d already seen some of the locations of the games through those videos I’d watched, and had a few favourites which were elevated further once I played them for myself. Hawke’s Bay seemed an easy enough starting location, giving just one target and a lot of places to hide between that target and the exit. For a first attempt, it went well. It was then off to the ICA Training Facility to learn more about everything possible.
Now, after that, I did head to Miami, which is the next location after Hawke’s Bay. But I skipped over the cutscenes that play before and after each location. Upon completing Miami, I then jumped straight to Whittleton Creek, then to Haven Island. Each offered a unique setting with a different challenge.
As VIPs, they would all have a wingmate of some type that served as protection, but the locations they visited would also serve to provide a challenge. Disguises – taken from certain NPCs that you knocked out or killed – enable infiltration into areas that would otherwise alert those within. But even then, you wouldn’t be able to fool everybody, so approaches would always be changing.
Happy with my time with the second game, a New Year sale allowed me to add the first game’s locations onto the second with the Game of the Year Access Pass. Six new locations to explore, with many missions to tackle. As with the second game, I didn’t approach them in a linear order, and still haven’t seen all of them as of yet. But those I have visited I have enjoyed. I was even able to add onto my favourites list.
With newfound interest in the series came interest in the third game. I’d already had my eye on it just from knowing that RTGame and CallMeKevin would soon have access to what it would bring, but I’d never expected myself to be playing it. Since I had been enjoying the series – and had two of the three games of the trilogy, it seemed only right to complete the set.
Once again, I started out with the first two locations, then jumped ahead to another that has been added to my favourites. I’d paid little attention to the story as per the norm, but this time I felt it was time to complete the main contracts of all locations across the trilogy – starting with the third. And what I played impressed me. Even the linear corridor that is the last location.
The approaches differed greatly with these contracts, and I loved getting to know each location and the patterns and paths of the targets. Even the small details of finding out new information from the unlikeliest of places, or even just the small snippets of conversation from the various people scattered around the locations, there’s a lot to love. Each one feels as though a lot of care has been put into them, so that replaying them doesn’t get tiresome too fast.
While the memory of guards and even the targets is similar to that of a goldfish when it comes to certain things, it doesn’t deter from the experience. A great laugh can be had from poisoning something right in front of a target, and while they run off into lockdown, you escape and hide from the guards to wait for them to return and consume the thing they saw you poison.
There’s other such oddities that can be found, but none of those things really hinders you in any way. The sandbox style of the game even promotes them, in a way, as finding them and exploiting them is part of the fun you can have. Sure, there’s challenges and stories you can follow, but the best experiences are those that come about through your own actions without such knowledge.
Those mission stories and challenges are worthwhile going for, however, as they will allow you to unlock new toys to bring into the locations you visit. They can all be helpful in getting you around or getting out of difficult spots, and various colours or varieties of certain items allow a bit of personalisation. Even the suit you start out with can be chosen, so I’m always walking around in complete black or midnight blue.
I’m in love with the series I had for so long put off trying, and just like with Farming Simulator, I’ve found another favourite here that has pushed me to experience more of it than what I started with. And both are favourites for the same reason. The freedom of approach. Yes, Hitman still has an end goal and a deeper challenge, but the freedom is there. This trilogy is like a ton of open worlds ready to invite you to live in them, and that's one of the greatest virtues a game can give me.