I recently finished reading Joseph Finder’s latest novel, Guilty Minds (which is a fantastic book, by the way), and the final part of the story takes place in a compound run by militia types way out in the sticks. I thought to myself, ‘this would make a fantastic Hitman level’, and it feels as though the guys at Io-Interactive read my mind because the penultimate episode of this year’s Hitman sees Agent 47 travel to Colorado, USA, to eliminate four targets who are situated in an abandoned farm-turned militia camp.
The first thing you’ll notice is how completely different it feels to the other four episodes in the season. The Colorado farm is not a safe place for Agent 47 to be from the very first moment he steps foot into the compound. The ‘hostile area’ icon will instantly appear in the bottom corner of the HUD, so obtaining a disguise is essential to blending in amongst the murderous bastards that patrol the grounds. Whereas in the previous episodes Agent 47 could snake his way through throngs of civilians, in Colorado every NPC is armed, dangerous and will immediately hunt you down if you make even the tiniest of mistakes.
This level is arguably the smallest of the season so far (no bad thing), and with such a strong militia presence there are very few areas where they won’t be watching you. It has that classic Splinter Cell infiltration vibe to it, and it works so well. There are numerous outbuildings, including a barn, a garage and a farmhouse in a state of disrepair, and they’re a far cry from the architectural grandeur that we saw in Paris and Bangkok. Instead of being able to stroll along the beach at your leisure like in Sapienza, Colorado throws you right into the deep end, with no time to be spared taking in the breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. You’ve got a job to do, and if you don’t act smartly, death is a certainty. The developer has clearly broken from the formula used in previous episodes, and the result is a fresh and challenging experience.
For the first time this season, Agent 47 has not two targets to assassinate, but four. There’s two women, a psychopathic interrogator who wears a Michael Myers mask, and Sean Rose, the militia leader. As to be expected, there are several ways to take out each one, but in Colorado it does feel as if more time has been spent on developing the ways to kill Rose. The opportunity which sees you mess with his obsessive compulsive disorder and then drive him temporarily insane using hallucinogenic drugs is by far the most interesting avenue to explore, but when it comes to the rest of the assassination challenges nothing else really feels that it’s bringing anything new to the game.
Sean Rose, a terrorist turned insurgent, is responsible for the deaths of children as well as adults, and I feel that no-one else in this first season of Hitman deserves a visit from Agent 47 more than he does. The other targets, however, don’t feel as interesting as past targets were. Whereas it was very satisfying to learn about Jordan Cross’s past and play the Bangkok mission over and over again to find multiple ways to mess with him, in Colorado the other three targets’ personalities and histories don’t feel as fleshed out.
Colorado has also surprised me in an area which I really didn’t think it would. Considering all of the NPC’s are soldiers, the disguises in this level are my favourite of the season so far. This is because of the level of detail that has gone into making every single outfit in this level completely unique. There are explosive experts, elite and special ops soldiers, even a cook. Even if you came across two low-level grunts patrolling the farm’s perimeter, they would not be wearing the same outfit. One may have a pair of aviator shades and a dirty t-shirt, and the other may be wearing a camouflage jacket, and what is most impressive is that these differences apply to 47 when he steals their clothes, ensuring that every costume change feels realistic. Io could have just fitted every NPC with a standard-issue militia uniform, but instead they’ve absolutely nailed the disguises in this episode.
The unlocks have improved upon the previous episode, and they include an emetic poison syringe and a scrambler device which lets you bypass electronic looks. It’s clear to see that the developer is listening to the fans’ feedback by introducing gear of this type which are designed to make players’ lives easier. So if you can’t be bothered to hunt down a specific keycard, or hang around to poison a specific consumable item, these useful items can now be used to save valuable time. They will also open up new opportunities for players who like to create their own contracts, because now we are able to go back to previous locations and use the emetic syringe to set up a drowning kill on more NPCs, where before this was just not possible.
Speaking of Contracts mode, the update (version 1.16) that preceded this episode’s release brought with it much needed improvements. Now we are able to search for user-created contracts by name, or we can enter specific criteria to find the perfect hit that most suits our individual tastes.
Colorado is a fantastic entry not just to the first season of Hitman, but to the series as a whole. It’s tense, and you will need to use all of the murderous skills that you have been developing over the past few months to succeed. Colorado works so well because it’s a complete change in pace and setting from all of the previous missions. When you’re playing an episodic game and you have to wait for the next level to drop, the last thing you want is for it to be a simple rehash of the episode you’ve just spent weeks milking to death.