Alright everyone, it’s time for another round of “Ash moans about a thing that everyone seems to love and wonders if he’s actually the problem”. First time around, I tried to understand the appeal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is something I bounced off of after playing for a few hours. The article was literally inundated with a comment (from head honcho Jimmy, no less), and it hasn’t been brought up since, so let’s try again with a game that’s a little bit more relevant: Hitman.
The most recent Hitman trilogy has been lauded as some of the best stealth games of the past generation, and potentially this generation considering the fact that Hitman 3 is available as an Xbox Series X | S and PS5 title. The work that IO Interactive have done on Hitman’s World of Assassination trilogy is objectively outstanding, enough for them to be given the James Bond license to create a new game in that franchise.
Hitman, Hitman 2 and Hitman 3 have focused heavily on the sandbox elements that the franchise has been celebrated for, offering diverse and expansive levels that allow players to tackle their problems in any way they see fit. You could just run up to your target, silenced pistol in hand and plug them with more holes than a cheese-grater, or you could try and finesse the situation; engineering a precise set of circumstances which would lead to your target’s downfall.
Unfortunately, patience is key when executing these machinations, and patience is something that’s in very short supply as far as I’m concerned. Sitting around, waiting for opportunities to appear so I can act on them just doesn’t feel right, and oftentimes I’m left fumbling around figuring out which opportunity is the right one. There’s almost an agony of choice in the way Hitman levels unfold, as you’re given an almost overwhelming array of methods to take out your target. Sometimes, half the difficulty felt like it came from picking how to assassinate someone.
For where I am in my life right now, I love playing games that I can pick up and enjoy briefly before moving onto another game or activity. I’ve been enjoying returning to Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, completing a few levels at a time here and there, and I’m still a huge Overwatch fan, something I can enjoy in bite size, 10 minute chunks (10 minutes to find a game, then 10 minutes to play it). The sheer scope and breadth of Hitman’s levels requires much more of a deep dive, which is something I’m still unsure I can fully commit to.
In all fairness, stealth games have never been my forte, but at least with games like Splinter Cell, Metal Gear Solid, Sniper Elite or other games of that ilk, taking everyone out on the way to my objective feels more like a legitimate strategy than in Hitman. Those games require infiltrating military bases and installations where everyone present is hostile to you, so murdering everyone in the vicinity and creating big business for the local undertaker isn’t quite so discouraged.
Meanwhile, Hitman’s levels take place in public forums, locations rammed with civilians that have no allegiance to the target in question. Sure, I could still run in and turn the levels into a bloodbath, but if I wanted that kind of gameplay experience, I’d play Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian level over and over again until I’m either desensitised or my console decides to explode out of protest.
If nothing else, my feelings about Hitman and stealth games in general are pretty consistent, considering the fact that the only Hitman game I’ve ever managed to complete is Hitman: Absolution, the Hitman equivalent of Metallica’s St. Anger album. The ill-fated reboot, which famously had a scene where someone tried to frame Agent 47, a noted assassin, for murder, traded the sandbox elements that the series pioneered for more standard stealth levels that lack the fun interactions the series is become known for.
Absolution is undeniably a bad Hitman game, but it’s a decent enough stealth game and it’s the only Hitman game I’ve been able to fully complete, which says everything about my personal tastes, both good and bad. To say it’s outright a bad game is a bit of a stretch, but it’s clear that the Hitman faithful much prefer the most recent trilogy, something I’ve not been able to properly sink my teeth into.
It’s entirely possible that this is a problem with who I am as a person as opposed to the Hitman games themselves. It seems like I naturally gravitate to games in a series that are often considered the ugly duckling of the line-up, the most notable example being Final Fantasy. The only FF game I’ve finished is FFX-2, which is a pretty clear statement of intent about my tastes in gaming. I’ll be sure to revoke my gamer card, though expect some kind of Final Fantasy related version of this article at some point before then.
I want to like Hitman, I really do. The way it sets up its levels for you to mess around in seems like the perfect foil for shenanigans. Hitman can either give you all the handholding you need to take out your target, or give you some tools and tell you to get on with it, any way you see fit. Hitman (2016) has been sitting there in my pile of shame for years now, and the only progress I’ve made is beating the Paris level. Even then, it was only just.
I recognise that Hitman is an excellent game, and I want to get involved. Any time Hitman 2 has gone on sale, it’s been highly tempting to pick it up, but if I’ve bounced off the game before, who’s to say I won’t just do the same again? Is the problem the game, or with me? If anyone has some suggestions, let me know.
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