If you have purchased either the Hitman full experience or the upgrade pack, you are now able to download the Summer Bonus Episode at no extra cost. This episode comprises two missions that take place in the two best levels of the season so far, Sapienza and Marrakesh. They are fun and quirky remixes of the previously-visited locations that prove the world of Hitman is one of ever-expanding assassination.
The first mission, ‘The Icon’, sees Agent 47 visiting Sapienza approximately a year before the events of the main story arc. Unlike all of the other targets that you have been contracted to eliminate so far in the game, Dino Bosco is definitely the odd one out. He isn’t a dangerous criminal, just a washed up actor/director who has gone way over budget on his new sci-fi film ‘The Icon’. Instead of terminating Bosco’s contract and risking the headaches that inevitably come with that, the film studio instead hires the ICA to grant Bosco an early retirement.
Upon booting up the level, my initial reaction was one of disappointment. Yes, Sapienza looks stunning at night, there’s no denying that. However I wanted to see how much of the level was accessible. To my dismay, I quickly discovered that not a lot of it was. Silvio Caruso’s mansion was out of bounds, and the cobbled street that leads to the church and the harbour was blocked off by a bulk of film equipment. The level takes place mainly in the town square, where a giant killer robot looms over the population. I was also saddened to see that the attorney’s office attached to the town hall building is underused, just like in the original level. Just what exactly are IO Interactive planning to do with this wasted space, I wonder? Hopefully it will come into play in a future elusive target, but if not I just do not see the point of it.
After a couple of playthroughs my disappointment faded, because I finally understood what the developer had achieved. As long-time Hitman fans will know, size does not maketh the level. I’m probably not alone in saying that ‘A Better Life’ from Blood Money is one of the all-time classic Hitman levels, whilst being one of the, if not, smallest. ‘The Icon’ is a fantastic little level with plenty of dark opportunities to kill your target, and it feels so inventive and original that it would sit well amongst the greatest levels of Blood Money. Indeed, the premise of ‘The Icon’ is very reminiscent of the ‘Curtains Down’ mission in the sense that you are tasked with killing an actor during a performance.
The opportunities that you have to kill Bosco are arguably the best of the season so far. Bosco is dressed in a bulletproof Iron Man style costume, so the player has to be more creative than walking up to him during the shoot and double-tapping him with a silenced silverballer. Luckily Bosco does all of his own stunts, so there are several ingenious ways of causing a fatal accident. After hearing Bosco shouting at his special effects crew about how rubbish the pyrotechnics are, it is incredibly satisfying to switch the fuel capsules to something a bit more flammable and watch him burn whilst everyone looks on. It is these delicious ironic twists coated in black humour that Hitman does so well.
The level comes with its own challenges and one unlockable weapon, and although some of the ways to assassinate Bosco require planning and strategic thinking, none of them should trouble either the veteran Hitman player or even the more casual gamer. I managed to complete all of the challenges for both missions in a matter of hours, and can confirm that the bonus missions are a lot easier than the main missions.
In my opinion, I think Marrakesh at night is better than Marrakesh in the day-time. The consulate is inaccessible, the focus instead shifting to the night market, the rooftops and the shisha cafe. There is a real atmosphere to this mission that I believe was lacking in the ‘A Gilded Cage’ level. The military presence is at a minimum compared to the original level, and ‘A House Built On Sand’ forces the player to use spaces that you could have ignored entirely before, the cafe being the prime example.
‘A House Built On Sand’ is the weaker of the two bonus missions, purely because I believe more effort has gone into making ‘The Icon’ completely different to everything that came before it. However, that is not to say that ‘A House Built On Sand’ is terrible, because it really isn’t. This time, Agent 47 is tasked with preventing a billion-dollar deal from taking place. To do this he must take out two targets and retrieve the secretive documents that are being sold. Again, there a plenty of ways to carry out your mission. As usual, you can make use of your trusty sniper rifle or a vial of poison, or instead be patient and follow through with some of the excellent opportunities. One involves a disco light and a pool of water, and the fortune-teller disguise makes a return appearance in an opportunity that could very well be one of the best so far of the entire season.
We are now officially at the halfway point of the season, and if this first half can tell us anything at all, it’s that we’re in for a real treat when Agent 47 visits Thailand in August.