Review: Hitman GO: Definitive Edition
With eight games and two feature films to his “name”, I doubt there are many gamers left unaware of Agent 47. Silent, bald, and with a penchant for creative murder, his role in the Hitman series allows players to carry out countless assassinations with the flair of a halfway-comedic slasher villain. Hitman GO captures the core spirit of the series, the puzzling situations that result in a mark losing their life, just without that flair that sees it done by dropping a toilet on them while wearing a chicken costume. But don’t let that deter you from picking this one up, because there’s a whole new aesthetic at work that deserves to be seen in action.
I’ve never really gotten into the Hitman franchise so I can’t comment on the story, aside from the fact that this one has none. That’s not entirely fair, as there’s a good bit of environmental storytelling in the way each level is laid out and detailed. But there’s no central plot to follow; you are Agent 47, and your job is to make people dead. The game’s split into seven chapters of sixteen levels each, with an assassination target at the mid and endpoints. The rest of the levels show how 47 makes his way through country clubs and resort hotels and briefly living guards to reach his target. Of course, it’ll be up to you to get him there, and you’ll do it in a terribly clever way.
Hitman GO is a board game. That’s not a creative metaphor, that’s the most succinct way to describe it. Every level is a model of an actual place, whether it be a bit of yard next to a pool, a hotel lobby, or a movie theater. This model comes complete with a wooden base and label like a piece of collector’s art, as well as playing pieces representing Agent 47 and everyone in his way. You play on a grid of connected lines, moving 47 one node per turn, which prompts your enemies to take their own turns. By planning out your moves, you’ve got to negotiate the gauntlet of guards to the exit or target without being caught.
It becomes a real puzzler once the variety of enemies opens up. Your foes come in all shapes and sizes, with some standing watch over one space while others pace, patrol, or snipe from their positions. The first appearance of an enemy is always set up like a small tutorial to show how they work without needing an explanation, and usually allows you to get creative and experiment with taking them down. You’ll find items in some levels like rocks and guns to use but most of the time the challenge is in timing your turns to intercept and kill enemies yourself. You can kill anyone by moving onto their space from the back or side, but with them moving in their own patterns it can be tricky to work out the ideal sequence.
There’s a great deal of strategy to Hitman GO, even right out of the gate. You can’t pass your turn, so you have to plan moves out such that you aren’t forced into danger. Creative shuffling to sync with certain enemy patterns is key to taking down some patrols, while working out sequences of rock-tosses or gunshots can get even the most alert guard out of position. Mix into that locked doors with keys, hatches that move you around the level, and a bonus briefcase on most levels, and you have the makings of a truly taxing puzzler. It’s generally not too hard to beat a given level, but each one has two additional challenges like “No Kills” or “Win in X Moves” that can keep you coming back to perfect your solutions. I love having these bonus goals to work towards, though sometimes they’re mutually exclusive so you have to play a level two or more times to get them all.
As solid as the gameplay is, it’s the presentation that really sells me on it. The board game motif is an absolutely brilliant pairing with the gameplay, and if it wasn’t apparent already the developers made the most of it. The levels look like perfectly real models, and the pieces scoot and clatter along their paths just like chess pieces. Murdered enemies get tossed next to the board, and Agent 47 gets toppled if you make a misstep. The soundtrack is equally enthralling with plenty of understated, jazzy tracks and Ave Maria for every assassination. The look and feel are every bit as sharp as the gameplay, and combinations like this should not be missed by any puzzle fan.