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First Bite: Our Hitman Beta Impressions

Dave Karev

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Earlier this week, like many who pre-ordered the upcoming Hitman, I had a chance to sit down and play the beta. To my surprise, the small amount of content offered in the beta left me wanting for more. Of course the beta wasn’t without its faults, but at its core, the gameplay and level design, centered around the classic Hitman formula, was genuinely something I enjoyed playing.

Now, I have only beaten Hitman Absolution, and played a bit of the previous Hitman games, so coming into the Beta I was a bit familiar with the whole concept of the Hitman series. You have specific targets you need to assassinate and set objectives to complete, an open-level as your playground, your choice of weapons to take down your target with, and of course many disguises to fool unsuspecting victims. With the Hitman Beta, all these gameplay mechanics were present, some more than others.

Let’s begin with the brief introduction to the beta, set twenty years prior to the game’s events. Players are introduced to Agent 47 and his handler Diana; fans of the series will immediately become familiar with both characters and their backstories. Agent 47, a man without memory, a ruthless assassin is brought into the ICA facility for evaluation and to refresh his killing skills. Through the short cutscenes, you’re briefed and quickly get a lay of things. There are two hit missions included in the beta, both offering a different map and kill targets. You have your set of objectives to complete, leaderboards to fill up, and most importantly, then engage these hits from a sandbox approach. It’s your choice on how you take down these targets, the more creative you are, the more fun it becomes to hunt down your mark.

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There are a few pros and cons with the Hitman Beta, most notably the NPC crowds you interact with. By far they are the most obvious, since there’s so many of them, especially in the first training mission you play. The lifeless and unfazed reactions they give you as you poison a glass of wine in front of them, or drop a large crate on someone, really takes you out of the role of an assassin. The comatose crowds aren’t the only issues I had with the beta, the visuals are quite apparent throughout the beta. Playing on the PlayStation 4, I wasn’t impressed too much with the games’ engine and visuals. Character models can look stiff, and sometimes clip into each other. Bad lip-synching was also another issue I came across. Now the game wasn’t an eye sore, but it sure didn’t stand out amongst other third person games we’ve seen this gen. Although the game’s interface and in-game huds were nicely designed. Everything was easy to see and navigate, even the instinct feature made a return. Quickly pointing out targets and NPC’s. But visuals aside, planning your assassinations and moving around the level was genuinely fun.

Trial and error was something I quickly came across in the Hitman Beta; there are multiple ways to take down your target, some easier than others, but all amusing to pull off. The creative ones like disguising yourself into a meeting with a target, or the chaotic ones like rigging a jet plane, were all pretty fun to set off. If you don’t have the patience to slowly track your targets and carefully pick off your kills, you can just go out guns blazing and hope for the best. My biggest issue with the beta was the clumsy gunplay, which made me even deadlier with the piano wire. Playing stealthier was a lot more fun for me; then again you wouldn’t be much of a Hitman if you always gave away your position with gunfire. However, the stealthy route doesn’t always go according to plan. I had one issue where I drowned a target in a toilet with the doors closed, and people began screaming for no apparent reason, maybe they have x-ray vision or super hearing? Or maybe it’s just a bug. Let’s go with the latter.

Disguises are very present in the beta, requiring them to get through certain checkpoints and go by unsuspected. Of course fooling NPC’s into thinking you’re part of the crew doesn’t always work. Getting too close to NPC’s arouses suspicion and sometimes blows your cover; you’ll get chased or hunted if you’re not too careful. It’s fairly easy to sneak around the map, you can even blend into your surroundings by pretending to work on something, and then plan your next move. The opportunities are there for you at your disposal; it’s up to you on how you want to play the mission. One gameplay mechanic that was absent from the beta was using NPC’s as human shields, which is something that needs to be added into the game.

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With the few hours I spent playing the beta, and quickly replaying the training missions, I was pretty satisfied with what I played so far. You have to wonder how IO Interactive will handle the game with its episodic release format, a first for the Hitman series. With only a month from the game’s release, I’m still not entirely confident in the whole concept of the episodic formula. I would honestly rather see the game released with full missions instead, then waiting to receive more content through out the year. Here’s hoping IO Interactive gives us some unique and exciting missions to really sink our teeth into, because I did enjoy the beta for what is was and looking forward to playing more of Hitman come March.

NerdBite founder and news editor. When I'm not writing about video games, I'm out eating sushi and rewatching LOST for the hundredth time. Some of my favorite games include; Wind Waker, Red Dead Redemption, and Witcher 3.

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