When it was first announced that the next Hitman game would be episodic, I was initially quite sceptical. There’s often a bad aura of reputation surrounding games released in this format. The practice is often criticised for being needlessly drawn-out and prone to losing interest from players over time, and at the time it seemed that Hitman would be no exception.
The first wave of content came in the form of an Intro Pack in March, which featured the tutorial levels and the first episode. I was impressed by the amount of detail carved into the Paris level; a hugely open play area that I could approach in hundreds of different ways. The developers had clearly departed from the linear aspirations of Hitman: Absolution and returned to the unrestricted sandbox feel of older titles. In the months following, IO Interactive committed to releasing new episodes of similar qualities along with a wealth of side content for players to dig their fiber wire into.
“Situs Inversus” is the latest episode and season finale, which sends Agent 47 to the GAMA private hospital up in the snowy mountains of Hokkaido, Japan. The name of the target is Erich Soders, a former ICA director who’s receiving critical heart surgery at the hospital. There’s also a secondary target: Yuki Yamazaki, a yakuza lawyer who will be receiving a list of ICA operatives after the surgery is complete. The GAMA hospital is a futuristic facility that resembles something straight out of a ‘60s Bond film, complete with a sentient AI that controls all the doors and machines. It’s an artistically beautiful setting, with a noble blend of whites, blues and silvers, along with a tranquil soundtrack inspired by traditional Japanese music. Everyone in the hospital, visitor or staff member, has a microchip embedded into their outfit which allows or denies them access through certain doors, meaning 47 can’t rely on his gadgets to explore and must instead find the perfect disguise. What’s also interesting is that you initially can’t smuggle in your own gear due to the excessive security, at least until you level up a bit, so you’re restricted to items available in the hospital. This was a stand-out feature for me, as it meant that choosing a loadout at the start was really meaningful.
Alongside the usual escalations and challenges, the episode also brings some new toys for you to play with. You’ll unlock items such as shurikens, a concealable pistol, a suppressed sniper with triple zoom, and a bag of explosive compound. These unlocks each add unique dynamics to the way you approach a level, and while the gear from the last few episodes felt uninspired, each of the new equipment fit a niche previously unknown.
After exhausting Hokkaido several times over, I loaded up the popular Sapienza mission and took the pistol and the shurikens with me. Starting from outside the mansion, I was able to smuggle the pistol inside without worrying about guard pat-downs. After taking care of one target, I picked up the shurikens from a nearby agency pickup and used them to distract my second target. Although he was surrounded by his guards, I managed to throw them around and use the sound to lure him to a quiet place. That’s the beauty of the shurikens; because you get three, they’re basically coins that can kill. Some may claim this is part of the game’s power-creep – where new weapons and tools added over time make the game significantly easier – but in my opinion it just opens up new playstyles and opportunities for the player to take advantage of, which is a manner at the heart of the Hitman series.
Hokkaido might be my favourite episode in Hitman. Even putting the beautiful aesthetics aside, the level presents many new concepts that askew how you would typically attempt a mission. If you’re on the fence about trying Hitman, now is the best time. All episodes for the first season have been released, and there’s still a lot of Elusive Target and Escalation contracts to be added over the next few months. By ending the season on a strong note, IO Interactive’s high ambitions have unquestionably been achieved.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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