The first season of Hitman has now concluded and it’s safe to say that the game’s episodic release structure has ended up becoming one of its biggest strengths. Releasing the missions one at a time has turned each into its own entity, encouraging multiple playthroughs and exploration (as evidenced by the frankly worrisome amount of hours I’ve put into the game). Not only does each map offer high-tension, tactical gameplay, they also provide a unique take on the game’s absurd sense of humor. With a full release of the game on the horizon, I decided to rank each mission from weakest to strongest. Here’s what you’re in for.
This mission, which sees 47 interfering with international relations, has the potential to feel truly chaotic. Unfortunately, while Marrakesh might be the busiest map in the game, it also feels fairly lifeless—the crowd baying for blood in the street is functionally identical to the dignified guests in the Paris map. This mission still allows for some fun ways to take out your targets, such as snapping someone’s neck while disguised as their masseuse. It also exemplifies that in Hitman, bigger isn’t always better.
Hitman’s penultimate episode offers some interesting twists on the game’s formula. While every other mission in the game requires you to take out two targets, Colorado ups the ante by requiring you to dispatch four. There’s also the fact that on this map, enemies are immediately hostile towards you—perhaps in keeping with the conspiratorial paranoia on display in this militia compound. However, the tension is lessened somewhat by the fact that a disguise is merely a subdued guard away and, well, the setting is a little drab. Plus, you can’t disguise yourself as the guy wearing the Michael Myers mask, which seems nonsensical given this game’s penchant for absurdity.
Drab certainly isn’t an adjective you can use to describe Hitman’s final episode, which sends you to a top of the line medical facility in the snowy mountains of Japan. From the delightfully crisp aesthetic to the tech on display, the atmosphere is impressive. This tech ends up altering the way you play—some doors are locked depending purely on the disguise you’re wearing, requiring you to get creative. The mission also allows for a good variety of ways to dispose of your targets—from tampering with surgical equipment to feeding them poisoned fish. However, there’s always the niggling sense that, with less to explore and a return to the two-target system, this final mission feels a little anticlimactic.
This episode marks the peak of Hitman’s absurdity and it’s all the better for it. Taking place in a lavish hotel, this mission tasks you with taking out the frontman of the band recording there. It also shows 47 to be something of a renaissance man. Not only is he a consummate professional when it comes to murdering folk, if you disguise yourself as the band’s drummer you can find yourself playing a solo to impress your target. Either that, or you can wow the crew with your songwriting abilities before electrocuting the target with a busted microphone. Whichever way you go about it, this mission highlights the developer’s self-awareness and sense of humour, making it a joy to play.
The Paris fashion show acts as the perfect introduction to everything Hitman represents. While Bangkok highlights the game’s overtly silly side through its scripted scenarios, Paris illustrates how this playfulness is ingrained in the game’s systems. The atmosphere here is austere and dignified, which stands in stark contrast to you, for example, throwing coins at models on the catwalk to see how the scripting reacts. Paris highlights one of Hitman’s most important elements—despite the game’s self-serious aesthetic, you control the moment-to-moment narrative and, crucially, its absurdity.
Sapienza is the best level I have played in any game this year. Everything within this Italian seaside town is bursting with detail. When I say this is a town, I mean it—there’s a full square with almost every building being open to explore. There’s a mansion complete with underground lab, various shops, a church, a morgue and much more. I have played more of this map than any other and still haven’t seen everything within it. The scripted opportunities are as hilarious here as they are in any other level but this mission does something particularly important—it exemplifies just how tactical a game Hitman remains at its core. There’s nothing quite like socially engineering your target to head to the beach, only for you to take them out with a sniper rifle from the villa at the other end of the map before extracting without a trace. Sapienza is indicative of the fact that, despite the game’s comedic tendencies, 47 is still the best assassin around.
Hamish Black is a Glasgow-based writer and musician. He can usually be found producing videos about game design for his YouTube channel, Writing on Games, or tweeting @hamboblack.