Under the cold skin lies a soft heart.
Though this is a time to talk about Hitman, but I am never deep into this franchise so I decided to revisit Hitman: Blood Money, which I had a try but did not finish some time ago, to obtain a better position for judging that incoming new game.
Without much storytelling and lore, the game throw you into a series of everyday scenes where you enter into it casually like a pedestrian, try to pass some forbidden areas, kill often the most protected people here and then walk away. There is actually a strong statement here: 47 killed so many people yet he can wander in front of any policemen. This fact tells so many information about how this man and his job is supposed to be. You are going to kill people but you have to keep yourself in the sea of people as much as possible.
The highlight of the game is that the chance is based on people’s activity rather than physics. You are not looking for some seconds when the guards turned around or light is off so that you can move from one cover to another. Despite the scale of the map, most of the time you act in places like small offices for 1-2 people, corridors of dorms or a dinning room of a public place which are either small or crowded with people. This means the traditional cliche of stealth gameplay is effectively forbidden, you have to go with Hitman’s way. People do not view you as an enemy to start with, and they have their own things to take care of. Chief, cleaners, maintenance workers and doctors, they will be able to enter this or that forbidden areas by doing their normal work. Connecting different people’s routine will give you a chain that lead you to your target. Then the job is to kill each ring of the chain as quietly as possible and get their clothe as disguise. The chance of the final kill is usually interestingly hidden inside the target’s personality, you have to observe him not as a moving object, but as a human in order to find the best way. The negative of this is that sometimes you can get lost when you lack some real life knowledge to understand what is going on. Can I enter this room with that guy’s clothe? What is the proper things to do in this place?
This is excellent. However, the game sticks to this model of gameplay till the end and did not do any mind blowing things in later levels. You will easily figured out some patterns that prevails each level. Also, some disguise, usually the guards’, are over powerful, making you able to travel straight up from the entrance to the target.
This game deprives many of gamers’ privilege they are custom to in modern day’s games. As a game where being discovered is a half game over, there is not any parallel to the witcher’s sense or iDroid and you are in the danger of getting caught from people emergent from places you cannot keep an eye on. The only surreal assistance is a big map you have to jump out of game screen to check (time does not stop) which tells you the position of guards and targets. Its strength is greatly weakened by the numerous doors, stairs and channels of any forms. All these add immersion and push the players to think in the same way as their characters instead of a semi god outside the game.
This game has a very rigid stealth system. There is a very clear boundary between do’s and don’ts. The guards, especially in later levels, are too intolerant for a modern society. Entering the wrong place, holding a gun, climbing, dragging a body, shortconnect the wire... will draw attacks immediately. Considering the lack of covering system and the intensity of enemies in higher difficulty, gun blazing does not seem to be a way at least for me. The weapons you collect in levels serves more like trophies.
However, it does not prepare a smart control to match that kind of rigidness. E is associated with infinite amount of actions. Opening doors, taking elevators, dragging a body, looting, hiding weapons in a container... the system helps you determine which action applies. In many situation where several actions applies you might get unwanted result in the most urgent time. For example, when you are in front of the door but want to drag a body. When you pick up a gun from ground, you by default hold it in your hands instead of hiding it, and might forgot that and walk with it... Using wire to suffocate people, which is one of the corner stone of the gameplay, is annoying, sometimes you crawl to the back of the target but cannot trigger the action, move a little, you might just be discovered.
I also had a feeling in some levels that the stealth system is not self-consistent and is interfered by some “higher orders”. That is, you are supposed to perform certain actions in certain places, and you will be punished if you get one of them (action and place) wrong even if that deed is not that different from the right one. For example, in one level, you can find a special chemicals in the kitchen and put it in your target’s cup, which is in a bar crowded with people, to cause him to do certain things and open the opportunity to kill him. On the other hand, if you want to be straight and use your own poison, you immediately get caught by guards.
Many of the factors mentioned above made me to believe that this is a game that need to encourage save/load. You have to get familiar with the places and people in a new level in order to find opportunities, which is in no way transparent. You might also want to try some new ideas of killing. Or you just want to test some of the game’s mechanics out of curiosity. However, this game is saying “save/load is a stupid thing” by restricting your chances of saves and forbid you to save in-level progress when exiting the game. Therefore I often need to sacrifice a few runs to explore the game. Sometimes my careful plan fails when it is near the end by some stupid mistakes caused by control problems and I have to go back to a much earlier load.
The last mission is disappointing. The game throws away everything you gained since you started playing, both the in game items and player’s expertise in this game, and drop you into a straightforward shoot them up battle. I understand that the last mission need some intensity, but this is a very rude way to create it. It is also a narrative failure. Whether you stand still and head shot every one surrounding you or flee to a safe place to shoot and gradually take enemies out, it is at odds with the game’s depiction of 47 as a quiet, precise and elegant killer.
This is a game that is elegantly designed but does not show off it loudly. Whether you will get joy highly depends on your ability to deal with unfriendly designs.