Developed by Square Enix Montreal, Hitman GO was likely the biggest surprise on the floor at this year’s PAX East. When a Hitman mobile game was first announced, many were likely a bit apprehensive that the medium simply couldn’t properly capture the nuance of the beloved franchise. The playable build on the convention floor shattered all expectations however, delivering an elegant, unique take on Hitman that fans can truly appreciate.
First off, the art direction went places that I would have never expected and it works so well. Each level and the characters in it are presented in a board game-like aesthetic. Agent 47 and the NPCs roaming the areas resemble tabletop miniatures, complete with their own bases, while the actual playfields are laid out like three dimensional dioramas. And just like on a game board, each space that a character’s piece can move into is apparent. The decision to go with this graphical style was perfect as it really sets the title apart while still playing off the source material in a fun way. The design has a clean, minimalist quality that simply screams class.
Each of these playset-like dioramas form one level of the game, each with their own target goals and requirements, and the collection of levels that form each location are “boxed” in a level pack. Keeping with the theme, unlocked level packs appear as board game boxes in the menu and opening them will grant access to the relevant levels. The title opens with a few obligatory tutorial areas that will help players get acquainted with Hitman GO’s puzzle-like mechanics.
The game is turn-based and, as Agent 47 travels along the area’s movement grid, the NPCs are also activated. Of course, different characters will move in different fashions, meaning that each level will present a new set of increasingly difficult challenges. Movement is displayed as if players were physically lifting the game pieces off the board and moving them by hand along their paths and, in Hitman fashion, it’s not in your best interest to be seen by your targets. The object, depending on which objective you may be trying to complete, is to get traverse the level, staying out of the other figure’s fields of view. You may choose to try and stealthily get to the end of the level without making any kills or you may find yourself positioning Agent 47 behind unwitting guards to silently take them out. “Killed” pieces are removed off to the side of the board like in chess, by the way – awesome. As in previous Hitman games, bonus points are awarded for fulfilling certain goals such as retrieving a specific item from the level or completing it within a set number of moves. These points all go towards unlocking additional levels packs, so it pays to visit a level a few times and try to complete as many objectives as you can. I especially loved completing some of the wackier challenges in Absolution, and I’m glad to see a similar system was used to mark your progress here.
Of course, the similarities don’t end there. Agent 47 can also find clothes to disguise himself as the enemy, allowing him to move past guards of that type unnoticed. If that’s not an option, you may also be able to find an object to throw. Noise from thrown objects will cause the other figures to deviate from their movement pattern to investigate, allowing you to slip by unnoticed or position yourself accordingly. All the key elements that fans love about the Hitman franchise were taken into account, right down to familiar audio cues and his iconic weapon, dual Silverballers. There is even an unlockable level pack that recreates the “Curtains Down” mission from Blood Money.
Hitman GO will hit iOS as a universal app on April 17th followed by an Android release a short time later. At $4.99, a purchase should be a no-brainer for fans of the franchise, but even gamers who have never touched a Hitman game will be won over by the gameplay and graphics alone. It’s certainly not what I had envisioned for a new Hitman experience, but it completely exceeded my expectations of what they could do with a mobile Hitman title.