Hitman – Colorado Review (PlayStation 4)
When looking at each chapter of Hitman, it’s easy to forget that they’re all part of an overarching story, and more importantly, part of a linear progression. If all five story missions had been released at once, this would be the turning point in the game where the plot thickens and things start getting much harder. This fifth episode is the least forgiving episode so far, and also the most story heavy. The challenge is well executed here, but the weakness in Hitman’s episodic structure starts to show with how out of place this chapter feels in context with the previous missions.
This is the first episode to take place in America --- Colorado to be exact --- but much like Bangkok, the map’s secluded and sealed-off design doesn’t lend it any geographical authenticity. It’s been revealed in episode four that there is a shadow client pulling the strings and leading ICA and Agent 47 to all his previous targets as part of some larger plan. Episode five is a direct continuation of that thread as it follows the terrorist group organized by the shadow client and four prominent figures of said group. This episode takes place entirely on a farm-turned-terrorist compound. The entire map is enclosed with a makeshift perimeter and the only NPCs are guards, technicians, soldiers and your four targets.
Introducing these four new targets all at once just ends up being a way of ramping up the difficulty and extending the mission’s length. There’s only one important new character in the plot: Sean Rose, the leader of the militia. The other three targets feel like throwaway characters whose importance is trumped up for the sake of filling out the mission and artificially raising the stakes. There’s an interesting story bit with Penelope Graves, a former Interpol agent, possibly betraying the organization, but it’s only another assassination opportunity and doesn’t actually go anywhere. It’s a bit disappointing since it seemed like an interesting way to mix things up or get a secret mission ending.
This entire mission’s structure is a bit of a departure from previous entries as well. There are no civilian NPCs so it boils down to just a stealth mission. Alternatively, if you wanted you could just shoot your way through this mission since there’s ample cover and almost every NPC has a weapon to steal. In that regard, this episode is the most straightforward so far. There’s very little room for creativity here. It makes sense considering the narrative context, but that doesn’t change the fact that it feels off. The stakes aren’t any higher here than in previous missions, which had you stopping a military coup and destroying a deadly virus.
It seems like now that Hitman is putting its own plot at the forefront it wants to take things more seriously. That self-serious tone feels out of place in a game that releases content once a month. Going from Hitman’s over the top, and at times, whimsical nature to this more serious tone just feels odd. You won’t find any toilets to drop on anyone; you won’t be able to dress up like someone’s deceased mother or anything of that nature in this mission. It just boils down to finding the right guard or soldier outfit to get close to your target, and eliminate them, usually making it look like an accident in the process.
The lack of flexibility does increase the difficulty somewhat, since you’ll need to be aware of every single NPC at all times. It really is you against the world here but oddly enough, that’s what makes it so straightforward and frankly boring. This episode feels more like a generic action/stealth game than it does Hitman. I’m not saying that every mission needs a chicken costume or let you pretend to be a drummer to push a guy off a roof, but so far Hitman’s signature has been its creativity. The freedom and emergent gameplay that comes from being able to fiddle with and explore your surroundings is sorely missed here.
When you strip away the silly executions and crowded, dense maps, Hitman is still a solid stealth experience. The fact that I had to rely on my ability to sneak around the map and fully utilize every resource available to me was pretty satisfying. At all times I knew what to do and more or less how to do it, but the challenge was execution. I felt tested, as the game was asking me to use what I’d learned in previous missions in a much less forgiving environment. Finishing the mission was satisfying, but it just didn’t feel like it belonged in this Hitman. This episode is focused on moving the plot forward and brackets the mission with a lot of exposition. That focus is what ends up hurting this episode as a whole however. This mission is designed to serve the plot, and does away with what has made Hitman such a fun and memorable experience so far: freedom to experiment.
This review is based on a purchased download of Hitman - Colorado for the PlayStation 4.