Hitman – Hokkaido Review (PlayStation 4)
It feels like just yesterday that I was sneaking up on my first security guard in Paris and entering a world of assassination. It’s now a few months later and the final episode of Hitman is upon us. This episode and the previous Colorado mission are more focused around the narrative Hitman has been slowly building up. Episode 6, "Hokkaido," brings Agent 47 to Japan for one last hit, for now at least. As a finale to the first year of Hitman content, and as an episode of Hitman on its own, this episode is easily the strongest chapter yet.
In the previous episode, we learned that the shadow client pulling the strings was Eric Soders, chairman of the ICA, himself. The entire time every episode hinted at the notion that every mission was part of a larger plan and it all becomes clear here. Eric Soders sold out the ICA and was taking on clients from different terrorist groups in order to acquire a heart transplant to save his own life. So of course, it’s up to us as Agent 47 to travel to a secluded private hospital, GAMA, in Japan to make sure he doesn’t get this new heart. This wouldn’t be a Hitman episode if there weren’t at least two targets though.
In addition to Soders, we’re also tasked with taking down Yuki Yamazaki, the person who sold him the heart in the first place. I previously stated that one of the Bangkok episode’s biggest letdowns was the lack of an authentic atmosphere due to it having a completely indoor map. This map is also completely cut off from the outside world but it still feels like Japan. The architecture, NPCs and small details all create an authentic Japanese atmosphere. This Hitman game seems to place emphasis on all of the exotic locations you visit, so the attention to detail here goes a long way in immersing the player in the living, breathing game world.
Speaking of living and breathing, this episodes adds a new wrinkle to the traditional stealth formula for Hitman. In this level there is a constant and ever-present AI known as KAI. KAI adds another level difficulty by essentially making disguises mandatory. This is due to the fact that at GAMA, everyone’s clothing has an implanted microchip that determines what doors will open for them. Every locked door in the level has an access panel that will turn green if you’re allowed in. This new mechanic, in addition to the usual suspicious guards and NPCs keep you on your toes at all times.
Unique to this mission as well is the fact that you have no items in your inventory the first time around. You go in with only the kimono on your back and your wits. Neither of these bumps in difficulty felt unfair or like an artificial way of raising the challenge. You’ll never trip an alarm by wearing the wrong disguise or be in dire need of your coins to distract a well-placed guard. Really the added challenge encourages you to explore more and learn as much about the map as possible, which you would want to do anyway.
Despite its confined size, there are a lot of different opportunities and options for taking down your targets. I spent more time just taking in all of the different sections of the map and even just listening to the NPC dialogue. In exploring I found a large number of different opportunities, but I also found that most of these opportunities were easily missable. Unlike the majority of other opportunities in other episodes, once you miss the timing for an opportunity it won’t eventually loop back around and let you try it again once the NPC AI resets. This is yet another way to increase the difficulty and I welcome the challenge.
Everything done to make this episode harder will test your specific approach and playstyle. Do you always single out a guard or staff member to disguise yourself as and work up from there? Now you’ll have to constantly be aware of what areas you have access to thanks to KAI. Do you patiently wait and explore every nook and cranny of a map for opportunities? You’ll have to be much quicker about completing them and figuring out the best and fastest course of action, lest you miss it completely.
I ended up completing more opportunities and getting a much higher score than any of the previous episodes because of the pressure and requirement to play better and be more aware of my surroundings. Just like the previous Colorado map testing my basic stealth abilities and ability to think on my feet, this map put everything I’ve learned playing Hitman to the test. That, and the surprisingly well-done cliffhanger ending, are what made this episode my favorite of the season. The level of detail and density of each map, and the continually deepening narrative, kept me coming back for each new content release, whether it was new elusive targets or new challenges. The ending of season one hints at more information on the origins of Agent 47, and leaves the door open for new targets to rear their ugly heads in the future. I for one cannot wait to see what’s in store for Hitman next.
This review was completed with a purchased digital copy of Hitman - Hokkaido for the PlayStation 4.