Hitman – Marrakesh Review (PlayStation 4)
Hitman is shaping up to be the hit that no one saw coming. Despite the controversial decision to break the game into an episodic format, especially so close to its release, the format has served it well. If even just the few maps that have been released so far were released all at once, it would feel overwhelming. The time in between each batch of content is ample for digging into each of the incredibly dense environments and explore all of their nooks and crannies. Case in point, Marrakesh, the latest expansion for Hitman. This map is easily the most detailed and tightly packed so far.
While each of the missions in Hitman are strung together by an overarching narrative, it’s the slices of its world that every setting and character provides that really builds out Hitman’s story. Marrakesh does this best out of the three other main maps so far. This mission revolves around a corrupt banker that has robbed the Moroccan people of billions of dollars and the Military general that is granting him asylum in order to stage a coup. Even though the Sapienza episode featured a DNA-based super virus, the stakes feel higher in this episode. There are protestors in the streets outside of an embassy building next to a crowded and lively bazaar surrounded by side streets and alleyways and it all feels alive.
The tone in this mission is much more political and grounded in some sense of reality. Unlike the first two missions this scenario has a more “ripped from the headlines” feel where Paris and Sapienza felt more like early James Bond film plots. In a game like Hitman where I can kill a dictator with a can of soda or an exploding toilet, the heavy themes would feel out of place, but it ends up working. The emphasis is placed on the circumstances at hand, without much context given for the anything outside of who the targets are and why they have to be eliminated. This lack of context lets the severity of the story exist in the player’s head.
There’s nothing new here mechanically, but Marrakesh’ busy streets makes the entire mission a much more cautious and methodical affair. As soon as you begin you’ll find it hard to get to any isolated areas. Wherever you are, odds are you’re in someone’s line of sight. This, and the fact that Opportunities no longer lead you straight to the easy kill make Marrakesh the hardest mission yet. Opportunities are no longer objective markers that will guide you almost entirely through a mission to your target, instead they guide you to targets and points of interest but leave it to you to get the job done. Some Opportunities don’t actually appear as such and require you to pay attention to things in the environment to find them. This can be difficult because of how crowded a lot of the map is and it’s very easy to run into someone that might find you suspicious.
Most of the time, because of the very public nature of the area, you’ll need to be very clever about securing a clean kill on any target. You’ll need to survey an area, sometimes for long periods of time, to get a feel for where guards are patrolling and where your openings are. There are also armed guards in nearly every part of the map so you’re almost required to take your time and go for a completely stealth-based approach. At first this feels restrictive but having to use everything at your disposal to remain hidden is really satisfying in an area like this. This means having to save and load multiple times because of the unforgiving nature of the map, and that in turn means having to deal with Hitman’s load times. It might be the size of the area or the sheer amount of assets it had to load every time, but the load times for this mission specifically were on average about a minute long. In a mission that calls for a lot of retries, this is off-putting to the point where I just put the game down a couple of times. The load times are annoying but not enough to take away from the entire experience, however.
Marrakesh is the best area and mission in Hitman so far. It rewards patience and a slower pace of gameplay than any previous mission. The attention to detail and level design are a step up from Sapienza and Paris as well. Marrakesh feels more alive and organic. It also feels like there’s more room for experimentation, since this map has so many moving parts and variables. The high energy and volatile tone are a nice compliment to the methodical nature of the gameplay. The plot being more grounded in reality works surprisingly well thanks to the way Hitman presents its world one cross-section at a time. The recent elusive Target event that took place in the Paris map was also a fun challenge so it seems like Hitman in general is stepping up the qualities of its missions. Hopefully future Target events take advantage of the fantastic Marrakesh map.
This review is based on a purchased digital pass of Hitman for the PlayStation 4.