The feeling of walking into a crowded ballroom with the intent of committing a murder and leaving without anyone being the wiser is something only the Hitman games have really achieved. Eavesdropping on conversations to learn about an evil dictator’s favorite food so you can poison the dish and leaving as he dies of food poisoning is a special kind of satisfying. Combining the better elements of previous entries in the series, Hitman presents all of these scenarios in a very open-ended fashion in some very elaborate and detailed environments. Even if the episodic release schedule does cut a lot of the fun short right when it gets going.

Hitman is chronologically the first game in the series, since it follows agent 47 from his training missions up until his very first real hit in Paris. The game takes place about 20 years before present day but you wouldn’t really know it. The environments, Characters, and scenarios all have a timelessness to them that keeps any of the game from feeling dated. If you told me that this game takes place in present day or even 10 years in the future I’d probably believe you. To that end the game nails the espionage feeling and atmosphere. Agent 47 feels like the for-hire equivalent of James Bond, just subtract the romance and add in a whole lot more murder. The scenarios and missions are all right out of a spy movie. Assassinating a Cold War spy before he defects to the Soviet Union or killing a millionaire on his private yacht as he makes illegal nuclear arms deals are pretty campy for a game like Hitman. These elements might feel cliche, but it all works here.

That’s the thing about this game, for as serious and buttoned-up the narrative might seem, it’s really not. Hitman has fun with its missions and never takes itself too seriously. This is evidenced most clearly in the non-player character dialogue. A lot of the security guards or party guests all spout ridiculous and jokey lines, like “Hey, nice throw!”, when you toss a coin to distract them or one of the many bald jokes made at Agent 47’s expense. That all lends to the fun and lighthearted nature that you wouldn’t expect from a game that seems to take itself so seriously at a glance.

IO Interactive

Hitman is pretty generous in how lets you experiment and mess with your surroundings. You’re given all the tools you need to succeed right upfront, and plenty more are scattered throughout the three levels that are presented in this first episode. You have your trusty fiber wire, silenced pistol and several coins which you can toss as a distraction. You also have Instinct Mode, which highlights NPCs, guards, interactable objects and most importantly your target. The large and complex areas make this mode pretty crucial but it doesn’t make the game any easier. Guard and NPC intelligence is pretty unforgiving and will catch on quickly to any suspicious activity. The ability to save and load at any point of a mission helps to mitigate some of the frustration you’ll experience, especially since the AI seems to break at the worst times.

There were multiple times where I found my target stuck in a doorway behind other NPCs that wouldn’t move, or they would go through dialogue while they were still in their starting point in the level. This really breaks the immersion, not to mention it foils a lot of the meticulous planning that some of the assassinations require. Aside from the AI issues however, the game does a great job at immersing you. No matter how many times I pulled off an assassination, making my way to an exit before anyone discovered what I’d done was always exciting.

Speaking of which, it may not seem like three levels is a lot of content, even for a $15 episodic release. That’s where the challenges and contracts come in. These are, as the name would imply, challenges such as completing a mission without taking any disguises, or only using a pistol. These are all part of a global leaderboard so the incentive is to knock out as many challenges in on run as possible to get a higher rank. These all add to the replay value since some of the missions have you going after different targets which can really change how you approach a mission. Unfortunately this is where the spotty server connection fails Hitman.

IO Interactive

I’ve completed only one contract so far in the game. When I did connect to a server I would be kicked off almost immediately. In a game like this that needs all the replay value it can get, the lack of reliable servers hurts a lot more than just not being able to post your high score online. You don’t even get credit for completing challenges if you’re not online so the incentive to replay these missions is all but gone. It’s a real shame because the contracts and challenges highlight just how creative you can get with these scenarios.

While the buggy AI and server issues hurt the Hitman experience, it isn’t enough to hamper the core gameplay, which is fantastic. Using disguises to sneak past guards, messing with things in the environment to make the murder look like and accident, it’s all incredibly satisfying. The tension of trying to blend in only to have one savvy bartender question your identity is a very real feeling in this game, but so is waiting for him to go to the kitchen alone and knocking him out so you don’t get caught. The periodic releases of smaller “target” events are a good way of keeping people’s interest in the game between episodes, but if server problems persist then those events will suffer the most. Still, the introductory episode of Hitman: Intro Pack - Paris makes a pretty strong first impression even when working with limited content.

This review was completed using a purchased download of Hitman: Intro Pack - Paris for PlayStation 4.