Hitman – Sapienza Review (PlayStation 4)
Hitman’s first episode took place in Paris, but it really didn’t show much of the actual city as most of the action took place indoors. Not that it had to, since just hearing the name Paris inspires all types of mental imagery and the fashion show featured in the first Hitman episode really captured that modern high-fashion feeling. This episode takes place in Sapienza, Italy and unless you’re familiar with some of the lesser known towns in Italy this name doesn’t evoke the same icons that Paris does. Despite that, this episode’s mission features a beautiful and more fully realized environment than its predecessor.
This newest Hitman episode takes place sometime after the Paris episode, but how long after doesn’t seem to matter. How this episode fits into the entire Hitman story isn’t important, and if this episode is any indication, IO interactive intends for these missions to be played in whatever order the player wants. This update adds one new environment set in Sapienza, Italy and it is gorgeous. Everything from the architecture to the NPCs littered about the map give this episode a feeling of authenticity that the Paris episode didn’t quite nail. This mission has you infiltrating a villa belonging to a pharmaceutical company that has employed a troubled scientist to develop a virus that can target specific DNA strains. Agent 47’s employer is more concerned with becoming obsolete due to the virus than any actual ethical concerns, but your mission is clear nonetheless. You have to kill the scientist, as well as eliminate his successor and destroy the virus prototype itself.
Just like before, you can take time and explore your surroundings to allow opportunities to present themselves. Listening in on conversations is key to finding out important information and it sets up an outline on how to achieve a certain main objective. The layout and enemy placement in this episode seems to encourage finding these opportunities as this mission is much harder than that in Paris. There are more moving parts and variables to consider here and because of that, a clear path through it all removes a lot of the trial and error that plagues this entire level. The villa has much tighter security and a much more maze-like structure than any previous mission. What this translates to in the game is having to knock out multiple types of guards in order to have different disguises readily available. At first this meant that I had to careful navigate the level just to not get caught. Using a disguise to get by some guards and suddenly get caught by those same types of guards was annoying at first, but once I learned how to make my way around and which guards to take out, the whole level opened up.
This is where the game’s emphasis on silly and elaborate murder methods come into play, but only for a bit. I ended up stealing an old projector to show the mad scientist his home movies before dropping a sculpture on him. I also used a propane tank to cause a distraction and kill the second target with a good old fashioned steel wire. All of that planning and creativity pretty much stops once you get to the final objective though, destroying the virus. The virus is in a heavily guarded laboratory that requires stealth and constant disguise-switching. The static nature of the laboratory means that it’s only a matter of figuring out the guard’s walking paths and finding which scientists and lab techs won’t cause you problems. This would be a fine way of beating a stage in any other game, but in a game like Hitman, where I can hide in a casket and pretend to be a corpse to murder someone, it feels much too rigid. Try as I might, there was really only one way to beat this part of the mission. The most creative I got was using a soda can to kill a guard instead of just snapping his neck. This part of the mission just halts the momentum you’ve been building by forcing you to play a particular way.
The tedious end of the mission wasn’t enough to ruin the experience, but the technical issues I encountered weren’t doing it any favors. Every time I discovered an opportunity and later reloaded my save, that opportunity would just be gone. I could no longer access it and couldn’t make any progress towards it. This forced me to restart the mission multiple times. The game also crashed on more than one occasion during the last part of the mission whenever I would try to subdue an enemy with a scientist disguise. If that weren’t enough, every time I restarted the level I had to sit through the long load times that affected the first episode. AI issues and server problems from the first episode are fixed but these new problems are worse overall.
Hitman -Sapienza doesn’t live up to the free-form assassination sandbox that the previous episode set up. The frustrating lack of freedom and save issues really hurt the experience however. Despite it being a better looking and ultimately more immersive setting than any of the first three missions, Sapienza falls flat in its mission structure. The extra objectives and secondary targets were more satisfying to play through since you get to really experiment with different things around the villa. Those side missions are way more fun than the main story mission, which says more about that content than anything.
This review is based on a purchased download of Hitman - Sapienza for the PlayStation 4.