Hitman is a video game series based on Agent/Mr. 47, a silent assassin who stops at absolutely nothing to neutralize his target. Agent 47 is as ruthless as you choose to make him, that is the essence of the game. You are a highly trained hitman let loose in an area full of potential targets. He can kill an entire building full of people or he can slide in and out of a mission unnoticed. That kind of freedom of approach is what makes the Hitman games such a success since his first appearance in November of 2000. Its sequels, movies and novels have made 47 the quintessential video game character. A blank emotionless slate for you to project yourself and play away. Agent 47 has been out on mobile (iOS) since late April, it is now finally out on Android, let us see how Hitman Go fares in our review.
The game is a turn-based strategy game with multiple win conditions. The game has made a turn to mobile surprisingly well, there is no blood or gore to speak of, that is taken care of through the diorama motif. It is more about strategy than the act of killing. The game has no comparative rival to speak of; it stands out on its own. The closest possible incarnation could be Robbery Bob, but even that is a distant comparison. This game is unique and that alone makes it worth playing.
Imagine playing a board game based on the adventures of Agent 47, with the added advantage of retaining the look and feel of the series with none of the violence and gore (reaches a wider audience that way). You may think this is the recipe for disaster, but it is quite the contrary. Even if the character was someone other than our Agent 47 and this game was called something else entirely; it would still have been a good game. The Hitman part of the game is an after-thought, and that works. Too many ports of mainstream titles tend to get lost in translation while trying to stay true to the origins. Hitman Go stayed true to a very basic concept of the franchise. Your job is still to take out targets - sure it would have been fun to sneak and stealthily kill some random onlookers - but without external controllers, that process goes from exciting to dreary. With a touch and table top variant, simply sweeping the plastic playset off the board serves the same purpose, albeit in a gore free way.
The game starts with a few mini-missions to help you get accustomed to the controls, you start off with 5 hints in case you get stuck. If you exhaust your hints, you will need to purchase more and you will be tempted as the game progresses. The challenge and complexity increases with each puzzle, making it more and more engaging with every passing level. There is even a bonus level for fans of Hitman Blood Money and if you’re a true fan, you will notice and adore the paradigmatic Silverballers when they finally come out.
This is the first time we can use the word “stunning” and not be disingenuous. The set pieces really look like plastic and not just random polygons, the environments are gorgeous and the entire level design pays homage to the original Hitman lighting and mood while still managing to retain its own identity. Unique is precisely the right word, as examples are hard to come by. You are a plastic playable representation of Agent 47, your enemies are color coded by activity level. Black outlines define your movement options. When you move, so do the rest of the characters on the board. After a few tries, you will understand how to ambush and take out characters. Once taken out, the characters’ pieces sit away from the board, like a more stylized kind of chess.
Oh how we could go on and on about the sound. It is beautiful, some levels play the iconic Ave Maria piece from Hitman: Blood Money, the set pieces sound exactly like moving a piece smoothly over a smooth surface, taking out a mark sounds like plastic pieces gently nudging each other. The menu sounds are also reminiscent of the original games. The original series used music to supplement the pace of your game (slow for stealth, upbeat for all out war), Hitman Go is not that dependent on music, but it is still nice to have it on. It is a nod to fans of the series and they sure must be happy about it.
In the gap created between Hitman: Blood Money and Hitman: Absolution, we the fans, played and replayed the previous releases over and over again until we memorized every twist and turn of each level, finding unique trickshots and secret kills such as silenced headshots through doors, two targets with a single shot, shoving a character off a ledge and blowing up any onlookers, shooting a cliff edge Jacuzzi from below and watching swimmers plummet to their dooms… I seem to have lost track of the point because of such delectable violence. I was trying to conclude that these games offered so much in replay value that when the next version came out, it could have featured 5000 hours of gameplay and it would not have been enough. A mobile version gives new hope to fans that we will get to continue exploring adventures of the cold blooded Agent 47 over other platforms. Though I still miss the ability to kill people, I should probably see a therapist about that.