“Just drink the damn wine, you swine!” I mutter murderously. I’m dressed as a member of the cabin crew and am running out of glasses to clean behind the bar while I awkwardly wait for my target to pick up the glass of wine dosed with rat poison and save me the bother of getting throat flesh on my cheese wire. Aaaaand he’s walked away without taking his complimentary drink. While rushing to follow him, I barge into some plantation owner-looking fossil, he alerts the guards which ends in me getting shot to shit while staggering down the gangway. This must be how Wile E. Coyote feels all damn day as he fails to murder the roadrunner. Welcome, to the Hitman beta.
This weekend marked the first chance I’ve had to go hands-on with Hitman on PS4, and although my skills certainly need some work, things are looking promising. This beta test provided two decent sized levels to play with. These stages are sets built up on a stage as examination areas for new agents. You’re actually playing Agent 47’s original job interview.
First up is a recreation of a busy party aboard large docked yacht. The target is some big shot, who’s under constant surveillance from his body guard and there are lots of guards and police stationed around the vessel too. Initially you’re walked through a suggested hit, but it’s clear to see the other options, so I clumsily do as I’m told, which unlocks the option to replay the level, but to carry out the hit any way I want.
As Hitman purists will know, if you’re resorting to firearms or end up flailing about in a desperate brawl with security on the ship’s dance floor, you’re doing it wrong. And that’s not just because the weapon aiming in this beta is pretty damn terrible, it’s because there are plenty of shooters out there already. Hitman is all about getting away with it, or better yet, making it look like an accident.
Thankfully, there are multiple checkpoints in these stages and sometimes a manual save will allow you to save a little bit more progress, although I found the latter option to be inconsistent as to whether it would save my progress right there and then, or maybe some minutes back. Compared to some of the old games though, I’m just grateful to not have to start the whole thing again.
Accessing the boat can be done by stealing a mechanic’s outfit (after throttling him in a nearby warehouse), or extra sneakily by going around the front and climbing aboard from the dock. Grabbing a disguise is an essential part as you’ll need to blend in amongst the thronging partygoers. Choking someone out for their clothes isn’t the only option though, as I found a few folded uniforms below decks too, so it will be possible to complete missions without anyone even knowing you were there and only harming the target.
Some of the options I found during my playthrough included dropping a lifeboat on the target as he passed by underneath, poisoning the wine is an option (famously bundled by myself). I was also able to garrotte the target when he was in a meeting whilst his partner had his back turned, silently slipping out the window again before he turned around. If you can get the target away from his bodyguard beforehand, you can drown him in the loo. Or just shoot him in the open but be prepared to take on every member of the security with those shonky controls.
More options open up in the second mission, which sees Agent 47 tasked with taking out a Russian Chess Master, who’s also a spy on the side. This mission takes place in a large office/aircraft hanger facility, just packed with options. Dress as a KGB agent to lure him into the radio room for an urgent call, poison the vodka, or set off the fire alarm and take him out while he attempts to find a fire exit. The most exciting option involved sabotaging a jet plane’s ejector seat, but during my brief time with the game, I struggled to complete this method.
There’s an option to ‘track’ certain methods of taking your target out, which should keep them highlighted with an on-screen icon or as a marker on your map to work towards. However, during the ejector seat mission, I’d do most of the work, only for it to just disappear half way though, leaving me clueless as how to proceed. I’ll put this down to the beta nature of the game though.
I certainly had fun trying new approaches to taking out the target, but it’s easy to see how some of them will work so much better than others. It’s undeniably satisfying when it all comes together and you ‘get away with it.’ Dishonored aside, we rarely get this much freedom in stealth titles.
The final game will also assign extra targets as incentives for replaying the game, making each stage far bigger than it originally seems. The episodic release is something we’re not sold on yet though. That said, there’s nothing stopping us from waiting until the whole game releases on disc later this year.
There are a few rough edges that’ll need sorting before release. The suspicion meter sometimes has a life of its own, outing you when dragging a body around despite nobody being around. In my barman outfit, I was instantly discovered at one bar, but another gave me the option to ‘blend in’, so consistency is a bit of an issue too. The weapon aiming feels horrible, and needs to be sharpened up, just so the guns aren’t ruled out of the mix for those in a rush. Some of the animations feel a bit boxey for a current-gen title and there needs to be more urgency when retreating as Agent 47’s carefree gentle window mantling when he’s under fire takes long enough to guarantee he’s dead before he’s all the way through. Not that I won’t be reloading a checkpoint as soon as my cover’s blown anyways.