Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: iPhone, iPad
Reason To Cop It: You miss the Hitman franchise enough to see Agent 47 in a new angle.
Reason to Not Cop It: Puzzle titles might not be for you.
Bottom Line: Ton of fun and a welcome change from Agent 47 on the console.
Agent 47 is one of the most feared characters in the videogame universe. As he is seemingly able to flawlessly execute the most unexpected (and deadly) kind of tactics ever seen. With the huge success of IO Interactive’s Hitman: Absolution, the focus has shifted to an isometrics tactics puzzle title where players control the cloned assassin-for-hire on a turn-based board. If you are unaware of this title and are expecting to garrote your enemies with piano wires, then you’re out of luck as this game is nothing like you’d expect from the stellar stealth series. And that's a very good thing.
Square Enix adds an element of cleverness to the mobile puzzle genre by utilizing grid-based play to navigate Agent 47 to his target without being spotted. Players begin their adventure by selecting a contract they want to execute. Each stage is styled beautifully on a gorgeously crafted game board with locations ranging from industrial to snooty. For every turn, Agent 47 must stealthily move past enemies or eliminate them before reaching his target. The turn-based combat works in the game’s favor, as it sharply deviates from the traditional model of the popular franchise. Plotting your next move while surveying the lay of the land, without the incessant fear of being spotted, makes Hitman Go feel familiar, fun, and really smooth.
With the swipe of your finger in the proposed direction, players can take Agent 47 down a path of merciless killing, or sidestep enemies all together, and play in the shadows. The gameplay will pause after the turn has been made, and any baddie on the board will then make their move. Set up as a collectible miniature figurine, each type of NPC has its own style of play. Turning 180 degrees each turn, or maneuvering along a predictable path are two basic examples. While it is best to try to distract and avoid NPCs completely, players will still find themselves flustered by the difficulty level that Hitman Go offers. The gameplay mechanics aren’t incredibly hard to learn as players go through each mission, but making usage of the distractions and disguises will help Agent 47 traverse trouble with ease.
Mainly necessary for your professional contract killer’s survival, distractions, such as tennis balls or rocks, have a limited range. Upon directing your intent towards a specific tile, all enemies will head in that direction, one move per turn. Disguises, much like how they were used in Hitman: Absolution, work similarly, enabling players to get to a tile in front of an NPC, which would normally kill you as Agent 47. After an hour or two of playtime, players will notice that they are hooked, as the game’s optional objectives serve as an enjoyable gateway to a long gaming session. But while the game’s beautiful board game appeal, carefully cultivated characters, and turn-based strategy are all pros to this iOS title, there are a few pitfalls that can't be avoided.
As a puzzle-based game, Agent 47 has a limited set of moves at his disposal in order to accomplish his goal. There are moments where he is almost automatically forced to tackle his enemy head-on, or use his distractions-or-disguise item immediately. These minor constraints don’t take the excitement out of Hitman Go. Instead it forces players to think a few steps ahead before making a move. Another limitation comes in the form of how the game sounds, as its design doesn’t quite match the time and effort spent in diagramming the levels. Most, if not the majority, of the missions are silent, as players will instantly notice the lack of a narrative voice or hefty environmental noise. Besides the chirp of crickets that can be heard in the game’s night levels, this is a major step back for Hitman Go.
With only 24 achievements to unlock, players may take umbrage with the fact that there are quite a bit of in-app purchases, which may downgrade your opinion of this title. Android fans will also be peeved to learn that there is no adapted version for their mobile devices, yet. Also, there’s no leaderboard to satiate competitive spirits. Fans looking for something similar to the Sniper Challenge DLC for Hitman: Absolution will be left empty-handed.
But despite the all-around beauty of Hitman: Go, the missions can sometimes also be easy to accomplish, much to the chagrin of players who enjoy using a lot of forethought. Stealth is equally frustrating, as Agent 47 is hindered by situations meant to boost a tense atmosphere, which end up becoming frustrating. All in all, Hitman Go may not sound like the title to induce fear in an enemy’s heart, but it is uniquely a game that delivers clever board game-style setup with the classic Hitman franchise appeal.
Square Enix could have attempted to publish a title that would’ve been likely to become the next mobile game sensation, but instead they’ve doubled-down on their franchise to make an addictive title casual gamers. Cons aside, Hitman Go is gorgeous on the iPhone and iPad. The title is challenging enough for hardcore gamers and the touch-swipe controls are perfect for the table-top aesthetic.
After a full play-through of several hours, I'm happy to announce that the price of $4.99 is well worth the sticker price.The methodical way Square Enix has given another advantage to Agent 47 and fans of the franchise means that Hitman Go is a worthy addition to the game’s ethos.
Written by Kevin L. Clark (@DLYDJ)