Hitman 3: IO hits the bullseye

There’s a moment in the opening minutes of Hitman 3’s Chongqing, China, mission when you realise that there is actually a real-life human being inside genetically engineered killer Agent 47.

The “moment” happens on an over pass near Chongqing’s train station where a young woman is staring out over the harbour, puffing on a cigarette as rain falls onto the neon-lit streets. She asks Agent 47 whether he has seen a woman with a green top. He replies he hasn’t then the woman tells 47 how the woman’s friend has been rock over the year and perhaps she has decided not to come meet her for drinks.

It’s what happens next that surprised me: Agent 47 tells the woman, sagely, that her friend agreed to meet her at 4am, in the rain, and that wasn’t the actions of someone who didn’t care. He then suggests she pick up the tab to show how much she appreciates her friendship. The conversation ends and Agent 47 goes on his way but it’s a powerful sequence with masterful writing. In those few sentences Agent 47 shows that despite a life filled with murder and mayhem, he can show human emotion when needed.

OK, touching moment in Chongqing out of the way, Hitman 3 is a truly fitting farewell for the trilogoy started by developer IO Interactive in 2016 and follows the format bedded in by the two previous games: A handful of locations (this time around 47 will visit places like Dartmoor in England, Mendoza in Argentina, Chongqing in China and Berlin), a variety of targets and multiple ways to reach your end goal.

The opening mission, for example, sees 47 infiltrating the tallest building in the world, the Sceptre in Dubai, to assassinate two wealthy targets – but he’s not alone, this time he’s assisted by former foe Lucas Grey.

As I moved to the entry point in the Sceptre, 47 bumped into a tool box that was sitting on a work platform, spilling tools from the container. I just watched as the tool box – and the tools inside – spun aimlessly for what seemed like an eternity before clattering noisily onto a girder hundreds of metres below me.

As with previous Hitman games, wardrobes, cabinets, dumpsters and freezers are 47’s best friend again – they’re great locations to stash bodies out of sight – and once again, the beauty of the Hitman games is the open-endedness of the game play. There are myriad ways to assassinate targets so they look like accidents using a variety of implements: letter openers, poisons,  exploding golf balls, cans of drink, bananas … and it’s this open-endedness that means you’ll come back to a location time and time again to eek out all its little secrets.

Something I really love about the recent Hitman games – and the opening conversations is a good example of this – is the dialogue from and between NPCs, some which might lead to important information about targets and their movements and others which are just downright amusing and fun and just add to the immersion of the game world.

Examples? One time, Agent 47 was getting getting frisked by a security guard who proclaimed “No need to flex you don’t need to impress me”. Another time, 47 was following too closely to an NPC who turned around saying “Hey, space bubble, buddy”. Then there was the time a commando radioed command after spotting 47 throw a can of soft drink at a soldier’s head:”Eyes on comedian throwing things at people.”

I sometimes found myself hiding behind a desk or object just to eavesdrop on conversations, like the NPC who was lamenting to a work colleague he thought was his friend that he had just been fired by his employer for no reason and could they still be friends.

The Hitman games are all about planning, planning and planning but sometimes, though, the series is at its finest when you bumble an assassination attempt & things turn to shit but somehow, some way, you manage to complete your task and get to an escape point. Other times, though, you’ll make such a meal of it that it’ll turn to custard mere metres from an exit point and there’s no choice but to reload a saved game and try better next time.

Of the locations in Hitman 3, I’d have to say my favourites are Berlin and the Carpathian Mountains in Romania.

Berlin is brilliant because it’s unlike previous missions in that you’re not actually sure who your target – or targets, in this case – is: Just that you need to locate the ICA agents that have infiltrated the rave at an abandoned nuclear plant and eliminate them before they spot you. The beauty here is the game forces you to get close to people until you can identify them sufficiently to mark as a target. What makes it tense, though, is the ICA agents know what you look like so it’s an intricate game of cat-and-mouse.

The Carpathian Mountains mission is brilliant because it’s set on a train and, look, I don’t want to spoil it for you but it’s a no-holds barred, all-gloves-are-off mission where Agent 47 goes weapons free without repercussions. I enjoyed it immensely.

As I said in the beginning of this write-up, Hitman 3 is a fitting farewell to this trilogy and one that I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish, despite having the odd janky character animation and the pain-in-the-arse always online aspect which does grate from time to time, especially when you get disconnected from the server mid-location!

Developer IO Interactive’s next game is based on British spy James Bond and based on the brilliance that is Hitman, I for one, cannot wait to see where they take Double Oh Seven.

Thanks to Bandai Namco in Australia for the PC code for Hitman 3. I completed the main story then proceeded to visit the locations again, dabbled in some of the sniper challenges and played through some of the contract missions.

Looking good, Agent 47, looking good

 

SquareEnix has released a new video for the upcoming Hitman game that’s titled, well, Hitman (although SquareEnix spells it HITMAN, which I’m not going to do).

The new video is titled Welcome to Sapienza,. which looks like a lovely place, apart from all the killing and bodies, of course.

Hitman is out early next year, I do believe.

How nice to see you again, Agent 47

I’ve played pretty much all of the Hitman games (including Hitman Go the mobile game: It’s really, really good), the series featuring bald Agent 47 who has a barcode tattooed on the back of his head.

The last Hitman game, Absolution, was pretty good, and there’s a new game coming in the next year called Hitman (just Hitman, it seems), which features a younger looking Agent 47 than the one that appeared in Absolution. I’m not sure whether it’s set in his early days or developer IO Interactive just felt he needed a facelift but the game is said to bring us an Agent 47 when he was at the prime of his assassinating career.

Anyway, SquareEnix (the publisher) has released a new game play trailer from the game’s Showstopper mission, set to the backdrop of a Paris fashion show. It’s alpha footage and looks good to me and is said to give players to assassinate key targets a variety of ways (although I’m always amused with things like a character strolling around with a huge ass sniper rifle hanging across his back. Doesn’t anyone notice that sort of thing?)

What do you think?

 

My most anticipated games for E3 2015

Ten years ago this month, I went to my very first E3 gaming convention.

It was 2005, and I’d managed to convince my bosses at the metropolitan newspaper that I worked at in Christchurch, New Zealand, that  video games were a big thing and if the company was serious about keeping up with trends it needed to send me to E3, the huge three-day gaming show in Los Angeles.

It worked and after a few months of planning I jetted off to what would end up being a memorable experience, perhaps not so much for the games – I can’t actually remember much from that show – but for the memories:

  • Catching a taxi from the hotel I was staying at – The Standard in Hollywood (which was really quite average actually but one afternoon I saw actor Forrest  Whittaker milling about the lobby)  – with Alex Garden, the founder of Relic Entertainment. I didn’t realise it was him until he handed me his business card.
  • The incredibly sore feet after three days of running from hall to hall after realising that I should have left more time between appointments.
  • Seeing the game Stubbs the Zombie in action at a hotel near the LA Convention centre.
  • Chatting to Peter Molyneux and being swept away by his enthusiasm for the industry (it was to be the first of three interviews I did with him over the years).
  • Walking what seems like miles with James Burnett from Gameplanet in 2010 after we just decided to walk from Hollywood to somewhere. I can’t remember where we were going but a shop assistant was flabbergasted that we were contemplating walking rather than taking a taxi.

I ended up going to E3 two more times: In 2009, once again as correspondent for Fairfax NZ and The Press,  and in 2010 as part of the team for NZ gaming website Gameplanet, and each time I have fond memories of what happened and what I did probably more than the games.

Looking back on my trips to E3, part of me misses the noise, the buzz, the flash, but mostly I don’t. It’s a lot of hard work, especially if it’s just you, and frankly, a lot of the games on show are in a state that is quite different from the finished product. Besides, I’m too old to attend major gaming shows now.

This year, I don’t have a lot of anticipation for many games at E3 and I don’t know how really relevant it is any more, given that leaks are common place and one of this year’s major games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is already out.

Maybe I’m cynical, but I think that the gaming industry is in some sort of stagnation at the moment where re-masters are all the rage and the easy option for publishers.

That said, there are probably three games that I’m particularly keen to learn more about (and one that I hope will be announced). Here they are, in precise, particular order in terms of most anticipated.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Eidos)

What: Mankind Divided is the sequel (of sorts) to 2011’s DX Human Revolution, an action/stealth/RPG game set in a cyberpunk universe where human cybernetic implants and augmentations are all the rage. Set two years after Human Revolution, Mankind  Divided sees the return of gruff-voiced hero Adam Jensen.

Why: You’ve seen the latest trailer, right? Man, that captured my attention right away. How could you not be impressed by it? Deus  Ex Human Revolution is still one of my most loved games in the DX  series: I just love that cyberpunk setting, despite the game’s bosses being complete arseholes to defeat before they patched the game (it was later revealed that the boss battles were outsourced to another studio), and I loved that you could play it all guns blazing or creeping in the shadows, remaining unseen. I liked it so much I bought it on PC when it was on sale during a Steam sale. I have high hopes for this game.

Likelihood: It’s already been confirmed. We just need to see it in action

Mass Effect 4 (Bioware)

What: This game hasn’t been confirmed or officially announced (I don’t think) so this one is pure conjecture on my part, but [hopefully] Mass Effect 4 will be the sequel to one of the best series in the last  gaming generation, pitting the male/female Commander Shepard against a domination hungry race called the Reapers.

Why: I loved my time with Mass Effect 1 through to 3 [although, I must confess I didn’t actually have the stamina to finish ME1] and ME3 had some genuine contemplative moments where the fate of characters you’d interacted with for three games depended on your decisions. The ending [s] of Mass Effect 3 had gamers up in arms because it didn’t gel with decisions that they’d made but I didn’t have a problem with it. Rumours circulating the web indicate that ME4 will move away from the Shepard story arc, which will be welcome, but I really  hope ME4 tells us what happened to the Reapers.

Likelihood: Possibly but nothing has been confirmed. It would be nice, though.

[And one totally out of left field] A new Hitman game

What: The Hitman games are the ultimate for fans wanting to pretend they are an elite assassin. Featuring the bald-headed Agent 47, the Hitman games are well known  for giving gamers the ability to complete missions in a number of ways, using the environment to take out a target.

Why: I love Agent 47. He’s one of my most favourite game characters and while Hitman Absolution had flaws, I still played it  through to the end There are rumours that developer IO Interactive are planning a new Hitman game sometime this year [or announce one] so my anticipation levels are high for this one.

Likelihood: Nothing has been confirmed that it will be shown – yet – but IO Interactive have hinted that it’s working on a new game. I have high hopes.

While I was writing this I thought to myself “Oh, there will probably be more games as I watch the press conferences that I’m interested in” (I’m mildly interested in Fallout 4, but I didn’t like the previous games) but these are one that I’m really, really excited about and two that I hope happen.

Tell me what you’re most anticipated about from E3 this year.

Stealth in the dark: Agent 47 Absolution trailer

Here’s the latest trailer and a new screen shot from IO Interactive’s Hitman: Absolution.

It’s got everything you would want in an assassination trailer, to be honest: lots of shadows, blurry movment, muffled voices, takedowns, smashed objects, glimpses of a firearm – and partial nudity (don’t tell me you didn’t notice the woman taking the shower? It was the first thing you saw, I bet). So it might be Safe for Work, it might not be: depends on your work, I suppose.

If  I’m being completly honest, I’m pretty amped about this next game in the Hitman series as I loved Blood Money to bits. Not literally, but I loved playing it to bits, I mean. It would seem a bit weird loving a video game to bits wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the game’s out on several platforms next year, I believe. Watch the trailer (several times if you want, I don’t mind. I only looked at it once, though: I’m at work), look at the screen shot. Start the countdown for the game. I hope it’s good. I’ll be gutted if it isn’t.