Archive for March, 2016

The Hitman Beta or No More Absolution?

Posted in Hands On with tags , on March 6, 2016 by Rabidgames

It comes off a bit strange that the new Hitman is advertised as bigger levels, more variety and better A.I. than the not so much liked Hitman Absolution, but this weekend’s PS4 exclusive beta plays EXACTLY like Absolution.

Since betas are pretty much the demos of this day and age (and it is questionable why this game would even need a beta), the Hitman beta leaves you with a few question marks – because everything feels like Absolution. The crowds aren’t really massive, the two tutorial levels are also rather small – and the A.I. is not really better: if a target has a bodyguard and you pretty much talk your target into the accident, how comes you can walk away from everything and no one suspects you? Isn’t walking from an accident rather suspicious? Here, Hitman’s A.I. seems rather weak.

That being said, playing around with the options can still be fun – you can arrange an accident, go the “bullet between the eyes” way or you strangle your target silently in classic Hitman style – all and more is possible, and of course, the moment when a plan comes together will leave a smile on your face. The more you explore, listen and experiment, the more fun you’re going to have.

Fortunately, some details from Blood Money are back – corpses are put into body bags, weapons lying around are brought to evidence rooms (or suitcases), and a rifle is worn visibly. It seems Hitman goes back to the roots and makes the contract the protagonist again, which suits the series better than the personal vendetta crusade of Absolution.

And yet, despite the fact there is lots of sadistic fun to be had in Hitman, two big questions remain – why did they choose to show a massive open environment for the alpha but give us Absolution style small levels for the beta? That’s not exactly great advertising, guys.

Second, the episodic nonsense still doesn’t make sense – why not finish the game completely and then release it? Judging from the stuttering cutscenes, missing lip synch and loooooong loading times in the Hitman beta (after Just Cause 3, long loading times seem to become a trademark it seems), and the fact the game is going to be released within a week, chances are the devs won’t be able to implement what they learnt from the beta into the release.

And then there’s the principle thing – episodic content can make sense for small companies or for cheaper games; if you pay 15 quid for the Telltale games Life is Strange, it’s fair enough, as we’re talking small dev, small teams, and games that are actually presented like TV shows, all packaged with a budget price. However, paying 45 pounds for an AAA game cut into pieces without a genuine reason, that’s bollocks.

Mind you, Square back-pedalled quite a few times here; it started with “you have to buy everything at the start” to “pay piece by piece” and now there’s a jungle of different options for us to pay. Judging from the pre-order farce with the upcoming Deus Ex and the episodic bullshit excuses in the aftermath of announcing Final Fantasy VII, Square Enix needs to learn a few lessons from CD Projekt Red about what makes customers happy and what doesn’t. Had we ever been given a narrative reason about the episodic content of Hitman, we might have swallowed the bitter pill perhaps, but they couldn’t even be bothered to try …

And then there’s the cynical thought in the back of the head – if the first episode of Hitman isn’t doing well, the rest of the game could be left to slowly rot away with only a minimum amount of QA, time and money invested – why keep polishing a sinking ship, after all?

Rabidgames waits for the time to strike: No one knows how much effort will go into this episodic AAA release experiment, and we simply don’t know what’ll come later. The only logical solution is to wait for the retail version, especially after the beta failed to show us something new and of interest, and paying 15 pounds for one level is pretty much on Call of Duty rip-off level. Like Agent 47, now is not the time to action, no is the time to lie in wait and observe how the scenario plays out.