Mountainside Murders

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HIGH Coordinating four assassinations at once.

LOW Gear and weapon rewards are getting stale again.

WTF A target with a 3D-printed mask… that’s an exact replica of his face?


 

When videogame-positivity activists cite information about using games to develop hand-eye coordination, increased brain activity or reaction speed improvements, people usually think they’re referring to puzzle games. Brain Age or Tetris-likes involving strict puzzle and timed challenges are obvious examples. However, it’s a shame that few people look into researching the benefits of virtual contract killing — a game such as Hitman lands in a perfect sweet spot that keeps both my observational and critical thinking skills engaged. Hitman is a puzzle game, after all. It’s just the rare kind that accepts explosions and bullets as acceptable solutions to the mental challenges it presents.

Hitman‘s fifth chapter takes Agent 47 to Colorado for the mission Freedom Fighters. Up to this point, most jobs have featured two targets apiece, but Chapter 5 cranks it up to four and tacks on additional objectives once everyone is dealt with. Freedom Fighters is also the most story-heavy level so far, as 47 and his handler Diana make some sweeping discoveries at its conclusion.

With each new chapter IO releases, I find myself constantly remembering why I love this series. In a way, the monthly missions make Hitman feel like a husband who travels for business a lot — time away is rough, but that one week we spend together every month is deep and satisfying. Or maybe that’s more like having a man on the side? Anyway…

My first time through any Hitman stage is a lengthy exercise in observation, information gathering, careful planning and suspenseful execution. Due to Freedom Fighters‘ four targets, each of whom have their own agendas on the mountainside farm, I spent almost two hours just canvassing the area to figure out which sections were high alert, which disguises would get me where and tracking the targets to discover their unique paths.

Spending so much time planning sound boring, but getting a handle on a new Hitman map is my absolute favorite part of the game. I adore taking my time to thoroughly plan assassinations in order to maintain discretion, and because Chapter 5 takes place on a farm doubling as a planning convention for mercenary factions, hostility isn’t hard to come by. Unlike previous chapters that feature city blocks or civilian-friendly areas, the entire mission is hostile territory if 47 doesn’t have an enemy disguise.

Speaking of the setting, the more I see of Hitman, the less impressed I am by IO Interactive’s push to host each mission in a different country. So far only Chapter 2 (Italy) and Chapter 3 (Morocco) have felt like their respective settings because those two levels were big enough to let the cities come alive via cultural and architectural influences. Freedom Fighters is set in Colorado, but it’s just a farm with mountains next to it. That doesn’t exactly scream Colorado to me. If it weren’t for the mountains, I’d think it was set in the middle of Kansas. And, for IO to only have one mission that takes place in the United States, Colorado seems like a pretty stale area to go with.

Out of six episodes in the total package, most haven’t been that varied in terms of environmental effects, either. Only the bonus (and non-canon) remixed levels have been set at night, and no strides to include precipitation or other weather effects have been made. I find myself missing Hitman 2‘s snowy vistas and Contract‘s dreary rain-soaked cities.

…And yes, I’m writing about weather.

If it’s not obvious by how minor and particular my complaints are, the takeaway is that Freedom Fighters is excellent. When a game like this consistently rolls out one great mission after another, I have to dig a little deeper to find some faults — this chapter isn’t the best (Chapter 2’s Sapienza still reigns supreme) but it’s a worthy addition. Four targets in heavily populated territory is a new twist for Hitman, and the fact that it was done without unfairly kicking the difficulty up or sacrificing player-paced preparation should be commended. Rating 8 out of 10


 

Disclosures: This game is developed by IO Interactive and published by Square-Enix. It is currently available on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the episode was completed three times. The PS4 exclusive Sarajevo Six mission was completed twice, and I spent some time in Escalation and Contracts modes, as well.

Parents: According to the ESRB Hitman is rated Mature for blood, drug reference, intense violence, strong language and suggestive themes. Although long stretches of this game can feature no violence or blood, the game is ultimately about murdering people, so it’s best for mature audiences.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Subtitles are available and visual cues for enemies detecting the player and trespassing warnings are available. The HUD makes Hitman a smooth experience for hard of hearing audiences.

Remappable Controls: X and Y axes can be standard or inverted, vibration can be toggled and Aim Assistance is offered. However, no button remapping is available for the controller.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Corey Motley

Corey Motley (like the Crue) has been gaming since the NES era. The first game he remembers playing is Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest. Horror and stealthy, tactical action games are his jam. Some of his favorites are Silent Hill 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mirror’s Edge, Resident Evil (most of them), Metal Gear Solid 4, Fallout 3 and Hitman: Blood Money.

He has a Bachelor’s in magazine journalism from the University of Missouri. He also has a personal blog (who doesn’t?) that he updates sporadically. He’s been writing for GameCritics.com since 2012 and has appeared on the podcast a handful of times.

If you want to dive deep, type his name into a Google Image search and you’ll most likely be treated to a scandalous picture of his Deus Ex tattoo. He also has a music background from 7 years on high school and college drumlines, and last but not least he’s dabbled in parkour. Don’t let those activities fool you about his ambition – he’s in his late 20s and still has no idea what he wants to do with his life.

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kibu
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Can’t wait for the full release in January.

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