IO Interactive’s Hitman reboot endured a long, arduous journey from its reveal during 2015’s E3 to its official debut.

At first, it was set to launch as a full game in December 2015, but was pushed back to March, 2016. More than just a delay, the entire release strategy changed from publishing the entire campaign at once on disc to digitally releasing one mission per month as a way of shifting the focus on replay and mastery of each level. Despite this risky approach, Hitman is an exceptional reboot that constantly leverages the complex, open-ended design that older Hitman games were celebrated for.

Although Hitman was released episodically in 2016, the collected disc version of Hitman launches January 31st, 2017. If you’re someone who’s been drooling for the past year while impatiently waiting to play all of it at once (or if this is your first time playing a Hitman) I’ve got some tips to ease you in.

You wouldn’t want to jump into your first assassination job half-cocked, would you?

  • Hitman is not a third-person shooter

Although gameplay trailers and marketing material might show explosions, shootouts and flashy kills, you must go into Hitman knowing it is absolutely not about running and gunning. As a matter of fact, going in guns blazing is a surefire way to get yourself killed. Although Agent 47 could take quite a bit of punishment in older games, he’s more fragile this time around. His health regenerates after being injured, but the regeneration period is slow and Agent 47 dies after about 3 gunshots. I’d recommend only using guns if: it’s a last resort, if you only have to shoot one person in a deserted room, or if you’re sniping someone from far away. Close quarters shootouts against several opponents will most likely spell death for you. On the plus side, shootouts are not necessary! Each mission can be completed without firing a single bullet, and that’s often the most satisfying way to do it.

  • Hitman is a puzzle game at heart

To new players, or those who only experienced 2012’s oddball Hitman: Absolution, you might not realize Hitman is actually a puzzle game. Hitman’s classic design is to drop players into a complex, multi-level location and set them loose on a target with little clue on how to progress.

In this Hitman, Agent 47’s handler Diana gives him a briefing on the target(s) and any notable information about the mission beforehand, and that’s pretty much it. Hitman is not a linear game, and players are encouraged to manually canvas the environment to look for clues, listen to NPC dialogue and track targets to figure out their movement patterns and behavior before striking.

  • Patience is key

My favorite experience in Hitman is loading a level for the first time and spending a couple of hours (really!) walking around the environment, learning what areas are restricted, what disguises will grant me access to certain areas and where key NPCs travel before even attempting to kill a target. Taking time to learn the ins and outs of these master-crafted levels will go a long way toward ensuring a perfect hit. Not only that, but IO has written some hilarious NPC dialogue that you’d miss out on if you don’t explore thoroughly.

  • Turn off Opportunity notifications

For the first time in the series, Hitman features a system called Opportunities — it gives players extra insight on how to creatively and stealthily eliminate targets. Although this system is a boon for players, I’d recommend turning it off for the first few times through a level.

Opportunities features three levels of notifications. “Full” gives players access to all the creative elimination methods available in a level, and even places waypoints on the screen to direct players to specific items. For example, if you select the Opportunity for poisoning a target’s martini, the waypoints will lead you down the path of each step in the process, beginning with overhearing what the target ordered, then to finding the recipe, then to locating poison, and so on until the target is face down in his own cocktail glass at the bar.

The “Minimal” notification setting shows players info in the Intel Briefing Menu and lets players know an opportunity is unveiling in real-time during the game. However, it does not place waypoints to direct players around. For this option, a window will pop up when the target orders the martini, but you must explore to find the recipe, poison and bartender outfit on your own with no assistance.

The last notification option turns everything off. For this option, you’d have to be in the right place at the right time to hear the target order his special drink at the bar, or find the recipe first, which tips you off that he orders it in the first place. And from there, you find everything else yourself with no waypoints.

Opportunities is a fantastic system that, frankly, Hitman could’ve used years ago. However, I recommend turning it off in order to immerse yourself in the level and be more alert — it makes you fully investigate each mission’s environment. But after you’ve finished the level once or twice? Sure, go ahead and flip the notifications on for some added direction.

Speaking of completing each mission multiple times, that brings me to my next tip…

  • Complete each mission several times before moving on

Along with Opportunities, Hitman also features a new system that lets players master each level. Certain special actions such as creative kills or exfiltrating at different locations will give players XP. Once enough XP is earned, players complete one tier of Mastery for the level. Each stage has 20 mastery tiers and each tier unlocks a new item. Some items are weapons and gadgets while others allow 47 to start the level in a different location already wearing a certain disguise.

Instead of playing each level back-to-back until the end, I recommend earning some (or all) Mastery tiers for a level before moving onto the next — Hitman is based around replayability, after all. Each target can be eliminated in dozens of ways, and each way provides an XP boost toward earning more equipment and loadout options. As an added bonus, Trophies/Achievements are tied to mastering each level and for completing every Opportunity.

Hitman’s main menu features a Career tab that lets you see what mastery rewards exist for each level if you want a preview of what you’re working toward. Also, weapons and gear unlocked this way can be taken into any future level for use. So that sniper rifle you earned in the first mission is yours to keep and use in every other mission afterwards. The opposite is true, too. If you earn a better gadget or gun in the last mission of the game, why not take it back into the first mission to see how it changes your playstyle?

  • Save your game often

Hitman has an excellent save system built into its story missions. It features 8 manual save slots and 8 auto-save slots that operate independently from each other, which gives you 16 slots total. Although the auto-save system does a pretty good job of saving when 47 kills someone or enters a new area, manual saves are your best friend. I always save before I attempt any kind of kill just in case anything goes wrong.

Also worth noting is the fact that targets tend to make rounds in several areas before circling back to start their movement cycle over. If you have a specific kill in mind, it might take the target several minutes to come back to the prime location for action. Save shortly before the target gets there, so you don’t end up waiting around again if the assassination attempt goes awry.

  • Slow down with Instinct

Hitman has a mechanic called Instinct carried over from 2012’s Absolution. Holding a shoulder button engages Instinct, which washes out all color in the world, shows nearby NPC and item outlines (even through walls) and highlights official targets in red. Unlike Absolution where the use of Instinct was limited, you can use it as much as you want in Hitman. Instinct’s most underrated factor is that it slows time slightly while players use it. This isn’t a bullet-time mechanic, but it’s useful in a pinch when an NPC starts to notice 47 trespassing and players need that extra second to get away.

Although Instinct only highlights items and NPCs that are close by, it does keep targets highlighted in red from anywhere in the map. It’s useful to keep tabs on targets from a distance, especially because they tend to move around a lot. Much like Opportunities, Instinct can be turned off in the Options menu if players want more challenge.

  • Come for the campaign, stay for the live content

IO Interactive has created live content for Hitman, which results in a few secondary game modes that feature developer and player-created missions.

The most notable mode is called Elusive Targets. These missions are time-sensitive, one-shot-only targets that take place in pre-existing maps. IO Interactive sets these up, provides special briefings and gives a real-time window for completion, which varies. Sometimes a target will occupy a map for a day or two, or sometimes they spend a week or more on location. However, once the window is over, the target can never be found again.

It’s worth restating that these are one-shot missions, meaning that if you die or if you fail to escape, you never get a second chance. That said, there is a bit of leeway here.

Players can restart an Elusive Target mission as many times as they want up until they eliminate the target or die. Once the target is killed mid-mission, the restart option vanishes. And once you die — you die. It’s over.

Also, if you bring in certain equipment or place yourself in a certain disguise and discover you made the wrong decisions, you can re-outfit and restart as many times as you want up until killing the target. Although Elusive Targets is the most high-stakes Hitman mode, these bits of flexibility ease the intimidation.

  • Have fun, and good luck

Although Hitman is arguably the most accessible game in the series, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. But now that you’re equipped with Corey’s Official Tips for Hitman, you’ve got an extra edge to carry out your assignments. Buena fortuna, agents!

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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