With the Hitman franchise, it’s possible to play through any mission once and be finished, but I think players who choose to walk away at that point are selling themselves short on the experience.
IO’s new Hitman is being released episodically, which gives them a chance to place more thought, depth and replayability in each episode. As I’ve been going through them, I’ve noticed that because I can’t just jump right into the next chunk, I try to experience each mission as completely as possible over several plays. One way I do this is through the use (or not) of its new Opportunities system — my favorite addition to the series.
Opportunities are built-in parameters that let players work their way to close proximity of a target for a smoother assassination. In the Paris mission, for example, Agent 47 is tasked with killing the head of a fashion line and his wife, both of whom moonlight as classified information distributors. One Opportunity involves dressing up as a male model for a fashion show scheduled to meet with the targets after the show. Another Opportunity has Agent 47 sabotaging a lighting rig above the catwalk so it can be triggered to fall onto the stage.
Players who have experience with previous Hitman games might remember scenarios such as these existing before, but the games have never divulged much information on how to connect the dots in these situations. And, those clever enough to figure them out might have noticed that enemy AI was occasionally volatile enough to send these careful plans out the window for seemingly no reason.
IO’s new Hitman shows players exactly how to successfully fulfill every step of an Opportunity, although there’s an option to toggle between three notification styles that adjust how much information the game shares.
The first option turns the Opportunities system off completely. Whenever a new chapter launches, I start by playing the episode’s main mission three times this way. I prefer not to know too much about the level I’m about to engage — I want to explore the map to my satisfaction and complete it a few times without the game letting me in on any secrets.
The second option lets players know when an opportunity is unveiling, and it’ll give the next task needed to forward the Opportunity. Most Opportunities begin when 47 overhears NPCs discussing sensitive information. This mid-range option does not give any HUD waypoints to let players know exactly where to unlock the next step, so if players are asked to find a certain document or character, they must search with the naked eye to find them. I rarely use this option because exploring a stage three times without any Opportunity notifications is enough before I want a few more hints.
The last option includes onscreen waypoints for each step. On my fourth play I crank this one up, so I can finally learn all the ins and outs more easily.
In the example of Paris that I mentioned, players can go to the pause menu, select the ‘be a model’ Opportunity and the game sets a waypoint. The onscreen prompt might say ‘steal an outfit’. After that’s done the next step is getting 47’s makeup applied, and a waypoint will pop up showing where the makeup room is. From there it continues highlighting each step until the player is with the target. However, it’s important to note that simply getting to the meeting completes the Opportunity — not killing the target. With this in mind, sometimes it’s possible to complete several Opportunities in a single attempt.
It’s also worth noting that even if the Opportunity notifications are turned all the way up, that doesn’t necessarily make the missions easy. Strategy, patience, careful maneuvering and occasional inventory items found in the environment are necessary. Hitman doesn’t always spell these out, for better or worse.
In addition to Opportunities, each mission has a ‘mastery level’ where players must complete certain challenges to earn XP. Killing a target a certain way might award 5,000 XP, and exiting the mission a particular way might award 1,000. Each level of mastery brings new equipment or advantages, such as giving players the bonus of starting a level already undercover, or with a new weapon or gadget in their arsenal for future plays.
Thanks to the replay value inherent in these Opportunities and earning unlockable items as motivation to keep doing more of them, players are encouraged to wring the most out of each episodic installment as it arrives, and if you ask me, these systems are helping create what might very well be the best Hitman to date.