I don’t want to work on Maggie’s farm no more
Hitman’s penultimate episode stands in stark contrast to the previous contracts we’ve undertaken in developer Io-Interactive’s episodic assassination series. Up until now, they’ve cut armchair assassins loose in ornate palaces, sleepy seaside villages, luxury hotels, and bustling streets full of hookah-puffing tourists and angry protesters. However, the latest chapter ditches the posh digs of the prior hunts as it tasks Agent 47 with eliminating four targets hiding out in a rural Colorado farm that a local militia is using as a training ground to plot various acts of subversion against the Big Bad Gubmint.
The first thing you’ll notice after infiltrating militia compound is that things get real tense, real fast. Each and every NPC that wanders around the farm is heavily armed and won’t hesitate to blast our bald protagonist on sight. Also, soldiers of various ranks occupy specific areas, meaning you’ll have to think on your feet to dispatch guards, swap disguises, and stay two steps ahead of your targets. This greater focus on mobility and careful concealment make every step feel like a success, as you’re never more than a few paces from wandering into a wary guard or restricted area. And no surprise here, but the farm also offers very little cover, meaning you’ll have to carefully plan your movements around the wide open groves and fields to reach your objectives.
Further complicating matters for players is the number of targets you’ll need to eliminate in this contract. While past episodes typically had players murdering a pair of marks, Hitman’s Colorado contract ups the ante by doubling the number of targets. This means you’ll have to work especially hard to pull off a quartet of hits without putting the entire militia on high alert. The end result is a mission that manages to feel much longer and more robust this time around, proving glitzy settings and swelling crowds, while nice ways to showcase the latest tech, aren’t integral components to creating a compelling Hitman experience.
Speaking of tech, you’ll be dabbling with quite a bit of it during your stay in The Centennial State. Rather than the stereotypical Budweiser swigging hillbilly stereotypes you might expect, the militia you’re up against has a particular interest in hi-tech warfare. One opportunity lead to me blowing my target to smithereens by rigging his smartwatch with a bomb after stealing a phone from a hoodie-clad hacker on the militia’s payroll. Afterwards, I was forced to sneak past a bedroom office teeming with more Anonymous wannabes to 3D print the face of the man I just killed to get past a door with a biometric scanner that was standing between me and my extraction point.
That’s not to say cutting edge kills and 3D-printed chicanery are the only way to get the job done. After scaring one of my targets by convincing her I was an Interpol agent looking to recruit her as an informant, I pushed the panicked freedom fighter into a festering slurry pit. There are also various pieces of machinery, like hydraulic lifts and battering rams that serve as handy tools of torment just waiting to be unleashed on accident-prone patriots.
Sure, all of the other chapters offered ample opportunities to dispatch of your targets in clever ways, but Colorado takes the arsenic-laced cake with its seemingly limitless possibilities for turning its foursome of freedom fighting farmhands into fertilizer.
One of the most frustrating things about Hitman has been the rather uninspired way the story has been presented up to this point. Having said that, I’m mostly pleased with the way developer Io-Interactive has managed to put a greater emphasis on the overarching narrative, which has been painfully ambiguous so far. This greater focus on expanding the story isn’t just in regards to the cinematic that caps off the mission, but also within the mission itself. Things start to finally make sense as the finer details of the story start to manifest as Agent 47 and Diana uncover the motives behind the elusive Shadow Client. Each of the bite-sized bits of story that had been served up before left me ambivalent and concerned that things would conclude without a coherent story thread to stitch things all together. Thankfully, that’s not the case here, as wrapping up Episode 5 has me quite eager to see where the series’ conclusion takes us.
Much like its weathered and minimalist setting, Colorado smartly abandons the excessive clutter and distractions we’ve seen in previous chapters. And honestly, it’s all the better for it. What’s left is a deeply utilitarian contract that smartly trims the fat, allowing players to focus purely on perfecting their bloody craft. With so many murderous opportunities to exploit and a greater sense of tension that permeates the entire length of the episode, Hitman’s penultimate contract proves to be a near-perfect execution.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC ; Publisher: Square Enix ; Developer: Io-Interactive ; Players: 1; Released: September 27, 2016; Genre: Action ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review was written based on review code supplied by the game’s publisher, Square Enix