At this point, Hitman needs no introduction. Fans that have been keeping tabs on this season’s episodes already know the ins and outs of the gameplay. We know the plot has been a touchy topic ‒ more misses than hits ‒ and we know Sapienza is the best location of the bunch. With episode four, it’s a matter of whether or not Io Interactive can nudge that creative needle a little farther, but the inspiration behind Agent 47’s detour to Thailand seldom surfaces at all.
What do we have here? Another ornate estate to prowl? Hitman charts a course for Bangkok’s Himmapan hotel resort in this episode, and although I cannot question Io Interactive’s ability to shape multi-billion dollar mansions, I fear the team has since depleted its bag of environmental tricks. The season debut transported players to a dapper French manor during a sophisticated fashion show. The next installment gave us a gander of the Italian coasts from a Mediterranean chateau. In episode three, an embassy of spotless glass filled the villa role. The latest chapter is no different.
Compare those settings to Hitman: Blood Money, the reigning benchmark of the Hitman brand. Not counting the game’s luxurious abodes, Agent 47 tailed his victims to a theater rehearsal, a Mardi Gras parade, and a riverboat cruise along the Mississippi River. The Hitman rendition of Bangkok, however, does the city an injustice. Where are the florid shrines, cultural festivals, or chaotic traffic jams? With how scarce the Thai influences are, Hitman’s fourth episode could be set anywhere on the continent. Io Interactive throws the capital’s appeal away.
Has this monthly schedule finally taken its toll on the team’s talents? For everything an episode does well, there’s an element the developers neglected noticeably more. The Himmapan is that lackluster aspect. But in contrast to the familiar mise-en-scène, the executions Agent 47 carries out breathe a moral dilemma back into the series.
An indie musician, Jordan Cross may or may not have murdered his former girlfriend, Hannah Highmoore, since she fell from the balcony of his New York penthouse. Authorities described Hannah’s death as an accident, yet the poor girl’s parents remain unconvinced. Thanks to the intervention of both his father and the family lawyer Ken Morgan (your second target), Jordan avoided jail time. Even so, you’re not here to judge. Somebody paid 47 to do a job; it must be done. Assassinate Cross, eliminate Morgan, get out.
It’s these types of assignments that I love about Hitman. Agent 47’s not a Mass-every-Sunday Christian, and the world’s not in peril. While some contracts fall into that cliché category of “kill one, save a thousand,” Hitman’s “Club 27” mission is predicated on pure judicial revenge. Is it right for a millennial rock star to walk away from the crime because he has money and innate connections? Is it fair for a third party to deliver a deadly blow to the accused even if the lass’s passing was a temperamental mishap?
I adore a game that causes me to pause with my finger on the trigger. For example, Cross held onto a message from the night Hannah died, exposing the final hot-blooded spat between the feuding couple ‒ or so the hotel guests told me. Why did Jordan not turn that tape over to the police? Allegedly, he listens to the argument on loop, and now Jordan’s manager is concerned about his well-being. Maybe he keeps the recording as an agonizing reminder, as some form of punishment that no federal sentence could instill.
I’d recommend searching for that tape to see if Jordan exposes his true colors, right before he joins the accursed 27 Club alongside Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. It was worth the reloaded saves to see that opportunity through. The evidence may not alter your opinions of the kid, but using Jordan’s demons to lure him into a silent strangling is indicative of Agent 47’s notorious prowess. Or you can just drop a coconut on his head.
It’s with goofier gags that episode four attempts to outperform its prequels. Agent 47 is free to model as a band member from another label, a disguise that demonstrates its value once you meet Cross face to face. Security will allow you entry to Jordan’s imposing suite-turned-sound studio, and after a dash of coaxing, you can step behind the drum kit and knock out a solo that captures the hearts of your audience. Is there anything Agent 47 can’t do?
On my first playthrough, I dealt Jordan an ironic demise when I shoved him off the rooftop and through a busted awning. I then disposed of fixer/lawyer Ken with a defective tuk-tuk he was devoted to buying. The game’s opportunities, which break the mission down into easy-to-follow objective markers, require less preparation in this outing. Like Marrakesh from episode three, I navigated Himmapan with two outfits, and I rarely worried about civilians catching me switching clothes or dragging unconscious bodies around.
With most of the hotel’s staff engaged in their cleaning duties or the tech crew recovering from multiple hangovers, however, the lodge lacks that minute-to-minute excitement of prior Hitman environments. Much of the resort looks identical from room to room, with pizza boxes, beer, or drunken audio interns spread about for effect. I wouldn’t call the hotel a compelling labyrinth to explore, either, given the absence of surprises ‒ that includes multiple areas that remain locked until you obtain one keycard that fits all.
It’s for those reasons that ‒ despite the endless chatter about Jordan’s upbringing and lack of murder trial ‒ Bangkok feels less rife with life than Hitman’s original training mission. Everyone appears to be on break during Agent 47’s visit. Players might stumble across people sharing a leisurely smoke in a garden shed, security guards discussing Jordan’s tendency to kill again, or bellhops watching over a client as he meditates. It makes nabbing a proper disguise that much harder and unrewarding when NPCs are content to stand by with their arms crossed.
Hitman still triumphs on the gameplay front, but because of the lethargy that courses through episode four, some defects stick out even more. Shutting doors causes the audio to stutter if a character’s currently speaking (it can randomly happen during fleeting conversations, too), and hearing baritone sentences coming from a maid’s mouth resulted in a spit-take.
The woman spotted me as I poached a keycard, yet it’s the only time I noticed a character not gossiping about Hannah’s homicide or Jordan’s subsequent acquittal. These conversations iron out the backstory of an NPC that appears skin deep, a twenty-something singer that grumbles about the wrong bottled water in his apartment. Is there more to Jordan, or is he the coddled braggart that people always assumed? Even if Jordan behaves like a snob in front of the mic, someone that’s capable of regret is a more enticing figure than a sociopathic meat suit.
That’s not an insult against Agent 47 ‒ he gets paid for his work. But I had trouble finding the enjoyment in an episode that’s too akin to its predecessors. It’s like Paris with a few extra floors and half the fun. Even with Io Interactive’s attempts to make me question 47’s actions, déjà vu sinks in too soon. While the sunset’s lighting dyed the Himmapan in comforting autumn hues, I noticed Bangkok’s temples on the horizon. For just a moment, I wondered how remarkable their marble towers would look in the Hitman engine instead. We’ll probably never know.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided.
In its fourth episode, Hitman takes a step back from global conspiracies to examine the morally gray profession of contract killing. It’s the déjà vu of another extravagant mansion, however, that made me consider Agent 47’s potential career changes.