Hitman: Episode 2 – Sapienza Review + Episode 3 – Marrakesh Review

“Vacation Cut Short”

Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: April 26, 2016
Copy purchased

When IO Interactive dropped the first in a series of six episodes set to be released over the course of the year, Agent 47 made his long awaited return to form with the well-crafted, Hitman – Intro Pack. The follow-up, Sapienza, is a fantastic continuation of the promising ground work laid in the opening episode. Coming with a staggering array of creative gameplay versatility, the second episode of Hitman embraces a diverse and sprawling location to eliminate your targets within. After multiple playthroughs of the solo main mission available in the next chapter of the new take on Hitman, I was still finding new and elaborate ways to check off the primary objectives. Some off-putting voice acting and passable, but largely incompetent AI, lessen the otherwise sleekly designed quality of the episode, but it wasn’t enough to completely pull me out of the experience. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with the atmosphere of the oceanside vacation destination of Sapienza, eager to uncover its secrets and rid my targets. The second episode of the globetrotting interpretation of the iconic assassin is one confident step closer to making Hitman feel complete.Hitman Episode 2 – Sapienza (Braxton Haugen) 1The residents and idyllic vacationers roaming the quaint town of Sapienza were oblivious to the chaos that was about to ensue. For all they knew it was just another blissful day to spend soaking up the sun on the beach, but for Agent 47, blending in on a bench adjacent to the mansion where his two targets were moseying around, his work day was about to begin. Rather than initially infiltrating the compound of sorts, I spent a good chunk of time simply wondering about the town, itself. As I did, multiple opportunities to act upon revealed themselves. From slipping into the heavily guarded location as a flower delivery employee, or a newly hired kitchen worker, Sapienza is brimming with options to make your way behind closed doors. 47’s mission is to kill two targets, Silvia Caruso, an extremely wealthy, yet unhinged bioengineer, and Francesca De Santos, Caruso’s Head of Laboratory. The two individuals are members of the Ether Biotech Corporation, currently working on the development of a prototype for a deadly virus which can target certain people based on DNA. On top of shedding blood, 47 is tasked with destroying the deadly virus heavily fortified away within the experimental bio’ lab. It’s a complex and well-paced set of objectives that allow ample room for each to breath, culminating to form a cohesive and satisfying mission abroad.

Tight controls and refined mechanics shine while sneaking about Sapienza, with both stealthy and manic approaches working well under the gameplay parameters. In contrast to the concrete act of gallivanting about the sunlit courtyards and intricately designed interiors, questionable behavior is displayed by Hitman’s less than stellar NPCs. After spending a few hours within the walls of the mansion and on the solidly populated streets, the pattern of both your targets and other AI become quite apparent. When the pre-programmed nature of their behavior begins to show itself, it effectively removes the unexpectedness from the experience on a larger scale. Depending on how you conduct your mission, each attempt comes with its vivid differences, but in terms of where you’ll find Silvia Caruso and Francesca De Santos, Hitman takes on more of a one-note quality. This realization doesn’t hit for a while, but when it does, it undoubtedly removes a little of the motivation to replay the main mission for the sixth or seventh time. Returning in the second episode are Contracts and Escalation missions, intended to hold your interest once having burned out on the main event. Unfortunately, substance is lacking in these secondary offerings. Suffering from repetitive and unoptimized design that struggles to smartly weave objectives together, Sapienza’s additional missions are nothing of notability.Hitman Episode 2 – Sapienza (Braxton Haugen) 2ConclusionIO Interactive’s vision for this chapter within Agent 47’s chronicle of assassinations is ambitious and forward-thinking in many respects. From a design perspective, Sapienza is a marvelous playground to carry out your contracts in numerous, creative ways. However, beneath the enjoyment of the moment to moment gameplay, there’s a substantial problem holding back this iteration of Hitman from the greatness it’s striving to reach. The culprit is the distribution model of the episode – an issue that goes far deeper than my concerns with the eventually predictable AI. Broken up and released under this formula not only makes each episode feel severely incomplete, but effectively halts the momentum the episode builds toward. Down the road, when fully complete, I’m sure this conundrum will all but solve itself, yet as it stands now, Hitman is still proving itself.

Connect with me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on Hitman: Episode 2 – Sapienza. Find me @BraxHaugen.


7.5

Episode 3 – Marrakesh ReviewHITMAN Episode 3 - Marrakesh (Braxton Haugen)“Opening Wounds”

Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: May 31, 2016
Copy purchased

Note: Apologies for the brief nature of this review. E3 has been an absolute whirlwind and I haven’t found the time to write a proper review for HITMAN: Episode 3 – Marrakesh. That said, I wanted to get my thoughts up before the fourth episode dropped. Until then, here’s my take on the next installment in Hitman season one.

Coming off the well-orchestrated second episode of IO Interactive’s episodic imagining of Hitman, the third episode set in Marrakesh, feels under cooked and unimaginative when standing next to its promising predecessors. Following an exciting mission briefing tasking Agent 47 with eliminating two high-profile targets in the midst of mounting protests and political tension, Marrakesh falls into a slump it never quite recovers from. Once again, this episode reiterates that due to its distribution model, its respective flaws are heightened. Perhaps if tucked away within a collection of episodes akin to the first two in regards to quality, Marrakesh’s shortcomings wouldn’t be as harmful as they currently are. While disappointing in many respects, Hitman’s third episode still manages to embrace variety and freedom of approach. There are multiple pathways and methods to freely experiment with, but they’re simply not as exciting as in episodes past. Marrakesh is the least compelling of the episodes to release thus far, acting as what is hopefully the last low point this season. As it stands, Hitman still retains the potential to be one of the stronger experiences this year if everything comes together. As long as Marrakesh simply acts as an underwhelming, unrewarding bump in the road, rather than a newfound routine, Hitman’s future shouldn’t be cause for too much concern. At least not yet.

Connect with me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on HITMAN: Episode 3 – Marrakesh. Find me @BraxHaugen.


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Braxton Haugen Written by:

Greetings friends! Welcome to my website. My name is Braxton Haugen. I’ve spent the last 4 years creating videos, writing, and podcasting about video games and culture. My goal as a creator is to give viewers a personal, substantive perspective on the gaming industry and beyond.