Platforms: PC, PS4 and Vita
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Square Enix Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Review code provided free of charge by the publisher.
Mobile ports typically make Steam users sigh in disguist, their existence viewed as little more than a cheap cash grab by a company attempting to squeeze as much as possible out of a game that was never designed to exist on PC in the first place. Occasionally, though, a game comes along that feels like it was worth actually porting over. They are rare, but they do exist, such as Plague Inc. which finally made it out of early access just last week and continues to prove that Greenland is totally the place to hideout in the event of a global pandemic. Now it’s the turn of Hitman GO, a puzzle game which received a lot of positive feedback on mobile. Now, however, it’s in the big leagues, competing with thousands of games on Steam that were built for PC. Is it worth your time?
But first let’s talk about how strange this whole thing is. This is a port of a mobile game based on a series of games for console and PC, made out to look like a board game, including each different area being represented as a box. Confusing? Yeah. Confusion aside, however, this is a puzzle game at its heart that has been strangely wrapped in the Hitman license, enveloped in Agent 47’s perfectly tailored suit. I suppose you could argue that a board game almost represents the cold, calculating way that the implacable Agent 47 views his missions, a series of moves that must be considered carefully before being perfectly executed. Still, it’s a very strange decision, one that reeks of a company attempting to milk some extra cash from a famous license, a strategy that already worked for Tomb Raider GO, which actually turned out to be pretty good. In reality this game doesn’t need it, though. It can stand on its own two feet, a fine creation in its own right, the Hitman name neither improving nor hampering the quality of the gameplay. But if nothing else that Hitman name will attract attention, and ultimately that’s what Square Enix wanted.
The control system, and therefore the entire game, is easy to understand; you click and drag Agent 47 from space to space on the board, seeking to either make it to the marked finish space or eliminate the target. That’s it. Easy. But from that stems a compelling puzzle game that steadily builds up a roster of enemy types and special spaces to make each level a fascinating riddle. It’s never a hard game, with no level usually taking more than a few minutes to figure out, but it’s hard to care when it’s so satisfying well put together. What’s more there’s no text tutorials or any of that nonsense here, instead you learn by trying to play the game. At first you encounter a simple enemy who stands still. Move into a space directly in front of where an enemy is facing and you’ll be killed. Or taken. Or captured, as in Chess. Honestly I’m not sure which word best fits this odd hybrid, but back on track. Move onto their space from the side or behind and Agent 47 will eliminate the threat with extreme prejudice, or as extreme as you can get when using playing pieces. So far so easy. Next you encounter an enemy who simply moves back and forth in straight lines, one space for every move you make, thus creating basic patrols. Later on things become a tad more complex; some enemies spin on the spot, and some pieces have two characters, one facing each direction. Maybe you’ll run into snipers who can have their line of sight blocked by an enemy playing piece, or a soldier who marches around in squares. The key to everything is that you have to move each turn. You can’t stand still, and thus everything is in near constant motion, ever move you make altering the board in predictable ways.
On top of this there are special spaces that can be activated by stepping on them. Trap doors let you move across the map in a single move, and can be used to take out any enemies standing on the opposite door, while a sniper rifle give you the opportunity shoot at specific spots, even allowing the killing of multiple playing pieces with a single bullet if they in the same area. Meanwhile the dual pistols make Agent 47 spin around, gunning down nearby targets. Stones, cans and other things can be picked up and tossed at specific locations, drawing the attention of nearby foes and potentially opening up a route for you. There are even disguises that let you wander past certain characters without drawing attention, a classic Hitman move.
With these mechanics in place bite-sized levels are built that revolve around movement and careful timing. You might need to move back and forth a few times in order to get through a gap in the patrol, and then grab a disguise to sneak through here, and then use the sniper rifle to make a gap there, and then take out that guard, and then move here and here and here to avoid him and him and him and crap where did that guardcomefromohgoddamnIdickedthisup. You’ll lead police dogs on merry chases, distract who groups of enemies with a rock and even shoot the leg of a statue so that it topples and blocks a sniper’s line of sight. It’s so simple, so easy to learn and so very, very addictive. Everything moves at a fast clip, too. Sure, you can sit and work out every move from the very beginning, but it’s more fun to work on the fly, reacting to each thing as it comes along. Very fast reloads mean you’re never left waiting for more than about two seconds after a failure, letting you leap straight into the action again. It’s easy to find yourself saying, “just one more level”, though it’s also a game where it loses its appeal after 15-30 minutes. In other words, it’s a light game meant to be played in spurts.
It slowly builds and builds at an expertly judged pace, ensuring that by time you reach the final levels a few hours after beginning it’s still not particularly hard but victory always feels like it was earned. The enemy mixture becomes more varied and challenging, throwing things like dogs at you that will catch your scene from a few spaces away and then follow your scene around the board, making it impossible to backtrack even a single space. As you move through the levels all these various types of enemy combine with the many items, leaving you to find the predetermined route to success. Compared to the normal Hitman games this relative lack of freedom is almost annoying, but given the nature of the game it’s perfectly acceptable. It’s a riddle, and you just need to find the answer to it.
Extra challenge comes from each level having two bonus objectives aside from the primary one of eliminating the target or making it to the end of the level, most of them mutually exclusive. You might have to snag a briefcase, for example, but that means you won’t be able to complete the level in X amount of turns or less. You might have to kill everyone, or kill nobody at all, or kill no dogs. These bonus objectives are important because to unlock later areas you need to have a certain amount of points, although you can make it through almost the entire game without really having to chase down those extra objectives too hard.
Thematically it’s an interesting game to talk about. Really it doesn’t need the Hitman theme attached to it, but at least it makes an effort to tie in neatly with the use of things like sniper rifles and the classic dual pistols. Even then, though, the Hitman license in no way actually improves the game. Strip it away and you’d still have a very well put together puzzler that would not feel any less impressive for the lack of a bald guy in a suit.
As for the differences between the mobile version and the Definitive Edition, they aren’t huge. Naturally the graphics have been improved, but it’s still a very basic looking game. All microtransactions have been removed in a very smart decision that will ensure Square Enix don’t get their door kicked down by irate gamers brandishing painful looking implements, plus all the content that could be gained via microtransactions has been added into the game, meaning we get two extra areas based around past Hitman titles. Finally the hint system, which was also a microtransaction originally, has been worked into the game in case you really do get stuck, although using it means you can’t unlock a certain achievement.
Visually the game is simple but actually surprisingly pretty. Setup like a boardgame Agent 47 and the enemies he faces are presented as playing pieces, while the audio neatly replicates the sound of said pieces being moved around a board and toppled over. If you stop and actually look you’ll quickly note the rough edges which indicate a mobile game that’s had its resolution increased and little else, but I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed the game’s clean visual style. It’s simple with vibrant splashes of color, backed by a soothing if repetitive soundtrack that occasionally bursts into Ava Marie for assassination levels.
If I had one actual complaint about the game it’s the control system. Yup, I’m getting petty here; why sliding? Surely clicking on the space I want Agent 47 to move to would make vastly more sense. It’s hardly much of a criticism, though, but does serve as a very obvious nod to the game’s mobile origins.
Hitman GO The Definitive Edition was a genuinely pleasant surprise from start to finish, a mobile port that turned out to be worth the effort of bringing it to the PC gaming crowd. It’s use of the Hitman theme seems somewhat redundant, but it doesn’t harm the game either and does, I suppose, at least serve to draw in a crowd of potential players that might otherwise have ignored it. And it does deserve a crowd; it’s a seriously compelling puzzle game that manages to straddle the line between satisfying to complete without actually being very difficult. As the layouts and enemy mixtures become more complex discovering the solution grows ever more rewarding, but you’ll never find yourself stuck for too long, making it absolutely perfect for a quick session of relaxed play.