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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Hitman.

TranscriptEdit

It continues to be catchups month, that magical time of year when the extremely sick and bloated games industry pauses between massive heaves of pukes that we could pick through some half-digested carrots and try to figure out what's wrong with the malingering bastard this time. To that end, let's take a look at a game that first appeared last March but took the rest of the year to gradually squeeze itself out like a life-threatening bout of constipation.

Hitman, the whhthhthhh- fifth or sixth game in the life of Mr. Hitman, master assassin, cold in both emotional and literal sense whenever he goes outside without a bobble hat. Not that you know that this is the sixth or probably seventh Hitman game from the title which has gone along with the industry trend of antagonizing all the world's filing systems. What, was every other Hitman game just pissing about up to now?

Well, that might not be far from the intended message. The goal of Hitman 2016 seems to have been to create a modular platform for Hitman gameplay into which new levels can be inserted in my fly (sorry, I meant on-the-fly. Get your hands off me!) The game's six missions were sold episodically for ten bucks a piece more or less a month apart - a rather clever way to disguise the fact that your full-priced game isn't very long. I use the same technique in my lovemaking; between every thrust I bolt from the house and book a caravanning weekend in Castle Douglas.

But I feel this is an ill-advised route for AAA games. First impressions count for a lot and my first impression with Hitman back in March was an hour of gameplay followed by getting smashed in the face by a big stop sign telling me to come back in a month. With so many other games fighting for our eyeballs over the course of the year, interest in Hitman would inevitably suffer more diminishing returns than a financially stricken branch of Blockbuster Video.

I only recently downloaded all the subsequent episodes to play in one big block because I'm a hardcore gamer with no social life and two legs atrophied downed to knobs like giant chicken nuggets, but after spending six episodes building up a mildly intriguing background conspiracy, the series explosively climaxes by waddling a hand and going "...yyyeah, this will probably be important in season 2. Now go back to sleep."

But on the plus side, this is the quintessential Hitman experience. You play a grumpy man who is commonly mistaken for a packet of Birds Eye frozen cod fillets right down to the supermarket bar code, traveling to a number of glamourous locales represented by huge contained sandboxes sprawling with little nooks and crannies, tools and people with remarkably loose grips on their trousers. You're given a couple of assassination targets and away you go. Maybe you'll sneak off to a quite little rooftop and wait for the perfect opportunity to install a top-of-the-line new ventilation system in in the side of their fucking head. Maybe you'll engineer some terribly clever accident involving a chandelier, a recently mopped kitchen floor and a poorly supervised circus tiger, or maybe you'll just punt a brick at your victim's skull, then leg it for the exit while hooting like Daffy Duck. It's up to you!

So far so Blood Money, but what Hitman 2016 introduces is much bigger emphasis on the opportunities it set up for you. Every now and again you'll overhear two civvies say something like "Hey, that bloke in the penthouse suite with big target painted on his face sure loves to drink out of a water bottle with skull and crossbones logo." "Really? That would be jolly easy to swap with poison if one happened to be an assassin." YES IT FUCKING WOULD! Speak up a little. I can't hear you over our waiter being strangled by a giant packet of frozen cod fillets. And then the fucking breadcrumb trail appears on the map guiding you first to a bottle of poison and then to a point where you can dress up in the uniform of a mysterious bottle salesman, then to the target, and then to a convenient local restaurant for the celebratory dinner that strikes the right balance between representing the local culture without being too touristy.

I'm really torn about this 'coz while this does make getting the fancy kills almost insultingly easy, on the other hand Hitman is the kind of game where I have to hit quicksave the way the talent agent from The Aristocrats joke hits the call security button on his phone, because every single mistake you make in Hitman inevitably sets off one of those cockup cascades I've talking about. It starts with you trying to knock out a guard without noticing he had a friend watching you in the reflection off a shiny bellend, then a bunch of guards come over so you knock all of them out but then a civilian who's supposed to escort the icecream man to the birthday party or indeed any armed psychopath who happens to be dressed like one, gets freaked out by the 9 unconscious guards in varying states of undress and you lose the opportunity, and the cockups just escalate and escalate until you give up and reload.

Next time it goes great until someone unexpectedly walks in while you were pulling the unconscious icecream man's trousers down and gets the wrong idea, and you have to go along with it, make the icecream man's parents get a civil partnership, go on a magical honeymoon to the Seychelles, and all the time the game's going "There goes the no kills bonus, and the no bodies found bonus, and the never spotted bonus, and the never accidentally got stuck in a loveless marriage bonus." So getting your hand held throughout the assassination opportunities does remove a lot of that frustration even if succeeding doesn't feel an ounce as satisfying it when you had to figure all this out for yourself.

But hey, you can still get that feeling if you ignore the signpost opportunities and make up your own. Sniping's a good one. Find a nice quiet vantage spot, explode the target's shoulder grapefruit, and throw the rifle away before bodyguards burst in to investigate the shot and go "Damn! Must have just missed him. There's nobody here but a huge, ugly grimacing French chambermaid smelling faintly of cordite."

Mind you, sandbox is a big word, and the maps in Hitman are slaves to the contextual button prompt. The difference between a ledge you can climb on and a perfectly vestigial dado rail is information exclusive to Mr. 47's lovingly shaved noggin. So you do get funneled down specific routes a lot. The game does give you more awards for taking the opportunities it sets up. In fact, it gives you rewards for a lot of things: for killing the target with a headshot, with an accident, with drowning, for putting on all the suits, for putting on no suits, or for putting on the just right amount of suits. There's also countless alternative targets for each map and more besides from the user-designed missions.

Clearly the game was hoping to generate enough gameplay with each maps to tide us over for a month. What a lovely dream, Square Enix. I dream one day of fitting an entire Toblerone in my mouth and everyone tells me that's not very realistic either.

Pretty as your maps are, I get sick to death of playing them over and over again just to fill out a checklist without story context. And it wasn't even a good story. It's a dimestore thriller with half the pages missing. All you're offering is scavenger hunts, and I got sick of those a long time ago when my uncle used to make me play 'Guess where I put my fun-sized Twix.'

Addenda Edit

  • All the hits that are fit to play: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • Google indicates there are indeed many commercial water bottles with skull and crossbones logos so there's a hot tip for all the easy targets out there
  • 'Cock-up Cascade' was my second least favourite game of my uncle's

ScreenshotsEdit

Hitman2016 1

Come back in a month

Hitman2016 2

Much bigger emphasis on the opportunities it sets up for you

Hitman2016 3

Cock-up cascade

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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