Go Hitman, go!
Agent 47’s bald head has gone around the world and still never caught enough sun to tan, but maybe it’s because he keeps plenty of SPF 30, matches his attire to the environment, and always leaves a party early. Still, Square Enix has taken a huge leap in bringing the renowned Hitman franchise off of console and PC and onto mobile in Hitman GO, shrinking the sandbox gameplay in favor of puzzling strategy.
Where previously you would holster your weapons to sneak through a party or disguise yourself in a waiter’s uniform to gain access to the sharp kitchen utensils, Hitman GO has players swiping left and right in an effort to navigate set paths around enemies to the target. While this gameplay might totally belie your perception of the esteemed Agent 47, you might find something to love in the intricately designed levels.
As Agent 47 moves from level to level, he’ll pick up objects to throw to distract enemies, wipe out several henchmen at once, and also run a perfect stealth path with no kills if you’re dedicated enough to discover that solution. The beginning of the game somewhat brainlessly teases you through the basest of mechanics in an effort to re-teach what Hitman fans have already come to know and love: the best solution is the cleanest one. Unfortunately, not every mission allows for that perfectly silent but deadly approach and that’s where my Hitman GO experience falters.
Each challenge offers you three different mission parameters to complete, not unlike Angry Birds and other popular mobile games. However, at times it seemed like you couldn’t actually complete all three as certain objectives conflicted with others. Reaching a target point within a certain number of moves might seem easy, but then longtime Hitman fans will want to achieve a flawless run and completing the first objective might interfere with a no-kills objective you’ve also been trying to solve.
More often than not, you’ll have to replay levels to achieve everything and at some point I got so frustrated trying to earn three agency stamps in one go that I had to put the game down and walk away. In moving to the strategy genre, something of Hitman has been abandoned and replaced with portability and an almost cutesy veneer that clashes with the soundtrack and any previous experience you’ve had with the brand before its debut on iOS.
That doesn’t necessarily ruin it as a strategy game. There are dozens of levels, each progressing in difficulty and complexity which provides a satisfying rise in conflict both for players on the can and those who might enjoy sitting on the couch with their iPad enjoying a dedicated touchscreen experience. This won't necessarily turn longtime Hitman fans away, but know that you’ll be playing a decidedly different game by making the move to iOS. I don’t care how much the contract is worth.
When all is said and done, hardcore gamers don’t have much to get excited about on mobile platforms and at times seem to be in direct odds with the devices that brought the medium to millions who previously judged our favorite hobby. Agent 47 might have shed a few layers of decidedly hardcore mechanics and that leaves Hitman GO feeling a little misplaced. I would have happily taken this strategy game without Ave Maria or the silverballer Agent 47 hides behind his back, as this title’s challenge can stand on its own.