Hitman is in an odd position right now. IO Interactive’s reboot is a technical masterpiece, returning Agent 47 back to his roots in a manner that should satisfy anyone who enjoyed the Absolution romp or refuses to stop clutching their case of Blood Money and bemoaning the state of the franchise today. It’s seriously good stuff, as Agent 47’s latest adventures feel like a proper sandbox of murder, intrigue and challenges.
But not everyone is biting. The whole episodic hook hasn’t won that many fans over, as most fans are biding their time until January (Spoiler: There probably will be a delay on this one) instead of participating in regular releases of content. And that’s a shame. The first proper episode of Hitman, the Paris Showstopper mission, hit all the nails on all of the heads.
A large level, two targets and at least a dozen methods available within which players could carry out their contracts through to its bloody conclusion. That was a damn fine show. Thing is, the Sapienza mission isn’t just better, it’s one of the best Hitman levels ever created.
Once again, you’ve got a pair of targets to focus on: Eccentric bioweapons expert and culinary dick Silvio Caruso is one of your first targets, while Francesca DeSantis’ neck is just waiting to have the life strangled out of it. The catch here is that the mission also requires you to kill something even smaller, a deadly virus that the pair have been working on that could put the whole assassination industry out of business. And we can’t have that, now can we?
Sapienza itself is another wonderful character, a seaside setting that houses homes, bioweapon labs and ice cream shops. It’s also far more open, inviting exploration far more than the tight corridors of the Paris Showstopper event did as the omniscient security of that first mission is replaced with relaxed bodyguards who aren’t expecting that bald chap with a trendy barcode tattoo to get up to any nonsense around them.
And therein lies the fun.
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women of Sapienza are merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, routines and habits to prey on. Maybe it’s a detective who is blissfully asleep, a spaced out kitchen hand or household cleaners who are spilling secrets. It’s that bit of attention to detail, which makes the various opportunities to snuff your target out that much more gruesomely satisfying.
Sapienza is littered with hazard and opportunities to pounce on your target. Tried and trusted methods such as a bullet to the head or some wire around the throat are always acceptable, but the real joy comes from experimentation. Replacing a golf ball with an explosive one as Caruso prepares for his daily lesson. Preying on his rampant mental problems and convincing him that the ghost of his mother is haunting him. Hell, you can even make him a pasta dish to die for. And by that, I mean that I Sparta-kicked his ass off a cliffside as he was vomiting his lunch out.
And this is why Sapienza is such an achievement in the history of Hitman. It’s not just murder for the sake of it. Every possible opportunity is carefully calculated with maniacal glee, exploiting fears and weaknesses in a manner that only this franchise is capable of, to deadly effect. Sapienza distills the entire Hitman experience down to one homicidal happy level, resulting in some fatal fun in the sun.