Marrakesh is not a friendly city. At least, not in the manner in which it is represented within the third episode of Hitman. It’s dirty, hot and filled with merchants who want to sell you rugs as an angry mob gathers outside the Swedish consulate that houses a banker who has managed to steal over $7 billion from the people. There’s a heightened sense of danger in the air, the streets are armed with soldiers and a coup is imminent as the stakes are raised even higher.
And that makes for a grimmer and more grounded Hitman experience.
The beauty of the previous Hitman episodes that were set in France and Italy, is that they were flights of murderous fancy. Assassination simulators where you were targeting Parisian spymasters and biological weapon developers to help make the world a safer place. The stuff of Steven Seagal movie plots and cheap TV series then.
Those episodes also had multiple ways to dispatch your targets that could be described as maniacally macabre. After all, how many games these days allow you to off someone by poisoning his lunch and then Spartan-kicking your mark off of a cliffside as he upchucks his food? Marrakesh isn’t this kind of Hitman episode however. There’re still plenty of opportunities available here, but they’re a lot more brutal and require a certain finesse to properly execute.
Skills which have been honed in the previous two episodes as a game of escalation plays out. There are opportunities here to kill both targets in one gloriously gory fell swoop, or chances to catch them when their guard is completely down. Dark and brutally efficient kills are the hallmark of the Marrakesh episode, a stark departure from Paris and Italy.
But where Hitman’s third episode feels somewhat scaled back in the assassination department, it makes up for it with a thrilling map. On the surface, Marrakesh seems smaller than Sapienza or the Paris Showstopper missions. The markets are filled to breaking point with gormless tourists and vendors who want to convince you that snail meat is a delicacy. There’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre, soldiers are everywhere and most areas are off limits if you’re dressed in your Sunday best.
But once you’ve assumed a few identities, Marrakesh opens up beautifully. Because it’s a level that is all about contrasts.
One of your targets is living a high life in the Swedish consulate, gloating over his success as angry mobs gather below while his partner in crime is waiting for his moment of glory in a bombed out school. It’s the horrors of red tape and bureaucracy, juxtaposed against the African reality of daily coup d’etats that meets in the middle. And on a design level, that’s rather subtly clever.
The biggest disconnect here however, and you’re going to hear a lot of it, is the voice work. Sure, your target speaks in a rich and thick German accent, but every other Marrakesh citizen sounds like they were taught to speak English through Dukes of Hazzard DVDs. The joy of Hitman has always been wandering around a location and listening to side-stories as the natives go along their scripted lives. Hearing said citizens speak with an unmistakeable western accent, is somewhat…odd.
Hitman’s Marrakesh episode isn’t as good as Sapienza. But that doesn’t mean that it’s in any way a bad level. It’s actually pretty damn good, and barring the bizarre dialects, it’s still classic Hitman action as you move from target to target. What Marrakesh is, is a more grounded and direct episode that has no time for distractions. It’s right up there with the standard set by the Paris Showstopper opening level, and it has plenty of high moments spread throughout this more sombre episode.