There’s been a thin thread connecting all of the Hitman episodes this year, but for the most part they’ve been standalone experiences. Episodes where terrible people meet terrible ends. Episode 5: Colorado doesn’t veer too far off from that idea, but it does finally have a narrative pay-off as the dominoes fall into place. It’s also the purest example of Hitman so far, a challenging new level that builds fully on the experiences learnt so far and the ability to recognise certain patterns in your environment.
Or to put it in more simple terms, developer IO Interactive isn’t messing around with this level.
Colorado is one of the more sparsely populated levels on offer this year, a decision that does this locale some big favours. While areas such as the Paris Showstopper level and Marrakesh’s Gilded Cage stage were crammed to the breaking point with pedestrians, Colorado scales that back significantly. It’s still impressive to see the game running at a deliciously higher frame-rate, while beams of sunlight pierce an overcast sky and locals who look like they’d vote for a racist businessman in a presidential election go about their merry way.
Hitman this year has been more than just a game. Its been a platform, an experience where repetition is the key to survival. Learning to observe, to take notice of your place in any environment at any given time are just one of several keys to success. It’s a lesson that was taught the hard way, and the Colorado map isn’t holding back.
The difficulty here is reminiscent of some of Hitman’s other finest outings, such as the Deadly Cargo level from Contracts or Absolution’s showdown in the town of Hope. Everyone is a threat here, and to make matters even more complex you have to juggle not one or two but an entire four marks on your list. And that’s before you can even engage in some espionage that takes the Hitman story further down the rabbit hole.
As usual, Hitman delights in some macabre assassinations for your targets. Playing on OCD, drowning a victim in slurry and making certain that answering an email turns into an explosive reply for example. Episode 5 doesn’t feel as if it has as many opportunities as you’d find in previous episodes, but the chance to create your own kills that aren’t listed on the map are plainly evident for anyone familiar with certain patterns this season.
Where this episode does succeed however, is with a sly touch on the system of using disguises to your advantage. The militia of Colorado may be united in their attempt to trim the US political system down, but they’re not exactly on equal footing with each other. Not every disguise in Hitman is created equal, an idea that really comes to the fore here as players need to focus on switching out their new identities at a constant pace.
And when you’ve got four targets and a farmyard of armed anarchists around you, that makes for a tense experience. And that sums up Hitman Episode 5: Colorado perfectly. In an attempt to stay even truer to its roots, IO Interactive have managed to avoid falling too far towards formulaic territory with a level that’ll push fans to their limits with the purest Hitman level produced thus far.
Also, you can 3D print a face for reasons, and that’s just unexpectedly fantastic.