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You’re a waiter. A masseuse. A five-star army general. You’re any one of a hundred deliciously different disguises at any given time, moving your way through a world that is surprisingly wary of anything out of the ordinary and more than willing to react with extreme prejudice should you step out of line and break character. You’re a master of disguise, weaving your way through targets and administering a lethal comeuppance to the mark that you’ve been paid to remove from the mortal coil.
In other words, you’re a Hitman.
Not just any Hitman mind you, but possibly the best assassin that has ever plied his trade across the globe, as IO Interactive’s glorious talent for triple-decker sandbox subterfuge was in full swing with a soft reboot of their trademark franchise in 2016 and once again in 2018. It may feel like a cheat to mention a game that pushed F5 on its formula and then proceeded to heighten the experience even further in its first true sequel, but considering just how intrinsically tied the two are to each other (like wonderfully gooey mozzarella cheese and salami), it feels only natural to consider the Hitman games of the latter 2010s as the best in the entire franchise.
A hell of a milestone, and one that came out fighting after the disastrous response to Hitman: Absolution. Granted, Absolution’s saving grace was that it tried to be different from everything else that had come before it, but at the expense of it shifting away from karmic comeuppance machine to stealth with more bullets. Fans wanted a proper return to form for Agent 47’s next outing, and they got all that and more when IO Interactive arrived with a bold new plan to introduce some saucy new mechanics.
Even if it did almost kill it entirely.
With video games moving towards a digital download format slowly but surely, Hitman was proof that the very idea of games arriving one slice of pizza at a time could make for a satisfying meal if they had plenty of toppings to experience. Hitman did all that and more, creating elaborately scrumptious sandboxes that were bookended by all manner of extra challenges, secrets and community creation sauce.
This is where some of the finest levels in all of Hitman’s history could be found, gargantuan-sized deep-dish spectacles of witnesses crowding around your target and forcing players to get creative as they looked for the perfect moment in which to hatch a scheme. This model of distribution…didn’t exactly work, forcing IO Interactive back to the drawing board, almost dying in the process when Square Enix dumped them like a flippant lover and eventually saw the studio strike a deal with Warner Bros. as they got to work on Hitman 2.
What followed from that point on, was as pure to perfection as a Debonairs pizza is to ridiculously affordable at only R149.90 with free delivery. Here was IO’s new tasty Hitman formula, fine-tuned and stripped of anything non-essential while new features were added to 47 and his world. Wanted a deeper story that actually started moving the pieces that were set up on the checkboard? Check! Wanted a more cunning artificial intelligence whose reactions had a more subtle cleverness to 47’s meddling? Check! Bigger sandboxes, more challenges and even more gorgeous visuals? Like kitchen staff giving your pizza dish a triple-over before sending it out, check one two three.
That all of these improvements came on top of an already addictively satisfying game of assuming the role of the most dangerous human chameleon in existence and tied it into the first game, is nothing short of phenomenal. Agent 47’s return to the main event stage was one of dark humour, inventive murder and intricate clockwork mechanisms within multiple sandbox environments that all combined into one endlessly satisfying hunger buster.
Hitman came with a whisper and left with a mystery as IO Interactive got to work on the third chapter, cementing itself as one of the very best games of the 2010s. Much like its lead character, it did so by learning from past failures and struck back with everyone else who passed off on trying out this masterpiece, being none the wiser to the hours of flavour-packed entertainment that it wrapped around our necks like the finest piano wire in existence.
Last Updated: February 17, 2020