I haven't gotten a chance to pick up and play Hitman 3 yet, but Hitman 2 was one of my favorite games of the generation. I know when the first one of the trilogy came out in 2016, a lot of people were peeved that it was released episodically over a period of months. But honestly, if any game were to be released this way, I think it should be Hitman. The levels offer so much replay value, and I think the ways in which the different game modes allow you to play the game differently often goes underappreciated, so I just wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. (These thoughts can probably be applied to all games in the new trilogy, I just decided to put Hitman 2 in the title with it being the last one I played)
The Normal Levels (The Training)
When starting the game, most people will typically play through the main story missions first. The missions usually have a handful of targets that you need to eliminate, as well as an occasional side objective. At this point, you are thrust into unknown territory: You don't know how to get to your targets, you don't know which areas are forbidden to you, etc. Most of the time, you won't get a perfect run on your first attempt. You'll get spotted by a guard when dragging away a body, or you'll accidentally poison a civilian when you intended for your target to take it. But with each subsequent playthrough, you'll begin to learn things. You'll know where to delete security footage at, you'll find a wrench that you could use at the other end of the map to loosen a pipe, and so on. I've seen this described in other posts as a method to emulate the skill of a professional assassin. In other words, you as the player are not as skilled as Agent 47 himself, but after playing through the level multiple ways (and since there are numerous ways to kill your targets, the game encourages this), you know the layout of the map like the back of your hand. Almost as though your previous sloppy runs were just scenarios playing through 47's mind as he considers the perfect way to kill a target.
Elusive Targets (The Test of Perfection)
Whereas playing through the missions regularly allow the usual gamey features of reloading a save after screwing up horrendously, Elusive Target missions scrap these and force you to stay on your toes. For those unaware, these missions take place in the same levels as before, but with a brand new target. The biggest caveat here is that you only get one shot at the target. So unless you do something like rip the cord out of your console, then if you die, that's it. No chances to reload the save and no chances to start over. Because of this, the tension here is obviously higher, but the game has already trained you for these missions without you necessarily knowing it. From your training in the initial playthroughs, you're able to utilize your knowledge of the map, while also having to pay attention to any additional variables that the target may through at you, like an extra bodyguard following them around.
Escalations & Contracts (The Test of Creativity)
I grouped together these two game modes since they more or less have the same additional gameplay elements. While the elusive targets are challenging due to having to complete them in one go, these game modes add restrictions and qualifications to your assassination work. These factors can range from having to kill someone with a certain disguise, to having to hide all bodies 30 seconds after killing them, to preventing you from pacifying any non-target NPCs. Some of these factors can really force you to think and experiment with the AI and mechanics. For instance, a contract could instruct you to kill a target with an explosion while simultaneously restricting you from harming any civilians. But when you find the target in the level, you might see them in the middle of a crowd of people. How are you supposed to achieve this? Maybe you can do something like pull the fire alarm to evacuate the building, or maybe you can poison their drink and get them to head to the bathroom by themselves. It's really cool to see what challenges other players come up with and sleuth out the solution yourself.
Ghost Mode (The Test of Efficiency)
I believe that this mode is no longer in Hitman 3, and I didn't play it too much in Hitman 2, but the more I thought about it, the more I was impressed with how this mode completely inverts everything you've learned up to this point. All of the other game modes encourage you to take your time, strike at the perfect opportunity, and clean up after yourself. But in this mode, you play online against one other player and eliminate targets within the same map. The first to 5 unnoticed kills wins. Once your opponent kills a target, you will have a window of around 30 seconds to kill yours before getting assigned a new one. And oftentimes, these targets can be in fairly public places. I found myself having to recondition myself and lower the bar for a clean kill. Whereas in the other modes I would try to lure my target into a secluded area, sometimes the best I could muster in this mode was strangling them behind a bush that had a group of 10 people standing on the other side. This gives things a tension similar to the elusive targets, albeit in a different form.
Hitman actually has relatively simple game mechanics, but the ways in which the game encourages you to experiment and explore these mechanics within the levels is really impressive. It's one of the best games I've played recently that feels like a game. There are certainly other games that offer you different ways to play (Dishonored or Deus Ex come to mind), but I feel like Hitman is the best that I've played in recent memory that actively compels me to do so.
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