Hitman 2

Paris is immersive and detailed in a way that most other maps never achieved.

Hitman5 - Paris is immersive and detailed in a way that most other maps never achieved.
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I've been planning to post something like this for a while, but now that everyone's talking about Paris because of … reasons, I guess now's a good time. Having not played it in a long while leading up to Hitman 3, I always remembered it as a serviceable map which was a fantastic opener, but nothing too special in hindsight. However, after replaying it and doing all the challenges again after the Hitman 3 maps, I feel that it, along with Miami, were the closest in creating the most believable and immersive world in terms of atmosphere and NPCs.

Similar to Miami, the entire level revolves around one singular event – and every aspect of the level is designed to remind you of that. The booming of the music heard throughout the palace which rumbles throughout the basement, and the minor NPCs, such as the stylist planning to steal a dress and the waitress crying in the locker room, all serve to help create the feeling that you're not the most important thing in the level. The stage itself is especially impactful in this regard – when you initially enter the room, all the NPCs are scattered and talk amongst themselves. The moment the music and fashion show starts, every single person turns towards the catwalks and starts clapping and taking pictures of the models. As the center of the palace, the stage is very prominent throughout the level, such as through the open hallways above and the window in Dalia's office which overlooks the area. My favorite little detail is how a curious guard in the attic will lean through the window to look down below. More than most levels, it feels the NPCs here are actually invested in something greater than you. Compare this to, say, Sapienza, where most people just seem to mill around with no goal in mind.

The stylist room is absolutely fascinating to observe. One thing I felt the trilogy always struggled with was trying to realistically show people engaged in something without it seeming robotic or coming across as a caricature. This one room, however, is packed with people simultaneously performing a dozen different animations doing a dozen different things – moving around, getting makeup done, rifling through costumes. When I entered this room I spent a long while just watching everyone go about their business and taking in the detail. The environment itself is also detailed to an absurd degree. There's no reason they had to make it set at a museum – but they did, and in doing so packed entire rooms with paintings and objects that the game never calls attention to and the average player barely notices, but still create the sense of a real, lived-in space.

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Paris has a ton of NPCs that follow a strict schedule. For example, once the fashion show ends, all the models and stylists will come pouring outside and Novikov's loop changes slightly. Meanwhile, back when Mission Stories were called Opportunities, Paris truly took advantage of the name, giving players a hidden time limit to disguise as Helmut Kruger or the sheik, or to kill Novikov on stage, an aspect that was greatly reduced after this level and almost completely eliminated from Hitman 2 onwards. While it's understandable why they chose to focus away from this, it truly gave the player the feeling of interrupting a part of the world for their own advantage, while most other mission stories feel rigid and expressly built for the player.

Novikov's loop is more dynamic than the average Hitman target, having several automatic interactions and phone calls which pull him away into the grand hall, outside of the hall, and into the east garden. And finally, the level provides several assassination opportunities far less neat and more natural than the established formula of "meet the target alone, kill them and hide their body." For example, killing Novikov outside while everyone is distracted with fireworks, or using the sheik disguise/laptop dongle to bring Dalia to the auction office, a cramped room with transparent doors and windows and no hiding spots. Though not spectacular kills, these kills feel far more vulnerable and less gamified than elsewhere in the series.

Now, having said all this, I do think that Paris is a great map, but it's far from my favorite, as I feel it's outclassed by the later levels in terms of level design and assassinations (my personal favorites are Hokkaido, Miami, and Mumbai). However, revisiting all this was a pleasant surprise and my opinion of Paris definitely rose, and I do think it has something to offer that other levels don't.

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