The end is here. Hitman concludes its rather successful episodic gamble with one of its best missions yet to round things off. If the penultimate Colorado episode was a change of pace for the series, then the finale, set in Japan, is a celebration of everything that worked well about this series and prior to it.
47 travels to Hokkaido, Japan, for his last hit of the season. The targets are an ex-Yakuza lawyer and the man who intends to sell him secrets of 47’s agency. The venue for this double murder is an exclusive private hospital built into the side of a snow-capped mountain where our sneaky secret-leaker is in to have a heart transplant due to a horrible ailment.
That description alone is enough to spark the mind of any budding 47 with deliciously dark thoughts of how to use that surgery to their advantage, and as usual, there’s always a way to involve the most obvious deaths and still provide plenty of murderously madcap alternatives via simple exploration.
But first, a moment to talk about the level design of Hokkaido. There is a small amount of outside areas, but probably the least in the entire series outside the training session. The majority of the map is set within the corridors of this luxurious hospital. There’s an apt blend of clinical, medical coldness and welcoming Japanese hospitality culture to the facility that makes it stand out against the previous locations. There’s more claustrophobia to the level, but it doesn’t deny you opportunities by any means; if anything it’s more inventive than most episodes, and that comes down to both the situation you find yourself in and the manner in which the game spoons out player power.
There are tougher restrictions this time around. You start with zero gadgets because your cover is being a patient at the facility, so there’s no smuggling in your lockpicks, pistols or explosives beforehand. You have to procure any weaponry on site and what is around is limited to utensils and the like mainly, but there are a few ballistic weapons about that are a tad tougher to get a hold of. The upshot of this is that the facility itself is more involved as a murder weapon than the locales that preceded it. Being a glorified private hospital, there’s plenty of instruments of destruction to manipulate your targets with, and the addition of a fancy canteen and mini-hotel add further variety to proceedings.
The security, in human form at least, is fairly lapsed, the majority of the work is done by an A.I. that runs the facility and recognises fleshy folk by chips in their clothing (quite convenient for the world’s most deadly costume-hopper). Being zero-tolerance on anything potentially deadly in the facility results in a slightly less aggressive security force overall, but enough watching eyes are around to make your job a challenge. This dynamic works superbly and manages to make the episode feel both fresh and comfortably familiar in a more balanced way than the majority of this season’s content. The result is an episode full of nu-Hitman confidence and classic Hitman swagger. It’s one hell of a finale to go out on in gameplay terms. In story terms? Well…
If you’re expecting a true resolution to the brief snippets of story we’ve had this season then you may be a little disappointed. What does come up is still rather intriguing setup for the next game, but it feels a touch muted as a finale, more of a stopgap than a conclusion. In fairness to Hitman, the story has taken a backseat to the sumptuous gameplay mechanics over the entire course of the season so it should have been expected. I do believe, however, that next season will be a bit healthier on the story front.
So Hitman goes out with a subtle, sleek bang, quite fitting for Hitman, to consolidate its place as one of the best games of 2016. A fine revision of a series dangerously close to turning bad. If you were waiting on the conclusion to the series before investing, your time has come to pay up.
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