One of the strangest things about IO Interactive's episodic Hitman reboot is how no one's really talking about it.
And this reboot doesn't amount to some indie oddball with limited appeal; it's a triple-A franchise, released by a notable publisher, and popular enough to have produced a few Hollywood movies—even if they're not very good. Still, three great episodes of Hitman have come and gone without much acclaim, even if these thoughtful stealth/adventure games certainly deserve it. That said, it's probably for the best if everyone continues their campaign of indifference against Hitman—at least for the next month—since this latest episode falls short of the high standard set by what came before.
As with the previous episodes, Agent 47 begins Episode 4 in an exotic location, and with a mission that entails snuffing out the lives of two particularly vile and extravagantly wealthy wrongdoers. This time around, Agent 47 travels to a luxury hotel in Bangkok to eliminate the frontman for an indie rock group who killed his girlfriend, as well as the sleazy lawyer who helped him cover up the murder. Keeping with the general theme of IO Interactive's reboot, this episode of Hitman tells a darkly comic tale of pompous, entitled jerks being undone by their own vices.
Though the moment-to-moment gameplay remains just as tense and rewarding as past Hitman episodes, it doesn't take long to realize how rushed this newest chapter feels. The setting of a luxury hotel comes off as more than a little derivative of places Agent 47 has already been over the past few months, but with none of the density or complexity that made these past missions so worthwhile. Episode 4's backdrop amounts to a single five-story building, most of which is occupied by bare hallways. And unlike with previous episodes, I essentially had this relatively small environment mapped out in my brain after around 30 minutes; sadly, the thrill of discovery and exploration aren't anywhere to be found in this Bangkok locale.
The solutions to Episode 4's murder puzzles didn't strike me as particularly inspired, either. It's completely possible I just stumbled upon the easiest options, but my first run through this Bangkok hotel had me killing my two targets through a particularly boring method: dressing up as someone who can lead them to a private location, then offing them in said private location. And the lax security of the hotel doesn't provide the navigational challenges of past episodes: I only had to change costumes a few times to avoid detection, and I'm pretty sure I only suffered two game overs throughout the course of my Episode 4 playthrough—though they were due to some pretty stupid mistakes on my part.
My experience with Episode 4 also suffered a little due to our current existence in Gaming's Horrible Future: Without knowing it, I started a game in offline mode—entirely due to the fact that I booted up Hitman before my PS4 could fully "wake up" and go online. When I reached the end of the mission, I was extremely disappointed to see I was cut off from gaining any experience points and bonuses due to my offline status. And, to make things worse, my saves were strictly offline saves, meaning I'd have to start a new online game before any of my effort could pay off. It's understandable why IO Interactive would want you to be online—much of the game is based around ranking and exclusive online challenges—but not warning players before they attempt to start an offline game feels like a major mistake. And if playing offline is essentially pointless, I'm not even sure why it's an option.
While I'm definitely going to jump back into Episode 4 to see some of the possible solutions and content I missed the first time around, it's hard to shake the feeling that this dose of content is noticeably lesser than the first three Episodes. There's still fun to be had here, though, and I have high hopes this slight disappointment is just a hiccup in Hitman's normally high standard of quality. With three more Episodes to go, I'm definitely on board for wherever IO Interactive wants to bring me next.
After three wonderful Episodes of Hitman, IO Interactive drops the ball by delivering a chunk of content that's not nearly as thoughtful as what came before. But even if this installment comes off as a little disappointing, you should still get some enjoyment out of it if you enjoyed Agent 47's previous 2016 adventures.