Released almost two years ago on iOS, the super-stylish Hitman GO turn-based puzzle game has finally made the leap to PS4 and PS Vita as a cross-buy and cross-save title. I didn't play the game the first time out, but I'm really glad to have finally gotten the chance to see what I missed – because it's great!
As you have probably already surmised, Hitman GO isn't a regular entry into the Hitman series. Instead, it's a unique take on the franchise that essentially strips down the core gameplay of the AAA titles into a series of goals that play out like a virtual board game. The action is viewed from an isometric 3D perspective and takes place across seven levels, each of which represents an overall mission that's broken down into a number of single-screen sub-levels. Those sub-levels play out across miniature dioramas upon which is laid a grid, which Agent 47 can move around, one step at a time. Guards and other agents also patrol this grid, following their own movement patterns – basically every time Agent 47 moves, so do they.
Fortunately, 47 can take out enemies by moving onto the same space on the board that they occupy – but only as long as he moves at them either from behind or from the side, so they can't "see" him coming. Moving into an adjacent position to an agent that faces him has deadly results – the enemy will spot him and move onto the same space he occupies, resulting in him being taken out of the game.
The objective of most sub-missions is to simply reach the exit point, or kill a mark – both ostensibly involving the same mechanic of moving onto a specific point on the board to complete the level. There are also sub-goals, such as being economical with your movement and finishing a mission within a certain number of steps, or picking up the briefcase that's found somewhere on the grid. These secondary objectives aren't always easy to complete, but they're an important part of the game – you'll need to complete a certain number of them to unlock later levels. This essentially provides additional challenges that you can return to after completing the main goal of the mission.
As you progress through the game, new mechanics are introduced to the puzzling. New agents appear that have their own unique movement patterns, and even bulletproof shields and rifles, trapdoors enable you to move from one part of a level to another, and potted plants can be used to hide in. There are useful items to pick up as well: Stones can be thrown to attract the attention of enemies, pulling them out of their regular patrol patterns, disguises can be worn to slip past specific enemies without incident, and one-shot weapons can be used to take out troublesome bad guys.
All these mechanics are introduced into the game very thoughtfully, making for a really smooth difficulty curve. Initial screens are quite easy to breeze through, but don't be deceived – those early sub-levels are designed the way they are to introduce you to the game and get you up to speed on moving around and taking out enemies. Once you start making progress, the game quickly becomes extremely tricky, and solving its puzzles takes a lot of trial and error.
However, the great thing about Hitman GO is that while some sub-levels are really tough to solve, the answer is always staring at you in the face. There are usually only a limited number of options available to you in terms of where you can move, and once you learn the strategies of shuffling back and forth around the grid, waiting for enemies to line up the right way so you can either avoid them or take them out, you begin to see the solutions to sub-missions, and the action becomes enjoyably rewarding. And if you really get stuck, you can always use the helpful hints, which explain exactly how to finish a level – although if you do so, you can't claim any trophies for finishing the game. All is not lost, however. If you reset the game, and play through it again without any hints, you can still get those trophies should you so desire.
I've had a huge amount of fun playing through Hitman GO – mostly on Vita. It's the perfect game on that machine, especially since it works so well with the touch screen. But it also works fine on PS4 if you don't have a Vita, or simply want to play it on a big screen. To be honest, I did get stuck on a few sub-levels, and I ended up having to take notes to log the complex moves required to beat them – Hitman GO is that kind of game. But even though I had to resort to pen and paper – the first time a game has had me do that for years – I did really enjoy playing through it, frustratingly difficult though it sometimes gets.
The other aspect of Hitman GO that I especially liked are its visuals – they're absolutely superb. The dioramas are beautifully rendered in a very clean and minimal way, and do a great job in representing the locales across which the missions play out. From the St Petersburg Stakeout based on Hitman 2: Silent Assassin to Curtains Down, inspired by Hitman: Blood Money, the detailing is simply stunning.
Available at a quite reasonable $7.99, Hitman GO is a highly original brainteaser that I'd definitely recommend to those who enjoy giving their grey matter a challenging gaming workout.