Hitman: Blood Money is my favourite videogame of all time. I aced every mission on Silent Assassin multiple times. When Absolution was announced, the thought of a next-gen sequel to my beloved Blood Money with modern graphics and dynamic AI had me salivating. Once the game launched, however, I realized that this absolute mess of a game completely missed what made Blood Money so special and was not, after all, the sequel I had yearned for. When a friend of mine, who had never played a Hitman before, gushed about how awesome it was because Agent 47 was supposed to be “a bad*** ninja with guns”, I knew the game had missed the mark.
It was with great anticipation then, that I looked forward to the next iteration of the franchise that IO promised would harken back to the core concepts that made the franchise so popular in the first place. Methodically planning missions, multiple avenues to take when assassinating a target, and most importantly, the option to turn off all the annoying, handholding settings that made Absolution such a bore.
Something I had missed during all the previews, however, was this ultra-modern, anti-piracy online-only restriction. To properly enjoy Hitman, to experience and tick off the multiple challenges, feats and mission goals, you need to be connected to the Hitman servers. As irritating as this is in concept (it’s a single-player game you d***s), it turns out it’s even more irritating in execution. Not only am I required to be online to access anything outside of the bare bones mission…not only am I required to be online to unlock items and tweaks that I earned while playing…not only am I required to be online to access my saves (really IO?)… But if, for some reason, your connection hiccups, you are kicked right back to the menu. During some periods playing the game I get kicked out almost every five minutes. Play briefly, get booted. Wait for the atrocious load times to get back to the menu, re-connect, and re-load the game…get booted again. While there are certainly concessions to be made about how well a game runs during its opening weekend, this is a colossal mess up and makes playing the game a chore, to say the least.
I hate the idea of online-only, especially for a single-player experience like Hitman. I hate the idea that I need to “check in” with a server hundreds of miles away for a game that costs $60 that I play by myself. What I really hate though, what bothers me the most, is that outside of this incredibly huge flaw the game is everything I’ve wanted in a Hitman since Blood Money. I love this game so far. It’s gorgeous, there’s a ton of replayability with multiple and varying methods of executing a contract and endless options for fun with the Escalations and Contracts mode.
I’m now left with a huge contradiction. This game simultaneously represents everything I loathe about the modern gaming industry and everything I’ve yearned for in a sequel to my favourite game of all time. How do I reconcile these feelings? Sure the servers will get patched in the future, and the buggy mess of first-week playtime will surely be smoothed out (IO is getting hammered on social media right now)…but the game is now fundamentally flawed at its core because of this decision. This was something that I can almost guarantee was a design choice handed down to the devs from the suit-and-tie in the boardroom to ensure plenty of data-mining and getting a few more people to sign up for SEM (I’m not doing it guys, p**s off). Outside of leaderboards, which could be updated briefly at the beginning of each play session, there is no logical reason to be constantly connected to a server that is apparently powered by hamster wheels. The contracts mode etc. could all require an optional connection to be accessed at your leisure before or after a mission. Forcing me out of my own game while playing by myself in a single-player oriented gameplay experience because of a horrible connection is unforgivable. Locking everything, from weapons to skins to contracts, behind a totally unnecessary and poorly (to say the least) implemented online connection is simply offensive.
You’ve wounded me deep here guys. And you did it in a slimy and ill-conceived way. I want to praise your game, because truly, when everything works it’s fantastic; but I can’t. I can’t praise you for such a backwards, asinine and anti-user design choice. I can’t praise you for launching a game with such unbelievably bad servers. Fix what you can, and fix it quickly, because the backlash from this is only just beginning and you absolutely deserve all the vitriol directed your way.