Throughout the Hitman series, players have had the opportunity to employ a number of unique methods to fulfill a simple task: eliminate the target. Utilizing stealth is the key to success, forcing players to make deliberate, calculated moves throughout each level. Whether by using the garrote that protagonist Agent 47 brings along on every mission, sabotaging the environment, or simply shooting the target, the goal remains the same.
Hitman Go takes the basic idea of the Hitman series, namely stealth and infiltration, and boils them down to a simple puzzle game. Originally released on iOS and Android in 2014, the game reimagines Agent 47 and his targets as pieces on a game board. Utilizing a turn-based system, players must navigate the Hitman piece to the target, all without being spotted by the numerous guard pieces patrolling the board.
Hitman Go: Definitive Edition comes with all seven boards that have been released for the game so far, giving players a total of 91 different puzzles to solve. The player can move a single space each turn before the enemy pieces make their predetermined moves. Like the core series, guards typically follow the same pattern unless they’re interrupted, making infiltration a matter of skill rather than luck. The player pieces must either reach a specific point on the board or a specific target dressed in red to complete the mission.
The game starts off simple, tasking players to move their Agent 47 piece to a specific point on the board. The structure of the game removes the need for a tutorial, as each new concept is introduced in an easy-to-understand level. For example, the game starts with only one type of guard. The guard faces only one direction and as long as you don’t enter his line of sight, he won’t spot you. The game evolves past this, introducing guards that move around the board, dogs that will follow the player around the map, and guards that have lines of sight in multiple directions. All of these changes make for increasingly complex puzzles, but the structure of the game keeps it from becoming overwhelming, forcing players to adjust tactics over time.
Each level also has two optional objectives for players who want to put their skills to the test. Most of these objectives consist of completing the board within a set number of moves or collecting a briefcase off the easy path. It’s a smart system as it gives players an incentive to try new paths and strategies on each board, but also allows them to move on to a new level if frustration begins to set in.
For instances when frustration takes hold, the game does offer a hint system. If a player wants the answer to a particularly challenging puzzle, pressing the triangle button will allow them to select which objective they’re trying to complete. From there, it will walk the player through the puzzle step by step. A warning for those who wish to earn the platinum trophy for this game: using the hint system will preclude you from earning the Silent Assassin trophy.\
Originally intended for a touch screen, the game’s control schemes all work well enough on the PlayStation 4. Players have the option of using the D-pad, the control stick, or the Dualshock 4’s touchpad to move Agent 47 around the board. I did run into a problem using the D-pad occasionally where the piece would not move in the intended direction. There was an instance where I started the same level twice and pushed up, but once the character moved up and once it moved to the right. The problem can be addressed by simply rotating the board and making the angles clearer to see, but it did lead to some frustrations while playing.
Because the game was originally intended for a mobile platform, playing it for long stretches on a console can start to feel a bit repetitive. The game is better enjoyed in small segments, allowing for breaks from some of the tougher puzzles. While each of the levels is fun on its own, players will likely need a break after completing one of the game’s boards.
The game looks and feels like an elaborate board game, with the designers taking care to model Agent 47 and his targets as detailed game pieces. The simplified environments are gorgeous and while the graphics in the game won’t be pushing the PlayStation 4 to its limits, the art direction is flawlessly executed. The game’s sound effects work to drive home the board game design of the game, but the game would have benefited from an expanded soundtrack. While the operatic track that plays throughout the levels is haunting and effective, it repeats so often that players will likely tune it out after the first few minutes.
Hitman Go is a unique take on the long-running Hitman franchise, breaking down the series to its core mechanics and delivering an enjoyable adventure. However, while the game’s design and puzzle mechanics are a delight, the occasional control issues and repetitive soundtrack prevent the game from reaching its full potential.