When I first played Hitman Absolution (or Hitman 5), I was thrilled to have a new experience with one of my favorite stealth franchises and video game characters. However, my initial excitement dwindled when I realised that despite welcome new features, such as the cover system and mission creator (well, more of a make your own Hit in already existing levels), so much of what made a Hitman game for me was removed or reduced.
Hitman 5 moved away from massive open levels to more compact and segmented spaces, which despite looking great made the game feel like a step back compared to the almost free-roam levels of the PS2 era Hitman games. The following is both a review and a discussion of why I love Hitman games, what (in my opinion) makes a great Hitman game and where I think Hitman 6 should go with the franchise.
My main issue with this game is that despite being fun to play, it tries too hard to cater to a wider audience, both in it's more simplistic level design and in its attempts at telling an emotional or more substantial story. The storyline to Hitman 5 only reduces the gameplay as each level is no longer about a hit and in some cases it's just an annoying game of hide 'n' seek (get from A to B undetected…if you want). The biggest problem though is that because of the obsession with the story, weapon customisation is non-existent in story mode, a key reason I love Hitman games. I firmly believe, that Hitman games do not need good story-lines and that in the past I was happy to have a story that merely gave an excuse for Agent 47 (our main character) to go from level to level. For example, in Hitman: Contracts (Hitman 3), each level except for the first and the last was a flashback, giving the perfect excuse to hop from various locations across the globe. In Hitman: Blood Money (Hitman 4), it also used flashbacks but these allowed us to see how the incidents actually occurred as opposed to how the narrator (the villain of the game) claimed they did. This, in my view, shows how previous game's never really needed a good story to be great Hitman games.
So what made these games so great? Simply put, open-ended level design and customisation. Hitman: Blood Money (Hitman 4) was my first experience of the franchise and if you have not experienced it, either get the Hitman HD Trilogy (as I have on PS3), buy Hitman: Blood Money (on Xbox 360/PS2), or buy the digital copy off PSN (at €12.99 you have little to lose). Hitman 4 had open-ended levels with at least 3-4 distinct ways of completing a Hit and brilliant weapon customisation. Previous Hitman games (until Hitman: Absolution) have always allowed the player to pick their loadout before entering a level and Hitman 6 needs to bring this back. One other issue I have with Hitman Absolution is the lack of a Sniper case (the story ensures 47 loses it) but then he can holster Sniper rifles along with Assault rifles in his suit pocket.
I hope PS4's Hitman brings back the realism of concealing two-handed guns in briefcases etc. and that weapon customisation is back on form (syringes should be an option). I also would like Hitman PS4 to follow what the Metal Gear Solid franchise has done and move towards a free-roam game. I always imagined Hitman free-roam as a natural progression for the series and so Absolution's downsized scale disappointed me. Assuming Hitman comes to PS4, it needs to have the scale of Hitman Contracts big levels, at least, if not become a free-roam game. I imagine a hub city (similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution) as the starting point and from there, the player could either visit contacts to get main contracts (full levels) or side contracts (similar to AC4 assassin contracts where a target is surrounded by guards and you stealth kill them without getting spotted for a bonus). As for travel, subway trains would be fast travel options and I think driving should be an option (hijacking possibly, provided you kill/ko the driver silently perhaps).