Yesterday was the Ides of March, the day when Brutus and a bunch of other Romans stood around bragging after they stabbed Caesar to death in front of a big crowd. You know who would never do that? Agent 47.
Hitman gives you all the tools you need to be the ultimate stealth assassin: disguises, sniper rifles, accident-prone set pieces and plenty of places to hide some bodies. You can pull off some clever, stylish or downright hilarious kills. But while it’s satisfying to be a slick, silent murder machine, my favourite part of any Hitman mission is having to walk out again.
Sure, I could shoot my target in the head while he’s having a drink on the patio, but there’s no way I’ll make it out of the panicking crowd before I get taken down. If I choke that woman out in the one empty stretch of hallway I’d better not leave her there, because I’ll never make it past the guards at the bottom of the stairs before that lighting guy comes back and finds her. Every possible solution brings a host of new problems, ones that can only be solved by thinking ahead and keeping my cool.
I’m not that great at either of these. In games, I can almost never resist poking something to see what happens, or running into a forbidden area to find out what’s inside. In Hitman I have to curb these impulses; I have to think like 47 would. I have to ignore that little voice in my ear that whispers, Yeah I know everybody’s staring at you but look at this highlighted lever, how much would it rule to pull it? I have to lure a target to a secluded bathroom or an unobserved closet so I can hide them right away. Dropping a speaker on a target’s head — like I did last night in Contracts mode — involves wearing not just the crew outfit that let me get near the speaker in the first place but having my waiter’s outfit stashed nearby to slip back into the basement once the deed is done.
Luckily, if you’ve ever made a quick exit from an awkward party, you already know how to pull this off. There are stealth games that fill their levels with person-sized air ducts and convenient corridors of boxes, regardless of whether they make a lot of logical sense. But Hitman‘s Paris is a palace, just like any other palace you’d find if your… neighbour invited you to their palace, I guess. It has a basement with stairs that go up and down from it, service doors and grand staircases that are locked or guarded. When there are boxes and barriers to hide behind, they’re there for a reason — they’re storage boxes and traffic barriers, jumbled realistically where you’d expect to find them while still providing the cover necessary to make the game playable. Paris has a logic that makes it legible at a glance as long as you take the time to familiarise yourself with the area. It fits well with Hitman‘s signature demand for patience, and it adds an additional challenge to what I already find to be a challenging game.
Several of my other favourite stealth games ask me to get out again — most notably Dishonored and Invisible Inc — but Hitman does it differently. It’s not a stealth game in the traditional sense; I can’t make a break for it by scurrying along ledges like Corvo or turning invisible like Adam Jensen. I escape in the simplest, most badarse way of all: walking out the door like nothing’s wrong. Even if no one’s found the bodies I’ve stashed, it takes every ounce of my will to avoid breaking into a run. I can’t count the number of times I’ve taken down a target only to panic, trespass and have my success snatched away. It’s the hardest part of any Hitman mission for me, and I love it.
Do you have any tales of close calls and daring escapes? What’s your best “walking away from the explosion” moment? I’d love to hear it.