Agent 47 is given the board game treatment on iOS.
If you're a fan of Hitman, this mightn't be what you expected when you heard the franchise was mobile-bound. This isn't the console and PC franchise just ported to tablet.
Hitman GO is a stylised board game for iOS. It's an exercise in restraint and well thought-out design. It's wonderfully put together, and at times the mechanics are so understated that it feels almost anaemic. No tutorials, barely any text, and easy to grasp turn-based strategy. The tiles you move across are clearly inspired by the classic board game Go, while the visuals remind us of interior design ads from the 60s. The perspective is top down and it comes across as a Polaroid snap of times past.
There is plenty of competition on iOS in this genre with games like Robbery Rob and Spy Mouse. Both great examples of the stealth genre as we remember it from the days when Metal Gear Solid was played from a topdown perspective. But Hitman GO is turn-based, and this of course makes for a different experience.
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It's all about figuring out the patterns of the enemies and placing Agent 47 in positions where he can take out enemies from a blind spot. The problem lies in that Agent 47 has to move every turn, so you can't just wait for an opening in the routes of the guards. You need to carefully plan your actions in order to reach the right tile at the right moment.
Secret shortcuts allows you to move across great distances quickly, while throwing a stone can lure a guard into a more favourable position. Naturally Agent 47 can hide in bushes, and a whole range of other opportunities appear in the many levels.
There are 8-15 levels in each of the five board game "boxes" included in the App, the last of which is based on Hitman: Blood Money. Most levels have a main objective and a couple of optional objectives, and, as is often the case, these are completed to unlock more boxes.
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You will come across several familiar locations and missions that will no doubt please long time fans, as well as recognisable pieces of music. While the aesthetics are a joy, the gamer inside us is slightly bored at times.
Hitman GO may be scoring high from most critics, but we're having a hard time seeing where the excitment comes - if we disregard the novel use of the license. A reader commented once, wondered how we could give Deus Ex: The Fall a good score as it "wasn't a proper Deus Ex game". In that case, we disagreed. In reviewing this particular type of game we shouldn't measure it against expectations, but rather measure what it delivers.
Our attention is instead directed at how well this new interpretation of the series plays. And while we struggle to point to anything that's wrong with the mechanics (swipe to move), we're never really taken in by the premise.
Games like Dungeon Keeper and Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 took beloved franchises and ruined them with freemium crap. This is not the case with Hitman GO. You get the entire game (with the added option of paying for unlocks if you can't get through certain levels).
Hitman GO is a nice enough casual strategy game with plenty of challenge, brilliant design and solid gameplay, but we're not quite enamoured with it. Perhaps you'll have more love in your heart for this very different Hitman experience.