47 is back for one last hurrah in some overly familiar locations.
IO Interactive was recently set free by former owners Square Enix, with the Hitman studio left to fend for itself following a lukewarm commercial response to the latest, episodic outing of Agent 47. The studio has been preparing a second season of content to follow the events of the first, but in the meantime, the company has published a new (final?) edition of Hitman on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, this time complete with a second story campaign. (An aside: we played the Xbox One X version and it does look lovely with 4K assets, although it sometimes took us more than one attempt to boot the game up for some inexplicable reason).
Story campaign is a bit of a stretch to be honest, because we're talking about four missions, each one taking place on a repurposed map, similar to how IOI has handled other DLC, retrofitting existing sandboxes with new features. While performing a similar trick to other missions set in redecorated locations, Patient Zero has a little more substance to it, with short but slick cutscenes and a cohesive story that binds the whole thing together. It's accessible as part of the Game of the Year Edition Upgrade (which also includes some character packs), so you can only buy this content if you've already got the whole of the season one, either via individual purchases or The Complete First Season.
It's a £16 upgrade, so these new missions aren't exactly cheap, but at least there's four of them, and despite a slow start, IOI has actually mixed things up a little by introducing the odd change of pace to keep players on their toes. Still, if you've played season one extensively, you may well be feeling a bit of fatigue by now, and coupled with the pricing, it might be enough to put you off.
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If you do decide to take the plunge you'll take 47 through four missions in some familiar locations. Patient Zero's story is completely standalone and, when considered on its own terms, it absolutely works. Indeed, that's how you've got to treat this side-content, because otherwise it just doesn't make sense that we're revisiting these locations without referencing past events. Like the titular patient zero, it needs to be kept in isolation.
The first of the four missions is pretty run-of-the-mill. We're once again in Bangkok at the hotel first seen in Episode 4, and we have to take out two cultists with designs on releasing some kind of terrible plague on the world, but despite this level kicking off an interesting narrative, it was actually pretty unremarkable in most other respects. Not only was the execution of the level pretty standard fare, but there were strange audio issues that persisted throughout, where we'd hear fragments of conversations between two characters who were on a different floor to us. Our first worry was that since the regime change quality control had slipped, but luckily things picked up from there.
The second mission had us revisiting Sapienza for the third time (the main campaign mission being the first, and it also featured as one of two repurposed maps in Summer Bonus Episode), but most of the action took place down near the pier and was away from the main area players will have explored in more depth around the other side of town, so there wasn't too much deja vu. The mission wasn't hugely original, although we did have to wait until a certain event had taken place before making our move, adding a new dimension to proceedings.
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The third mission took us to the farm in Colorado, but the dynamic changed again, as this time we were taking our shots from afar, identifying targets using descriptions provided by Diana before taking them out with a sniper rifle. Some of the descriptions were a little vague, and IOI pulled a couple of cheap tricks to keep 47 on his toes, but otherwise this relatively quick-fire mission was very straightforward and offered yet another welcome change of pace.
The fourth is the one that really puts the cat among the pigeons, although we also don't want to spoil it by telling you too much about how and why. There is an elegant solution to the murderous puzzle presented by IOI, but if the shit hits the fan - and we'd advise you to let it happen, just so you can find out what happens next - then you'll have to think on your feet. We'll just tease you with the notion that you might well end up playing Hitman in a way that you might have done once or twice in the past, but that generally isn't encouraged. It's a really interesting conclusion to the story and the gameplay variation that it adds really makes the new campaign feel complete.
Overall it's a solid four-mission campaign, and we enjoyed taking one last look at these maps, but now it's time for both us and IOI to move on and take Hitman to some new locations, rather than rehashing old assets and making the most out what was admittedly a very good game in the first place. The pricing is a little on the steep side given the amount of recycling that's happened here, but if you've come this far and want one last outing with 47 before a whole new set of maps and missions appear, the gameplay variety that has been thrown into the mix in Patient Zero makes it worth considering.
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7 / 10
Nice gameplay variation in certain missions, cutscenes headline a largely polished mini-campaign.
Some audio issues in the first level, we're getting too familiar with the maps now, not all of the missions are brilliant.