When Hitman GO was announced for mobile devices, it seemed to be a strange turn for the series – taking a third-person, assassin’s sandbox game and turning it into board game. This may sound like Square Enix have gone mad but, surprisingly, the strategy and complexity involved with solving the perfect ‘hit’ translates brilliantly to the puzzle boards you will play through here.
There are seven puzzle boards in total in Hitman GO, five of them have been created from scratch by Square Enix Montreal and two are based on levels from previous Hitman titles. Each board is broken into stages, with fifteen stages to play through on the five original boards and eight stages in the other two – giving you 91 in total to make your way through.
These stages start off relatively easy, with the first area serving as an introduction to how the gameplay works. This eases you into the action, which sees you manoeuvre a chess-piece like Agent 47 around an area whilst avoiding guards as you move toward your goal. As you progress and unlock later levels, these guards change from being static pieces in the earlier stages to pieces that will patrol around the board in later levels – which means you will need to plan your route based on the paths that these guards take.
Whilst the boards start with simple A-B paths to take from the start to the exit, you will soon find the complexity ramping up – with stages that require keys to unlock doors that block your progress, trapdoors for you to utilise to move to another area of the board and rocks, tennis balls and tin cans that you can use to throw in order to get a guard’s attention and move them away from their current path.
I really enjoyed the mechanics at work in Hitman GO, and found myself watching and learning the habits of the guards on each board so that I could plan my moves through the stages. This gave the game a tactical feel, and with a turn-based, chess-like element to the gameplay and art-style this fitted perfectly.
Similar to a game of chess, when you overcome a guard, their piece will be knocked over and then moved to the side of the game board – stored there with the other fallen pieces that you have outsmarted during play. To take a guard out of the game you will need to land on the attack his spot on the board from either behind or from the side. You will have to be smart about your movements, as these guards can do the same to you if you are not careful. If you enter a guard’s line of sight, they will move for you and take you out – which will result in you failing the mission and returning to the start of the board. Luckily, the boards don’t take too long to complete, so if you do fall at the last hurdle you won’t have too much to replay.
With all your attention required to watch the on-screen action, the controls are simple enough for you to be able to play without thinking about what you are pressing. You move Agent 47 around the board using the left analogue stick, and you can use any items that you find with a press of the X button. There is a hint system available that can be accessed any time during play with a press of the Triangle button, but using these will mean that you will miss out on a trophy if you are going for the very achievable Platinum. The right analogue stick can be used to move the camera, allowing for you to get a closer look at the board so you can best plan your way around the stage.
Like most other mobile games, Hitman GO‘s levels use a ‘3-star’ objective style format. You will get the first of these for just competing a stage, with the other two awarded by meeting certain criteria during a level. This can range from complete the level without killing any enemies, completing a stage in a certain amount of moves, collecting a suitcase that may be off the standard route or killing all enemies on your way to the exit. These objectives add an extra challenge to the proceeding, and will mean that you will have to replay the stages in the game in order to fully complete the game. This is no bad thing, and with each stage being relatively short I didn’t mind going back and playing a level multiple times in order to tick off each possible objective.
Another benefit of going back into each stage multiple times is that you can appreciate how good the aesthetic of Hitman GO is. The game looks great, with the ‘Definitive Edition’ in the title pointing towards the improved graphics that are present in the PlayStation versions over the original mobile release. The boards are beautifully detailed, with bright and vibrant colours present throughout the various boards on offer. The audio is also on form, with ambient sound that matches that of the atmosphere you would expect in the environment you are currently in and the character movements accompanied by a wooden, shuffling that sounds just like you would imagine a wooden figure moving across a game board. When you do make it to the final stage of the board and your target is in sight, the haunting sounds of Ave Maria will play as you work your way to complete your hit.
Although I didn’t mind the challenges on offer, some people may be put off by the requirements when unlocking the next set of stages. You will need to complete a set number of objectives in order to open the next board, and a little later on it can get tricky to unlock the next board – especially if you are avoiding the use of hints in order to get that platinum. Another thing that I found to be annoying was the removal of the move counter that was present in the mobile version. Although this sounds trivial, its presence made it easier to keep track of how many moves you had made in the missions that task you to beat them in a certain number of turns.
Hitman GO: Definitive Edition works perfectly on the PlayStation Vita, and its move from mobile platforms to the handheld is a welcome one. It is a clever game that mixes the spirit of Agent 47’s previous outings with a board game setting that is unique yet seems a perfect fit. There are a few minor niggles to be had with the bald assassin’s first outing on the PlayStation Vita, but nothing that detracts from the game. Now here’s hoping that Lara Croft GO isn’t too far behind!