I can name very few games where the environment, locale and theme change very drastically from one map to the other. Even for games that accomplish this, not many manage to vary as greatly as the Hitman series has managed to over the course of this season. A fashion show in Paris, a beautiful Italian coast, a civilian uprising in dusty Morocco and a luxurious Hotel in Thailand. Add to that now a dirty and swampy farm-turned-militia training camp in Colorado and you'll have me wondering whether 47 is a professional assassin or a weathered tourist. Although, when you've visited Russia during one of it's fiercest winters or a butchery filled lust and debauchery, I suppose 47 has earned a little bit of sunshine.
However, the sunshine will be the only friendly thing you'll receive in Colorado. In Episode 5, you are to infiltrate a farm that's been repurposed as a militia training camp. You'll not run short of objectives either, as you are tasked with taking out no less than 4 targets, ending it with finding a way into a securely closed office.
From the start, the sheer size of the level is absolutely daunting. The repurposed farm is absolutely massive, and you find yourself just outside of an almost entirely secured perimeter. You are dropped off at a weak spot in the perimeter where no guard peers directly at where you'd enter. However, I took the freedom given to me to almost completely circle the perimeter and find a way in that suited me. No mean feat, as this time your starting outfit does not permit you to be present anywhere on the map, so finding a disguise will likely be your first priority.
With four targets comes a new interaction. Every target seems to have their own cell of NPCs that perform tasks or guard areas, meaning that one high-ranking disguise will not necessarily permit you access to the entire map. You've got typical Militia-looking men with military-ish attire sharing space with more technical looking Militia types that are busy tapping away at laptops. However, ideas of a simple militia melt away when you see the other group dressed as Blackwater mercenaries with intimidating dark attire. In the midst of all that, you find a bunch of 'hacktivist' looking hackers tapping away in the Mansion.
The characters you've come to help guide to their final destination are just as varied. Your first target is Sean Rose, an environmental Terrorist with a nasty looking facial scar. Maya Parvati, a former assassin and gunrunner, is your second target. Despite having a prosthesis left arm, Maya seems to demand respect and works together with Sean to run the Militia side of things in this Colorado setting. In specific, they together plan to launch an assault using a strike team of sorts, which is currently being rehearsed.
Your third target is Penelope Graves, a more soft-spoken former Interpol anti-terror analyst. She largely keeps to herself and her group of hackers in the Mansion, in which your final target holds an unnamed person hostage. Ezra Berg, a retired Mossad interrogator and specialist in interrogation methods involving injections of various chemical substances, with a habit of wearing a 3D printed mask when walking about. On the surface, it seems that very little unites these four targets, but it appears the so-called shadow client is responsible for uniting specialists and radicals such as them all over the world.
If my mentioning of a shadow client rings unfamiliar to you, it is because it's part of the plot and I tried to steer away from spoilers in my past episode reviews. As advertised, Episode 5 finally provides players with some substantial plot that involves 47. Especially near the end as you gain access to a particularly well sealed-off office, once all targets have been dealt with, you'll find yourself putting the pieces together if you've been paying attention to the story.
This is where I find myself wondering one particular thing: Has the episodic release schedule harmed or benefited the telling of the story? In my past few reviews, I've made well clear that the ongoing plot seemed to be entirely separated from 47, with the ICU agency being used as some kind of pawn. Now that he gets tied into this, and that's the only thing I'll say as to prevent any spoilers, it felt like a long time coming. It seems I'll have to do an investigation once Season 1 comes to an end, and find out how the pacing holds up in the grander scheme of things.
The level itself is quite a marvel to play in. While Colorado is by no means a difficult level to tackle as a Hitman veteran, it does feel as though the kids' gloves have come off and new players will be forced to further master and evolve the tricks and techniques they've been taught or taught themselves. The deeper you go into the encampment, the busier it becomes, making the 'suit only' challenge seem nigh-on impossible. The different types of affiliated NPCs discuss amongst themselves the intricacies and reasons why such a variety of people have come together in one location, delving even into distrust and suspicion.
However, a mission of such a scale has also led to a logical discrepancy. For example, Penelope can be lured to an area where an accident can befall her. The excuse given will be a veiled attempt by Rose at testing her loyalty. But I tackled Penelope last, with Rose and Maya having died together first in an 'accident'. If you opt to let Penelope play out her entire dialogue where the truth is revealed to her, it would almost appear as though she doesn't know Rose has died, even though she's mere steps away from where his death took place. This shows a flaw in the design of Hitman where targets are generally completely unaware of each other, although this only really affects the suspense of disbelief and not gameplay.
In conclusion, I have to say Colorado is my favorite Hitman Episode so far, with Sapienza a close second. What it sacrifices in beauty for the setting, it makes up for with complexity and a welcome challenge. Like I said, nothing a Hitman veteran can't handle, but certainly a step in the right direction. With the confirmation of Hitman receiving at least a second season of Episodes, I suspect keeping a careful climb in difficulty will be vital to make the final episode of the final season a true climax. Hopefully, that's still a long way ahead from now.
As it stands, Colorado has done what I desired from a Hitman episode: it provides a fresh challenge and some meaty plot to keep us guessing. 47 may have some old 'friends' and it's up to us to figure things out as every episode trickles in. Whether I am happy or not about the plot progressing episodically is beside the point. The fact remains that this method of releasing content does keep Hitman in the back of our minds as time goes on. Here's to hoping that'll pan out in its favor. Would hate to see the long-awaited Hitman sequel fall flat at the end.
HITMAN - Episode 5: Colorado was reviewed on PC via Steam with a key provided by the developer. It is also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
The Colorado Episode sets the example by which future episodes should be judged by. Combining a larger map with some extra complexity and the satisfaction of finally learning some of the ensuing plot that finally ties in 47, the episode is hopefully a promise of things to come.
- Mildly Challenging
- Vast Map
- Plot Intrigue
- Locale Lacks Color
- Online DRM
- Limited Weapons Available