So you are back, Agent 47. It’s been a while, a while indeed. Last time I saw you, you had yet to become a crappy movie franchise and you had not been on consoles either. Well, it’s good to see you back on PC. And welcome to Linux, 47. I’m sure you will like it here.
Frankly, if you are familiar with the older episodes, not much has changed. This is still the Hitman you know with the third person view, and it remains very much a stealth game at its core: Infiltrate some place, Disguise yourself, kill some target dude, and leave unnoticed before all hail breaks loose. It all sounds so simple on paper, or in the briefings for that matter. In reality you will be killed numerous times until you finally find one of the ways to reach your client and make your delivery of lead. And then, the escape: can you make it out alive ? If you manage to remain unnoticed long enough, I tell you, there is something extremely rewarding in just leaving the premises walking, pretending as it nothing has happened. So, this is the world of Hitman.
The concept has not aged at all. It’s just as exciting as before, too – it will make you very nervous when it comes to act – if someone ever catches you red-handed, you are just as good as dead: hordes of soldiers or bodyguards will start firing at you and this is game over. The prologue does a great job of introducing the whole genre. It uses a fake set (a party on a fake yacht), heavily guarded by security forces. Your job is to get into the yacht, kill one certain rich guy, and then come back to your car outside. I said a “fake” set, because it is! The developers have just put a boat in the middle of a large concrete tube, with fake trees and fake water all around. Really, really well done.
The first part of the prologue guides you, step-by-step, on how to get in and do your job. Avoid security, strangle a mechanic in the back, hide his body in the toilets, take his clothes, infiltrate the boat as a mechanic – get closer to your target in the middle of the party. The target moves around to higher floors, which are guarded and off-limits to mechanics. You need to get a sailor’s outfit before going up, then the room where your client is remains inaccessible (guarded), so you break in through a difference entrance with a lock pick, and BAM! One bullet later your job is done.
The second part of the prologue lets you do things your own way, by giving you no more hints, but letting you know there are tons of different paths to get to the very same result. It makes you think a lot more, which is great. By looking around a little, you can find that there is a little house for security. 2 guards are outside, looking at the boat from afar, while another one is inside the place. By being cautious you can actually enter through an opened window, and get behind the guard located in there. One snapped neck later, here I am, disguised as a security guard.
And now see me entering the boat through the main entrance, with other security guards calling me “hey, looking good!” – You bet! As a security guard, I can go very close to my target. However that guy is always accompanied by his bodyguard, so it’s unlikely I can take him out without raising suspicion. Especially when both of them are right in the middle of the party. At some point they are on a different level on the boat, the two of them only. I had the good idea to bring some plastic explosives with me. Expecting them to come out, I attach my little present right next to the door where they would be coming out a few minutes later. As they come out, the client actually notices me, and finds me suspicious. When your status is suspicious, you have to blend in somewhere or avoid the said person as you could be compromised very quickly. I knew it was the time to act or never. My client was not exactly next to the explosive charge, but I took a chance anyway, by triggering the remote. BOOM! The explosion was good enough all right: both my client and his bodyguard did not make it. And hey, no-one was around either. Of course a bunch of guards come searching the area, but with my uncompromised disguise, I just walk out of the boat through the same way I came in. Perfect execution.
Since we live in an achievement-whoring era, the game does provide hints as to what you could do to get rid of your client: poison his glass of wine, pretend to be his friend (with the appropriate disguise), use a garotte to kill him, or automatic weapons, etc… some of the challenges are tempting to try out, since they require a different thinking altogether, and a acute sense of observation as folks move around all the time.
The final part of the prologue is much harder. It requires you to infiltrate a base in Cuba, hosting a Mig Fighter plane and a Chessmaster who happens to be a russian spy. You need to send him your regards and escape. The complex is heavily guarded, and I admit I struggled at first on how to even get in. The easiest way was to attract a guard in a dark spot by throwing a couple of coins, and then you are in like Flynn. Reaching higher floors require a different disguise, and I found that getting a mechanic’s one worked well in that context.
Let me pause a second – the sets are all great. Look at the level of detail on that Mig! This reminds me of Metal Gear Solid where the devs usually pay a lot of attention to the military equipment they portray in the game. On the second floor, I manage to get to my client (avoiding the areas with too many eyes where I would be spotted), who is with his bodyguard. I use my gun with a silencer to get rid of both in a matter of seconds before anyone can raise any alarm. Headshots. And there I go, on my way out – there is a lot of commotion once the body is found, but as long as you stay out of the most visible exits, you are good to go. Apparently there are ways you can use the Mig to leave the area. I need to do that mission again!
Then the real deal stats with the main storyline. The first mission is in Paris, and you need to get rid of a couple who lead the fashion brand Sanguine (Bloody, in french) – while being actually secret informants.
This was a fascinating mission. I don’t want to spoil anything for you at this stage, but you get to see a fashion show where both celebrities attend, and it is really up to you do find the right time and the right place to make your move. I went for the Zoolander way (hey, male models?). It was awesome! What is impressive, above all, is the level of detail in the game. Everything is gorgeous: the environments, the objects, and the crowds. The Crowds! We are talking about dozens if not hundreds of people on screen. This is truly a feat, I don’t think any other game managed to capture this feeling of really being in a crowd before (Assassin’s Creed tried, but Hitman does it better). It is just a marvel to look at.
Yeah, yeah, it looks good and all, but you must now be wondering how well it runs. On my rig (the usual stuff: i5 3.4 Ghz, 8GB RAM, nVidia GTX970, Linux Mint 18, High Settings – I was part of the private beta group a couple of days before the release), I usually get between 30 and 60 fps depending on the area I find myself in. And this is the thing with Hitman. We could be bitching all day long about why it’s not always-60fps on this kind of hardware, but the game is really pushing things hard. For Civilization VI, I just don’t understand why I’m kind of stuck of 30 fps on larger maps (is that really a demanding game? Certainly does not look like it… Firaxis, what have you done?), but with Hitman you just need to look at it. The environments are HUGE, there is complex geometry everywhere, and you get crowds in many places. I’m actually quite impressed it runs THAT well, more than anything else. So far in the missions I have played (Prologue and Paris), the framerate has never dipped below 30 fps, so it remains playable no matter what. Hitman being a slow-paced game in the first place, as long as you can get in this kind of range of fps with your hardware (by turning the details a little down if needed), you will still very much enjoy the game.
We will wait for the benchmarks done by various folks in the Linux Community to see how it compares with Windows. As usual, one should expect the Windows version to fare better. But let’s not forget that Feral ports are usually improved over time. Remember XCOM2 when it came out? The framerate was awful – but then a few weeks later it became much, much smoother and now it’s not even a topic anymore. Same story goes for games such as Tomb Raider (patch 1.1.1 improved things considerably), Shadow of Mordor or Company of Heroes 2, so I am not too worried. More importantly, the game did not crash at all and looks very stable overall. I have seen one graphical glitch (in the beta branch, not sure if it’s still in the released version) and I have experienced a loading screen with no end once, but that’s about it, and I am pretty sure these problems will get ironed out as they are reported.
So what to make of this ? Well Hitman is a great game. It’s amazing to have a game of this quality on Linux – if you have the hardware to make it run properly, I would certainly recommend you give it a go. I am probably going to write more about the game at some point, (there is still a lot more content that I have not tested). If you don’t want to wait, you can get it right now at 50% off for about 30 USD on Feral’s store or Steam.
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