Tag Archive: stealth

When it comes to my favorite stealth action franchises, Hitman always jumps right to the top. But, when I first heard that the newest Hitman game would be broken up into episodes across the year, I admit my heart sank. I was worried about taking a tried-and-true formula and trying to fix something that in my opinion wasn’t broken. Thankfully, after sitting down and beating the entire first season of Hitman, the series’ new episodic direction may be one of the best things to ever happen to it.

In the prologue to the first episode, we see a rare glimpse of Agent 47’s past, specifically when he first meets Diana Burnwood and joins the ICA. After that, it’s back in the present day, and it’s the usual trek around the world for 47 as Diana continues to assign him high-profile targets that the ICA has been contracted to remove. As 47 is doing this, it soon becomes clear to Diana that these more recent assignments were all connected as part of a larger puzzle—and the deeper she digs, the more she realizes a more sinister force may be at play. With 47 being the only person she can trust, the two must uncover a conspiracy that could shake the ICA to its core.


Anyone who has played any of the previous Hitman games should be able to jump into this one relatively easily. By using disguises and unique opportunities in the environment, players will be tasked with knocking off multiple targets in every location, with each new locale in this case also representing a new episode. What’s so impressive about Hitman is there has never been more ways to accomplish your goals on each map. You can go with 47’s iconic suit, tie, and silenced silverballer pistols and try to get the perfect shot off before making a quick escape. Or, you could drop a lighting grid on someone. Or push them into a wood chipper. Or pose as a yoga teacher and snap their necks (I guess that part of the body wasn’t meant to be so flexible). The choices are many and varied.

There is one new feature, though, when it comes to how 47 tackles his objectives now: with Diana in his ear constantly monitoring the situation, he’s able to track kill opportunities. From overheard conversations to intelligence documents found on site, you can piece together exactly what you need to perform the best accident kills the series has seen yet, and actually follow objective markers in the world to pull off some of these spectacular hits. And, if you prefer the challenge of figuring it all out for yourself, you can always turn this option off. Even with all my Hitman experience, I still found this extremely useful considering how large each location is. Although, I do admit, there’s also a sick sense of satisfaction when you piece it all together on your own.


Even being episodic, Hitman still plays out in many ways like a complete game would. Each new location is massive, and throws new challenges 47’s way each time. Paris is likely the easiest of the maps, with plenty of cover, disguises, and opportunities as you crash a fashion show with hundreds of guests. Sapienza, Italy—a fictitious city off the Amalfi coast—gets a little harder, with heightened security and no crowds as you infiltrate a mansion. Marrakesh then puts your two targets in two different buildings with a busy town square between them, while Bangkok boosts the security yet again at a luxury resort hotel. An off-the-grid farm compound in Colorado makes things even harder by limiting cover and disguise opportunities and making you take out four targets. Finally, Hokkaido, Japan, removes all weapons and items before you start the mission inside a hospital for the wealthy. This escalation between episodes—from both a gameplay and narrative sense—coincides both with what you would expect from a game, as well as the heightened stakes of any action-drama TV series.

Of course, I believe this feeling was a lot more evident because I binge-played the season over a weekend. That’s one of the difficult things about episodic content: with weeks between game episodes, it can be harder to carry feelings over from chapter to chapter unless you replay a previous episode before starting a new one. I don’t believe that playing each new Hitman episode as it came out would’ve been able to keep that adrenaline flow I got from doing mission after mission going, whereas I enjoyed the gameplay much more by playing the entire experience in a short period of time.


Although, I do have to say that there are some negatives to playing it all at once. While Hitman does a good job moving things forward, tying up enough loose ends by the conclusion of the season, and leaving a couple of questions unanswered for future seasons to explore, I felt there wasn’t as much of a connection strung between the episodes. Character development and narrative felt very bare bones, and I wonder if this came across more strongly because of my binge-playing, where I was able to see all the new characters’ short story arcs and minimal story progress very quickly.

One definite positive that comes from playing each episode as they come out, though, is the replayability. There’s more content here than ever before—both from the community and from Io Interactive—which keeps people playing each episode, and which no doubt helps keep them fresher in people’s minds. Once again, being able to create your own contract returns, allowing you to share with the community your own challenging hit orders. There’s also escalation missions from Io that add new targets and bump up the difficulty at a player’s discretion.


Even more than that, however, is the new Elusive Targets. These are timed contracts, usually over a weekend, where players are given a single opportunity to take out the most difficult targets given by Io Interactive. Most of these are unique NPCs with their own parameters to be eliminated within, but there has even been guest stars (akin to a TV show) like Gary Busey and Gary Cole inserted into these one-off missions. Whether you succeed or fail, these missions are done after that one attempt and then lost forever, with the game keeping track of your success rate on its stats screen. If you’re playing the game piecemeal as it comes out, these are great ways to keep you engaged. If you’re like me, though, and waited to play it all at once, or are waiting for the disc with everything on it coming in January, you’ll have missed out already on nearly a dozen Elusive Targets. The game still has a lot to keep you coming back for more, with loads of challenges per map and worldwide leaderboards for you to try to climb, but seeing how far behind I am on escalation missions, and the fact I’ll never get a shot at any of the previous Elusive Targets, makes me feel like I missed a huge part of what made this game special by waiting, even with more Elusive Targets coming in the future.

Either way you play Hitman – Season 1, whether all at once or in pieces as it came out, something small is lost from each. Some of the replayability and story enjoyment suffers by binge-playing, but that natural escalation of difficulty and feeling like a complete experience comes through more strongly when playing it all at once. These are minor things all told, however, and when you boil Hitman down, it is one of the most complete and enjoyable experiences we’ve had yet from the series. And now, I can’t wait for Season 2.

Publisher: Square Enix • Developer: Io Interactive • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 10.31.16
If you played it as each episode came out, or binge-played it all at once, something is lost each way from Hitman – Season 1, but not enough to detract from what is as a whole one of the most enjoyable and entertaining Hitman experiences we’ve ever had.
The Good Everything you love about the Hitman series has been boiled down to potentially its purest form.
The Bad Depending on how you experience the game—either through binge playing or as each episode comes out—something is lost
The Ugly What’s left of that guy in Italy who “accidentally” fell in the wood chipper
Hitman – Season 1 is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Square Enix for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Smooth as Velvet

Originally Published: May 14, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and Lundberg.me

I admit that I have never been a fan of World War II or other historically based games. I felt that it limited the imagination of the player and the developers because at the end of the day, no matter what happens in the game, we know the outcome of the war. Sure, these specific era based shooters are great and the gameplay and graphics usually try to make up for the lack of originality, but I usually can walk away from the game without finishing it and not really care because in my mind, I still know the ending.

That leads us into today’s review. In Velvet Assassin you play as a female British secret agent during World War II with the gameplay revolving around your lurking in the shadows and undermining the Nazi regime in 1943-1944 Western Europe. I had heard rumors about this game in the later part of 2008 and then saw a demo at NY ComicCon and my interest was immediately piqued: A semi-original storyline (it’s based off a real-life WWII British agent) that didn’t revolve around troop movements and taking out tanks with bazooka launchers. It dealt with the grittier, darker side of war; sneaking cyanide capsules to captured double agents, infiltrating enemy strongholds and single-handedly sabotaging their oil lines or railways, and assassinating high-ranking officials in the middle of the night.

The great thing about this game is that it emphasizes stealth more than anything and it is rare to a see a game do this nowadays. Yes, the Metal Gear series has stealth elements as a strong part of the game, but then again you could hide in a crappy cardboard box and had a wealth of weapons and devices at any moment to help dispatch your enemies. At no time during this game do you have more than three weapons, one of which is your ever-present knife, to remind you that the best kill is the one that doesn’t make a sound (aside from the satisfying noise of your defeated foe gurgling on his own blood). The gameplay was a nice changeup from the run-and-gun style of most of today’s games.

While the game makes you think and work to succeed in ways that most games don’t anymore, the story engrosses you in the character with what has always been a limited subject matter for originality. Firstly, the female lead, Violette Summer (almost sounds like violent summer, any irony there?), is an attention grabber just due to the lack of female leads in games. Add in that she is one of the main weapons for the British on the frontlines doing the unthinkable and you’ve already got me hooked. But that wasn’t enough for SouthPeak Games. To add on top of it, the entire game is her memories of the war while she is in a coma from injuries that are explained as you progress. This also ties into one of the more interesting aspects of the gameplay. You can collect morphine over the course of most levels that represent an increase of her real-life dosage to help slow things down for her and make her dreams less strenuous (and less difficult for you).

Along with the great gameplay and plot, the game is graphically beautiful. From lurking in the shadows of ancient European cathedrals to trudging through the sewers of French ghettos, the visuals are superb. And the shadows are so critical to the entire game as you cross in front of floodlights and watch your silhouette raise the attention of the dozing off guards, or knock the lights out to bathe a room in obsidian safety.

Include a haunting soundtrack and you can actually feel your blood begin to race from the tension, as if you were in the shoes of the heroine, as you know that the wrong move could alert the enemy to your position and almost assuredly forfeit your life. The atmosphere that was created with so little and the clandestine nature of the game leaves you breathless like when you stare directly into the vapid eyes of the gasmask of a flame-trooper while he patrols right by you.

Time-accurate weaponry and locales, stunning graphics, and powerful atmospheric elements that stay with you well after you turn your XBOX360 off, makes this game a great stealth experience. If you’re tired of the usual run-and-gun and looking for a little more strategy from your shooters, this is a must have. Velvet Assassin is out now for XBOX360 and the PC.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 8.5: Although beautiful, the game is mostly spent in the dark so I can’t give it a perfect score. The lighting effects are top of the line though. Along with some very smooth NPCs (Non-playable characters), this game is not going to disappoint you visually.

Audio: 10.0: There purposely isn’t a lot of music to help immerse you in the experience of being this character and to stress the stealth aspects of the game. The music that is there is moving and sets the mood beautifully. Along with great voice acting by all involved (even if most of it is in a foreign language with subtitles, you could still feel the emotions of the characters) and Melinda Cohen who plays Violette (and doubles as the physical basis for Violette very nicely as well) does a brilliant job.

Plot/Plot Development: 7.0: It is another game based off of real-life events so you still know the historical outcome, but it is a story that hasn’t been told in a WWII game before and super-spies always play better to me than Saving Private Ryan rip-offs. This is more along the lines of Splinter Cell or No One Lives Forever, minus the fictional megalomaniac villains and replacing it with one of the original, real-life megalomaniac villains. This is one of the best stories for a game that you know the ending to that has come out in a long time.

Gameplay: 9.0: Difficult (at least on the hard difficulty I played on) but addictive, this game will keep you entertained for a solid 10-15 hours (I beat it in 11), and for this, that is the perfect length of time. The game is so engrossing that any longer and you would probably start speaking German and lurking in the shadows on your way to work in the morning.

Replay Value: 3.0: There are some interesting WWII inspired collectibles throughout the levels, but aside from that there just isn’t enough to bring you back for a second playthrough once you beat this. Great game, but definitely a one and done.

Overall: 8.0 (not an average): I thoroughly enjoyed Velvet Assassin as it was a nice alternative to all the run-and-gun shooters that usually permeate the market. Although it didn’t have enough to bring me back for more, and the last level was frustrating because it deviated from the stealth theme of the rest of the game, the game as a whole is engrossing and deserves a look from any shooter fan.

Also, I just want to include a special shout-out to Jino Song of Video Game World at 58 Broad St. in Bloomfield, NJ, 07003. Jino was kind enough, for a nominal fee, to fix my XBOX360 after I burned the lens out (it’s what I get for playing games for 10-12 hours a day) in just 24 hours. No hassle, no six week wait for Microsoft to replace my system, just a single day. Without Jino’s help, this review, and any game reviews coming in the next couple of months, would not be. If you have an XBOX360 that is giving you problems or are tired of the lack of personality you usually get from the big chain stores like Best Buy or GameStop, check out Jino’s shop and tell him that Ray Carsillo sent you.

-Ray Carsillo