We’ve reached the end of the year, and that means people are doing their recaps of the best games we saw in the past 12 months. For 2016, these recaps tend to include a lot of the same titles like Uncharted 4, Titanfall 2, Doom, Dishonored 2, and even Pokémon GO. As we see the year’s games narrowed down to a handful of popular favorites, it’s also tempting to look back at some of the titles that might have been a bit overlooked.
The latest Hitman game is definitely one of the best of the year but probably hasn’t gotten the recognition it deserves. Developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix, it was released in March to surprisingly little fanfare. This may have been due in part to the disappointing release of the Hitman: Agent 47 film, which was a something of a black eye for the franchise. It was one of the worst reviewed movies of 2015 and all but assured that there is no immediate future for the Hitman franchise on the big screen. It wasn’t a great look, even if it had very little to do with the 2016 game.
It could also be that this latest console installment of Hitman blended in somewhat with the multiple spinoffs that Square Enix produced in recent years. While primarily associated with consoles and PCs the Hitman franchise now branches out across multiple gaming platforms, particularly on mobile devices. Hitman GO is regarded as a smooth and intelligent puzzle game that set the stage for Lara Croft GO, and Hitman: Sniper has been referred to as a truly fantastic mobile title, managing to stand out in a relatively crowded category of zoom, point, and click sniping games. Neither game is a full-fledged Hitman experience, but both capture the spirit of the main series.
Hitman has also extended into the online gaming industry, specifically when it comes to slot machines based on popular franchises. This is a more crowded category than you might expect and the Hitman game is one of the more impressive titles of the bunch. Described as having managed to recreate some of the most memorable features of the cult game, it’s a deeper and richer experience than your average internet slot. To a fan of the franchise, it’s a pretty worthy tribute while remaining accessible to those not as familiar with its console counterparts.
These games have been good for the Hitman brand but they may also have overshadowed the release of the 2016 game in a way. If people get too used to seeing one sort of Hitman release or another every six months or so, a major console tittle can blend in, and that might be what happened to some extent with this year’s game. Nevertheless, this year’s entry was an outstanding stealth adventure game perfectly worthy of its iconic name.
Built into an episodic format, it’s an ideal modern take on the franchise. Hitman is far and away the most beautiful game in the series thus far, and combines some of the best elements of previous games, like the traditional sandbox-style level construction and the smooth controls of Hitman: Absolution. The action, as always, depends on intelligence as much as quick reflexes, making for an experience that’s as much about stealth as it is about shooting.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a few minor flaws that could be improved upon. The AI could be a little sharper (a frequent complaint with Hitman games), and the whole experience could be bigger, having been constrained slightly by the episodic format. For the most part this is an impressive game, and one that deserves more attention as we near the end of 2016—even if it has been kind of drowned out by other recent titles branded with the Hitman name.