Hitman’s world tour has arrived in Africa, as Episode three – ‘A Gilded Cage’ – goes live this week, immersing players in an all-new locale that sees Agent 47 taking on a contract that would make any Hillary Clinton supporter weak at the knees: a corrupt capitalist and a despotic dictator meet their maker amidst the backdrop of Marrakesh’s anarchic and lively setting.
HITMAN Episode 3 Marrakesh: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 31 May 2016
Episode Price: £7.99
Full Experience £44.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Easily the most detailed locale yet, Marrakesh is teeming with life. Improvised stalls selling counterfeit tablets and phones, tourists and protesters clashing amongst the bustle of the besieged main street and the muddle of the marketplace, chants and prayers filling the airwaves and competing against the buzz of rotor blades as military choppers and news helicopters circle overhead: the level is dense with the buzz of a culturally authentic space. IO Interactive’s ever-impressive eye for detail ensures your time in Morocco is strikingly different to your previous sojourns to Paris and Italy – just don’t stare too long at anything beyond the map, as you’ll be disappointed in the lacklustre, flat textures that make up the surrounding buildings of Marrakesh’s cityscape. There are audible drops too, and items thrown sometimes fall through floors, resulting in botched distraction attempts. These minor slip-ups are simply not expected in an IO product, but they do not recur nearly as often, nor impact the game nearly as much, as the technical faux pas that gamers have come to expect from the likes of Ubisoft and Warner Bros.
Three main areas make up Hitman’s latest playground. A dilapidated school occupied by heavily armed military personnel, a lavish Swedish Embassy and the marketplace. The school is a demanding, linear environment, prioritizing stealth and a methodical approach over the typical voyeurism you are invited to take part in in other episodes. Stalking your target through the school requires intimacy and a continued awareness of the many lines of sight within the structure. Additionally, huge holes in the walls and ceilings provide you with improvised vantage points and extra means of reaching your target, all the while being observed by the plethora of guards patrolling the corridors. Striking a balance between the opportune moment and the ideal moment will make or break your attempt in this particular section, but with enough speed and an ear for eavesdropping, you can make effortless work of Military General Reza Zaydan.
Having dispatched Zaydan – which is altogether too easy – Agent 47 will eventually arrive at the Swedish Embassy, wherein the corrupt financial fiddler Claus Strandberg resides. Certainly a ‘gilded cage’, the Embassy is a palatable, modern building, with minimal entrances and millions of eyes watching your every move. Getting into the Embassy might be rather too easy, with a multitude of disguises gaining you entry (even your suit won’t have the busybodies on the Embassy floor looking twice) but smuggling in your ideal toys and enacting the most esoteric eliminations of the target will require careful planning and a working knowledge of Hitman’s mechanics. Certainly not as linear as the school, and not as busy as the marketplace, the Embassy presents a nice balance of the two areas, and feels much more in keeping with the previous episodes.
Clearly the main attraction of episode three, the bustling bazaar of Marrakesh is pretty, but not as pivotal as you’d think. With plenty of opportunities available to you in the previous sections, assassinating your targets in the marketplace doesn’t seem feasible. This area is better utilised as a neutral zone, where careful observation and listening will allow you plan your upcoming attacks, and discover new strategies. Trying to draw the targets into the marketplace for a Jason Bourne-style assassination simply isn’t possible due to the game’s design, so the crowd, for all its ascetic merit, is merely window-dressing. The attention to detail is appreciated, and the audio quality is so immersive, that taking the time to wander around will be tactically valuable and a nice distraction. Sapienza – episode two’s locale – is still the best looking map available, and offers up the most diverse and wacky Hitman experience so far, while still being difficult and presenting a multi-faceted challenge in one level.
Marrakesh is another slice of quality content to add to the ever-impressive portfolio that is Hitman. Episode three is certainly easier than the previous entries, and not as visually stunning as ‘The Jewel of the Amalfi Coast’ in episode two, but Marrakesh’s transition from the open-ended, risk-free marketplace to the claustrophobic, narrow school and embassy settings makes this episode feel like more of a blend of the previous maps rather than a wholly unique experience. A nice, if albeit easy, change of pace from previous episodes, Hitman episode three: ‘A Gilded Cage’ is well worth a play.
HITMAN Episode 3 Marrakesh
- Authentic level design and presentation
- Interesting balance between the 'safe' market and 'dangerous' school and embassy sections
- Some minor technical shortcomings
- A bit too easy (laughably so with a sniper rifle!)
- No opportunity to bring targets into the marketplace
- Map is too divided between the three main areas, with little difference between the school and embassy in term of navigation and experience