Lock up your lady-boys and make your peace with Buddha: Agent 47 has finally descended upon Bangkok, Thailand, in episode 4 of IO interactive’s male-patent baldness/professional assassin simulator Hitman. Does this latest DLC put the bang in Bangkok, or will Thailand end up on your no-fly list?
The fundamental Hitman experience remains unchanged regarding the scenario. Two targets, each as wonderfully detestable as the other: the brazen, loud, irrational personality accompanied by the ruthless, intelligent, calculating character. Each target occupies different areas of the map and as such unwittingly create a multitude of opportunities just waiting to be seized upon by master assassins. From killer curries’ to callous coconuts, the wealth of options in your menu of murder is still as impressive and eclectic as any of the previous maps. In fact, some of the challenges presented to you with this latest serving of Hitman may leave you scratching your head and pulling your hypothetical hair out (sorry 47) as you figure out how exactly you’re supposed to assassinate someone… while sat down… in front of them.
HITMAN Episode 4 Bangkok: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: IO Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: 16 August 2016
Episode Price: £7.99
Full Experience £44.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
If the challenges weren’t wonderfully vexing enough, the AI and overall behaviour of the NPCs has been addressed in conjunction with this latest episode, ensuring death will not come quickly for your targets. NPCs move in pairs, enforcer-level enemies are peppered throughout the level at key locations, and the security stations are well-staffed and claustrophobia-inducing. The confines of the Himmapan Hotel are surging with private security, varying staff members and a privileged entourage surrounding one of the targets. As such, no disguise is infallible, and adapting to the ever-watchful gaze of the NPCs feels like much more of a struggle in this episode than any of the ones prior to it. Even key cards are scarce, with most locked doors requiring such implements to open, reducing your trusty lockpick to a rather fashionable toothpick for all the good it will do you here. With the locale spanning multiple floors, loads of rooms to explore and conversations to drop some eaves upon, moving quickly yet deliberately is key: the distance between your two targets will force you to stalk, sneak and strike your way through the entire hotel. Although one wing of the hotel is relatively neglected due to the level’s set-up, exploration will still be rewarded, so time should certainly be taken to allow for a keen combing of the level.
The constant paranoia you feel as you encounter another enforcer, or another pair of NPCs just so awkwardly placed so as to put the brakes on your next master plan, will keep you razor sharp and never underestimating the attention to detail and awareness displayed by IO Interactive. They know how you think and how you play, and with several episodes and a cache of fantastic Elusive Contracts under their belt, Bangkok really feels like an evolution of sorts. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the series premier “The Showstopper” while I stalked the halls of the Himmapan Hotel. This latest instalment feels like an upgrade rather than obligatory DLC: the AI is keener, the HUD is cleaner, and the overall design and NPC placement is meaner – and I relished it. Not quite as organic a space as Sapienza, but certainly more of a dynamic and breathable space than Paris and Marrakesh, Bangkok represents a technical highpoint for the Hitman experience, and makes up for the linear, lacking prior instalment. Overall, the entirety of the space available to you is not fully utilised as it was in episode two, but keener, more considered exploration of the area is demanded of the player, resulting in a more focused experience, as opposed to Sapienza, wherein the invitation to let loose and roam was all too vocal and much appreciated. Bangkok feels like a much more constructed, considered space, designed to keep you focused, thinking and furious as you adapt your way through the level.
Now, I’m aware that I’ve named the level several times and discussed the difficulty, and the NPC movement, and the ethos of the map design in relation to the other DLCs’: but that’s enough of the boring stuff. This map is utterly gorgeous! Without a doubt, the most regal, visually delectable and distinct map so far, to call IO’s rendition of Bangkok uncanny would be nothing short of an insult. This map has better graphics than real life, period. From the champagne hue that coats the Thai skyline (‘thailine’, hehe), to the lavish edifice of the luxurious Himmapan Hotel, adorned with a regal palette of glimmering golds and plush purples, the attention to detail is astonishing. The hotel foyer is a horticultural haven, with all manner of flora competing with and complimenting one another in order to overstate the grandeur and elitism of the locale you’ve arrived at. Sincerely, if IO Interactive kept producing content so photo-realistic and utterly enjoyable to explore, I’ll end up becoming a travel agent by the time Agent 47 visits Japan for the season finale. If I have to praise IO any further regarding visuals, the detail is phenomenal, both outside and inside the hotel, and the sense of a distinguishable, local and utterly unique flavour you get for the area is almost tangible – there are complimentary mints on every bed! Game of the year.
Another stellar, worthwhile serving from the buffet of brilliance that is Hitman, “Episode Four: Club 27” is the most technically demanding, visually elegant addition to the Hitman experience thus far – more than making up for the somewhat lacking Marrakesh sequence while simultaneously exceeding the bar set by episode two. With the story gathering pace and the intrigue building, before the hunt goes stateside in the next instalment, make sure you treat your silent assassin to a little r&r at the Himmapan Hotel: it’s simply to die for.
Another fascinating storyline, replete with detestable characters and nods to previous contracts.
The opening vista is simply stunning – an amber glaze is draped over the skyline of Bangkok, setting a majestic scene for this episode. As always, the graphics and attention to detail are simply delicious, and IO Interactive cannot be praised enough for their technical fidelity and their ability to make the world look more real than real life. To say the Bangkok of Episode 4 is uncannily comparable to real-world Bangkok is an insult to the creators.
Voice acting is still under par. Even in Bangkok, the amount of American spoken amongst the locals is saddening and immersion-breaking.
A host of updates to the interface and gameplay, although not exclusively part of the episode addition, make the experience more rewarding. Distraction items cannot be abused and thrown multiple times. Soda pop cans will break upon use, for instance. Further additions include flagging items in your inventory that will be discovered upon getting frisked.
The difficulty is certainly noticeable in this instalment. Thankfully the cell-by-cell design of Marrakesh has been abandoned, and the challenge has been ramped up. Most guards patrol in pairs, key cards are scarce, security rooms are dense with NPCs and the distance between your two targets will force you to stalk, sneak and strike your way through the entire hotel.
This level feels like the season premiere but upgraded in every possible way. Although not as organic and interwoven as Sapienza’s design, the Bangkok demands exploration and patience. Most notably, there is an increased risk factor with this level. Vital items, opportunities to exploit and individuals are often covered in sightlines, resulting in careful consideration and evaluation from the player. Almost every plan I attempted to execute required me to consider several NPCs at once, as their paranoid awareness made any brazen actions near impossible to attempt. Bangkok is as much a quality piece of DLC as it is a technical demonstration of IO’s abilities. A Venus fly trap of a map – episode four is beautiful to look at, commands caution and attraction in equal measure, and will punish even the slightest mistake with its meticulous design. Trust me: it’ll love you long time!
HITMAN Episode 4 Bangkok
- The best looking map to date
- Great storyline - oozing with intrigue
- Added enforcers and 'pack mentality' of NPCs presents a unique challenge
- Mints on every bed. Attention to detail is superb
- Anglo-centric voice-overs detract from the immersion
- Linear, by definition of it being a hotel rather than a coastal town, compared to Sapienza
- Targets still adhering to the