Over the summer, we’ve been covering a lot of different episodes that have been released for HITMAN, the latest installment in Square Enix’s hit shooter/espionage series. This particular game debuted earlier this year and represented a bold shift in strategy for the franchise. It was the first time that a HITMAN game had been designed as an episodic experience, and while that format still irritates some gamers, it’s proven to have been a winning strategy in this case. Every new episode is revealed differently, but starting with the first one (“Paris Review”), the critical reception has been favorable.
To some, the gradual rollout of HITMAN over the course of 2016 has represented an exciting and daring new direction for one of the more popular franchises in the video game world. But if you actually look back at the last few releases attached to this franchise, the transition to episodic gaming looks like more of the same (in a good way). Square Enix has actually been stretching Agent 47’s adventures out across different formats and styles of gaming for some time now, and always with success.
The most recent instance of this experimentation before 2016’s HITMAN was the Hitman: Sniper mobile game, which calls itself the most compelling sniper experience on mobile (with good reason). Unlike past HITMAN games, this title simply puts you in position to snipe your targets, rather than asking you to go through a whole mission to take them down. Naturally it’s simpler than your average HITMAN console game, but purely as a point-and-shoot mobile sniper, it’s an exceptional game. The sniper genre actually carries a lot of different options on mobile, and this game’s claim as the best is pretty legitimate. The HITMAN atmosphere adds a lot to it, and the graphics are every bit as good as you’d expect from Square Enix.
Before the Hitman: Sniper game came out on mobile, another departure from the ordinary HITMAN format came out online in the form of a themed slot machine. Known as a video slot that brings the mysterious Agent 47 to the reels, it’s a huge step up from your average internet casino game. The slot reels are filled with symbols from the games (such as rifles, garrote wires, and various other murderous tools), and there’s a bonus feature that allowed you to pick a target out of five options and eliminate him in an effort to win a special prize. It’s a real money casino game, so it won’t necessarily cater to the same audience that enjoys average HITMAN games, but for its genre it’s pretty inventive.
And finally, there was actually another mobile game that was every bit as big a departure from the typical HITMAN format as a casino game or sniper simulation. Hitman GO is an award-winning, turn-based strategy game that’s almost as much of a puzzle as an assassination game. In this bizarre mobile game (which incidentally works very similarly to Lara Croft GO, also a Square Enix product), you basically control Agent 47 one turn at a time, trying to work your way through landscapes without being spotted by villains. The ultimate goal is to take down your target, but it’s as much a game of chess as it is a shooter or espionage game.
Not every HITMAN game before these was the same, as there were plenty of small changes in the style of the action or the ways the worlds were built. But these examples, in addition to the episodic game that people are still enjoying on consoles, fully demonstrate that this is a franchise that can achieve just about anything in modern gaming. Square Enix has found success on multiple fronts with HITMAN and as the episode rollout continues to prove that point, it will be all the more fascinating to see where the franchise goes next.