Saturday, October 1, 2016

Hitman (2016) Episode Four: Bangkok review

    I'm terribly late regarding this review and that's a shame because it's an episode which grew on me. When I originally played through it, I didn't think all that much of it because the hotel setting felt like a step down from the previous episodes. I changed my views the more I played it, becoming aware of all the wonderful little in's and out's of the characters involved. This episode has probably the strongest writing in the game so far, target wise, and I'm pleased with the results.

    The premise of the episode is Jordan Cross, lead singer for the band The Class, is guilty of murdering his girlfriend in the heat of the moment. The girl's parents, rather than sit and take this lying down, have chosen to hire Agent 47 to eliminate Cross as well as his sleazy lawyer. It's a great human story for our favorite assassin as Cross is unlike the majority of targets in that he's racked with guilt for his actions. Exploring the twisted events which have led to the contract on his head is quite enjoyable.

Don't shoot the elephants!
    Ken Morgan is not remotely sympathetic by contrast but represents the system which allowed spoiled rich kids like Cross to get away with (literal) murder. Interestingly, Morgan is significantly easier to kill than Cross. I found a dozen relatively easy ways to eliminate Morgan from the get go while luring Cross to his doom was great deal more difficult. I like this as not every target should be identically difficult.

     A theme of the episode is the self-destructive nature of rock stars as well as entitlement. Jordan is the son of a high-ranking member of Providence who has had everything handed to him in his life but now believes he's his own man who deserves respect. This would be an admirable goal if not for the fact he essentially bought his music career and the moment he got in trouble, admittedly for murder, he called on his father's connections to get himself acquitted. The little nods to music tragedies fills the story and sometimes verges on poor taste. Interestingly, Jordan strongly resembles actor Jared Leto.

"I'm too rich to die!"
    I was initially skeptical of the hotel premise because I didn't think it wouldn't be nearly as grandiose as the previous levels. Sapienza remains the best of the episodes released so far with its sprawling map and amazing design. Even so, I liked the three part level of Marrakesh where you had the austere Swiss embassy, the bombed-out school, and the bazaar. Here, you only have the hotel and Cross' recording studio. Despite this, it's a magnificently designed location with a surprising number of rooms having clues or persons of interest.

Ken Morgan's security is crap.
     The studio is perhaps my favorite part of the episode because you can kill Jordan in a variety of ways from a rigged microphone, electrocution with a fountain, shooting him in the recording studio, and my favorite in confronting him in a Godfather-esque style with evidence of his murder. It's immensely satisfying and simultaneously sad to watch him beg for his life while trying to think of an excuse, any excuse, for you not to kill him.

    The methods of killing your targets range from the humorous to the deadly serious. While getting Cross on his knees to be executed is dramatic, you can also smother him in his own birthday cake. You can also blow Ken Morgan up when he's purchasing a junker car for the novelty value. This in contrast to scenes like gaslighting Jordan Cross into murdering Morgan for you. I got to enjoy using some new toys which appeared this time around like an exploding cellphone, a mix tape of foreign pop music for 47, and a stealth sniper rifle as well as shotgun (!!).

Crappy cars make great exploding vehicles.
    In terms of the larger plot, we finally get some developments with the Shadow Client, Providence, the ICA, and 47. Diana has examined all of the contracts they've been taking and determined someone is using the ICA to attack an unknown enemy. 47 is less than concerned about this since he only cares about his contract. Diana, however, believes the neutrality of their agency is a highly important matter.

    Honestly, I found this to be a rather late series of revelations as there's only two episodes after this one. I would have maybe had a single episode, maybe two, where 47 and Diana were clueless but we're four episodes with them being unwitting pawns. I don't find the Shadow Client's crusade against Providence particularly interesting since they've yet to show themselves as particularly dangerous. I know IO Entertainment has said they plan another season of episodic adventures but I would have preferred a faster paced game.

This minigame was hilarious.
    I have a few complaints about Io's handling of Bangkok, not the least being the delay until its release despite being able to do many Elusive Target missions. I would have appreciated a monthly release schedule maintained consistently but that's something which can't really be blamed on the developers. A game is done when it's done. Even so, the delay between Episodes Three and Four is noticeable and effected by ability to get back into the game.

    Overall, I have to say that Bangkok was enjoyable but not quite up to the same level as the previous ones. It's enjoyment is mostly in its replay value and the dramatic soap-opera story about Jordan Cross' murder of his Hannah Highmoore. There's a few great moments in the game like having 47 mix Jordan Cross' newest song as well as playing the role of a Neil Pert-esque drummer (which 47's stoic response matches perfectly).  Still, the episode is rather slow to start and requires heavy exploration to enjoy.


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