(Square Enix for PS4)
By Mike Delano
Even though it’s been nearly 10 years since most console gamers started buying digital games online, episodic digital games have mostly been smaller projects, from Telltale’s many popular series to new hits like Life Is Strange. Heavy hitters like Call of Duty and Fallout still stick with the formula of making a big splash with an all-at-once boxed product (with post-release digital add-ons, of course). The 2016 incarnation of the Hitman franchise is one of the first big names to try out the episodic model for its new game, and it’s a great fit. Hitman is well suited for the episodic approach since the focus isn’t a narrative that you want to barrel through quickly to get to the ending, it’s a series of elaborate, self-contained locations where you practice your trade as a silent assassin.
Elaborate is the operative word. The first two chapters (Paris and the recently released Sapienza) of the season pass are incredibly detailed, devious playgrounds filled with a ton of options for the creative killer. Silencers to the head, poisoned drinks and deadly accidents are all expected methods of contract fulfillment, but did you imagine you would be getting your makeup done and walking the catwalk? Developer IO Interactive has always excelled at creating densely realized, sleek and modern environments teeming with life and the potential for dark humor. Paris and Sapienza are both perfect examples of this and set high expectations for the remainder of this year’s content (Marrakesh, Thailand, United States and Japan). These are places you’ll want to savor, exploring every nook and cranny, and the episodic release schedule encourages this. Not many game series could pull off such a bold move, but then again few games are as well versed in stylish execution as Hitman.