Hitman: Patient Zero

Recently everyone's favourite murder themed puzzle game Hitman released a game of the year edition along with a new campaign. This is part of the developers Io Interactive's break with publisher square enix such that they now own the hitman IP and are running the game independently.

It had looked like before the split up that io were going to be killed off and we wouldn't ever get season 2 of this supposedly episodic game.

But hooray more hitman ... with a catch since it's not the same publisher anyone who got the "full edition" that previously got all the new content including the bonus missions doesn't get patient zero it's only part of the goty edition or available by DLC. Which is a bit of a kick in the teeth but I guess understandable given the agreement for season one was with square enix and now it's all IO's and they presumably need more cash to keep the lights on.

Anyway it's a short campaign with 4 missions that reuse some of existing level assets with retooled sections much like the bonus missions they did previously.

The theme is a doomsday cult is out to set off some sort of virus weapon and you are tasked with stopping them with murder, a sort of if your only tool is a hammer every job is a nail kind of situation.

The first retooled mission is set in the bangkok Himmapan Hotel level where you have to assassinate the cult leaders and initially it felt a bit of a cheap cash in. There are none of the discoverable opportunities that were in previous levels (little sequences that present themselves in conversations that if you follow them allow you to kill or get close to a target with a series of steps) there were still various intelligence pieces which suggest at paths you can take (ie one in the opening are you over hear staff talking about fire extinguishers which tells you the cult have some sort of fire ritual on the roof). There are still fewer of these than in the original missions.

It's still the usual game of locating the targets working out how to get close via various disguises sneaking and distraction then isolating them before offing them in some fashion.

The second mission is much the same sort of thing set in a retooled night time Sapienza where an author of "twilight esq" fiction is an operative for the cult and needs a good murdering as well as his cult contact. It's a better use of the area in that because it's night time it feels very different from the original "World of Tomorrow" mission which is all day time bright and colourful this is muted colours more sinister settings. It still feels a little more empty than the previous missions but still fun.

Mission 3 is where it starts to get interesting set in the colorado militia compound area it changes things up such that you don't go into the level at all you are up a cell tower with a sniper rifle and you have to pick off 4 infected people and one main target. You don't know who these people are and can't see them in 'hitman vison' and have to identify them by a series of descriptions given to you by your handler Diana over the radio. It seems somewhat procedural who the targets are as I've gotten different targets as I've replayed but it will first specify an area ie over by the green house or down a the shooting range, then it will specify some sort of action the person is doing like he's a gardener or a cook, then some physical description he has a limp or he's scratching a lot. It makes for some fun observational puzzling looking for the right target to take out. There is also the aspect that since you are several miles away you can't hide the bodies and if they are discovered the other targets make a break for it which makes them harder to hit and potentially makes you fail the mission. So you look for ways to shoot them such that their bodies fall into bushes or down wells or it looks like an accident. It was a refreshing change using what was the worst of the locations in the main game and making it fresh and new and giving you a whole new game section to play.

For the fourth mission it's back to the similar "normal" gameplay set in hokkaido medical facility the final level of the season 1 game you have to eliminate a doctor and the man infected with the original virus the titular patient zero. But there is a twist the virus is spreading through the facility and other characters will get infected and you then have to eliminate them to halt the spread and it spreads fast. I had something like 20 infected before I started to get things under control. It means that you basically get a huge number of extra targets you have to eliminate (without the usual non target kill point penalty) to finish the level. It's also possible you can get infected then you need to get a antidote or you can get a hazmat suit to avoid that. It makes for a different sort of play than before and watching the "infected" count just spiral up out of control as the virus spreads through the facility (which seems to be all dynamic characters passing each other passing on the virus it spreading naturally not in any sort of preprogrammed way) can be quite alarming. It makes for a very different sort of play through and keeps things fresh.

In total the patient zero campaign is more hitman which is good hitman's strength is these wonderfully rich and detailed areas to play in with huge numbers of options for how to proceed and they've made use of that by retooling their existing created areas with new targets and challenges with some additional modifications to those areas to make them a bit fresh. The first two missions felt a little like they hadn't put quite as much effort into them as the previous season one missions. Half the fun in hitman is replaying but using different tools or methods to achieve your goal or complete various challenges and here it felt like they'd not put quite so many options in there. There are still a bunch of ways to achieve your goals but previous levels had 6 or 7 opportunities built in and maybe twice that bits of intelligence here there were no opportunities and maybe 3 or 4 intelligence pieces. If it weren't for the last two missions with their change of pace and different play styles it would feel like the campaign was a little phoned in. It would still probably be worth the ten dollars price tag for 4 new challenges but it would have been less satisfying as a mini campaign. As it is it makes for an enjoyable new campaign with its own story pieces and unique bits of gameplay.

If you liked season one of hitman this is more of the same with some new twists. I hope we see more of the new types of levels with these interesting new gameplay additions in future and hopefully some new areas when they get round to doing season two.