Playing through Hitman’s season finale titled: Situs Inversus made me feel nostalgic. Maybe it was the level design that took me back; or maybe even the well-hidden easter-eggs that veteran players will remember. Either way Hokkaido is a fitting finale that focusses on gameplay more than story.
Agent 47 is tasked with elimination two targets: Erich Soders-an ICA board member and Yuki Yamazaki-a lawyer who looks reminiscent of a blonde Faith from Mirrors Edge. Both targets are highly secured in this discreet location. The location is a beautiful, high-tech hospital/resort that lies high up in the mountains of Hokkaido. The facility is not only reminiscent of the film Ex-Machina but also past Hitman missions. While playing through the mission I noticed a few call-backs to missions such as “You Better Watch Out” and “FLATLINE.”Once I was given my objectives I geared up for the mission. The only problem was the game purposefully restricts your equipment. I was only given a default starting location and disguise. This didn’t bother me because I was willing to accept the challenge.
Once into the game though, I knew I was in for a good time. The initial opening has 47 lying on a bed in his suite under the alias of Tobias Rieper. The sheer beauty of the Glacier Engine is on display here, showcasing detailed high-class environments. The design of the facility was so intriguing I started to wonder if the location was based on an actual place in Hokkaido. It’s not just the look of the facility that draws the player in, it’s also the design itself. Hokkaido’s facility is one of numerous environmental layers. From its posh main level consisting of a spa, restaurant, garden and hospital, to its labyrinth of hallways that maze through the lower levels. Consisting of a morgue, work quarters and a kitchen.
The level design and starting equipment make for an interesting episode, mostly because trial and error is bound to happen. One of these examples comes in the form of the level design itself. In previous episodes access to most rooms can be as simple as lock-picking the door. In Hokkaido it’s a whole different ballgame. Different doors can only be accessed by the clothes you are wearing. For example, I can only access rooms in the hospital by wearing either a doctor or a security disguise. Outfits such as the chef or maintenance are prohibited.
The person or thing to thank for this change is a secret third character simply called: KAI. KAI is an artificial intelligence that theoretically runs the facility, so it would be best to deal with him as quickly as you can. KAI unabashedly feels like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and his few lines of dialogue are certainly icing on the cake. It’s not only the doors of the facility KAI controls; its Mr. Soder’s as well. Since Mr. Soder’s is in need of a heart transplant most of KAI’s programming is focused on keeping him stable during his operation.
Erich Soder’s is one of the toughest targets in the season to date; pretty ironic considering he’s stationary on his operating table. But while Erich is tricky, Yuki is quite the opposite. She walk’s the main floor of the facility with her bodyguards, and unlike Erich, she is less guarded leaving her more vulnerable to take out. It’s in taking out Yuki that make some of the new episode-specific challenges fun. Many of which are elaborate and challenging.
Despite having an immersive atmosphere in level design, I never felt immersed in the core story. Like many of the episodes a cutscene commences once completion of the level happens. Much like the levels themselves, these cutscenes are beautiful, yet are underwhelming in terms of plot. Going forward I hope there is more thought put into expanding the larger story at hand.
Hokkaido is a strong finale to cap off the first season of Hitman. One that provides high-replayability and sheer fun the more you play. Despite having more emphasis on the level design rather than the story itself. It’s a fun and easter-egg filled mission serving as a high-point in the season. Until next time 47.
*authors note: I littered a few clues as to what sort of easter-eggs can be found in the episode throughout the review. Feel free to comment if you know what they are.*