Hitman is the only game I needed from 2016

For various reasons ranging from a lack of interest to just not having any money, I’ve kinda sat out new game releases in 2016, instead spending most of my time playing some retro gems that I never got around to, or just seeing how many times I could find an excuse to get Waluigi on the SD card of my newly hacked GameCube.
The big exception to that this year is the monthly(ish) episodic Hitman releases at have kinda been a blessing to someone who’s had no spare cash for new games for most of the year.

I remember not really being that interested in the game pre-release, weird stuff was floating around about what the game actually was, and then the revelation that it would be episodic started making it seem like the game was a disaster waiting to happen.
So I let it pass me by until one day I saw a video pop up in my YouTube feed from Hitman superfan ManyATrueNerd showing off the opening tutorial levels and my first look at the stunning Paris fashion show level. I could tell straight away that it had the potential to be something special, and even if I dropped off it like I have so many other episodic games before this, at least I’d have a few hours of in depth fucking around in a weird plywood yacht.
It’s precisely that ability to fuck around making weird things happen that has always made the Hitman series a good time, and by god they knew that was the case going into this game.

Every level is a masterclass in sandbox level design, some like the truly wonderful Sapienza more perfect than others, and whether you want to play it in a serious “Leon The Professional” roleplaying mindset or just dive in head first with exploding golf balls, drum kits, and catwalk shows, the game is more open to that than the lukewarmly received Hitman Absolution was at any point.

This is enabled even further by the Opportunities system, which I mean could have been a total mess which made the game too linear, the paint by numbers Hitman that I saw more than a few people describing it as at first, but instead it ends up being a great way to introduce you to the map and some of the possibilities in it, usually with a hilarious payoff at the end.
The success of the Opportunities system is absolutely tied to them choosing to put the game out episodically, as if all the maps had of been available right away I can see myself just rushing through each one, treating it as a linear interactive story rather than exploring the sandbox.

The promise of episodic games has been floating around for years now, and outside of the Telltale storytelling way of doing it I don’t feel like anyone has ever managed to make it work in a meaningful way. Hitman it turns out is such a good fit for that style of release, a “hey here’s this cool place for you to mess around with and break in a thousand different ways for a month”, that I really felt like getting that season pass at the start of the year was like buying a ticket for this wild ride that followed for the remainder of this year.
Honestly if I was just picking up the complete season now I would feel like I had missed out on a vital part of the Hitman experience, and that’s without me even mentioning the “elusive targets” that have popped up every once in the while, which have made the game feel so much more like this living breathing thing, this wild ride I talked about where getting a notification from the app (yes I’m lame and got the app, and you should too) telling you that there’s a something new and exciting going on that makes you rethink these maps you already know so well, it’s rewarding, even now at the end of the year.

I’m not usually much of a “game of the year” kinda person, but what I will say is that for me at least Hitman has been the game that has defined 2016, more than any single game has for any year I can remember. I can’t goddamn wait for season 2.

15 years later we finally beat Harry Potter on PS1

harry-potter-ending

Back in 2001 the Harry Potter phenomenon was in full swing, I read all the books, loved the movie, and like every other kid in my class that year couldn’t wait to get my hands on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the PlayStation. Whether it was a good game or not was irrelevant, it was Harry-motherfucking-Potter.
The game itself was one of the few bought new PS1 games I actually owned, it being 2001 and in Washington, Tyne & Wear most of my games were pirated, and this would have been no exception had the disk I got worked properly (bad dump? Maybe the tools just weren’t as up to scratch back then?), so I ended up getting it as a gift for my 9th birthday.
I played it for hours, got every weird jelly bean collectible thing, every bullshit wizard card waste of time, every point for the house cup, before eventually getting stuck on a weird out of place stealth section and giving up on it. The bloody cat caught me every time.
So I pretty much forgot all about the game, before a fit of drunken nostalgia between me, Lisa and our friend Jen compelled me to dig around in my parents loft for it.

Putting the disk in my PS3 and a JD and Coke in my mouth, it seemed like a decent way to kill an evening. But honestly, besides a couple of nearly unforgivably infuriating sections, it turned out to not be a bad game for the era, and probably doesn’t deserve all the hate it gets.
Hell, for a kid obsessed with that world way back when it must have been a pretty immersive place to explore. It has a little piece of everything in it, so no matter whether you fantasied about potions class or being a Quidditch star when you were reading the books by torchlight, it had you covered.
And that’s how it became a thing for the last few months for us to get blitzed and pass the controller around for a couple of hours.
We soon passed that invisibility cloak area that I got stuck at as a kid, and this weekend finished the thing off for good (until we see Chamber of Secrets for 50p in CeX at least).

It’s far from perfect.
Some sections are punishingly hard, even for me now, an adult who has spent most of his life getting the hang of playing games. There are impossibly precise jumping sections, a general lack of information on what you’re doing or why, those terrible camera controls, and don’t even get me started on that whole Gringotts rail section.

harry-potter-time
To be fair they were 5 very long hours

It’s unforgivable for a kids game, and kinda just came across as one of those old “hey let’s make the game super punishing so that they can’t rent it and beat it over a weekend” things.
I can only imagine that this was an intentional attempt at extending the playtime. We weren’t going off and doing every little side objective, but we weren’t exactly going for a speedrun either, and even with the game occasionally left on pause for 20 minutes our final time only clocked in at 5 hours 7 minutes.
In spite of some of the dated mechanics and the short playtime (of perhaps because of it) I could actually see myself playing this again sometime, or at the very least it’s given me enough curiosity to check out the rest of the series.
For now I’m headed back up north to my parents place again for a couple of days. I might have to dig around in the loft again and see what excuse for drunk fun I can find.