Hitman Episode 3: Marrakech Review – Coping with the coup

Generating big crowds of people has been one of gaming’s next leaps in technology. Some games have managed to convey these with moderate amounts of success, but most of the times, they end up looking like a handful of repeated character models bunched up together, going through canned animation cycles. The first game that really nailed it, or at least pointed to what could be done with more powerful hardware was Hitman: Blood Money, during its now infamous Mardi Gras level. The crowds there were more of a gimmick than anything, not playing to much of anything other than trying to impress with numbers.

The third episode in the new Hitman manages to top that experience, giving us a level as big, or even bigger, than anything we’ve seen before this season, making fantastic use of crowds, both hostile and festive. It’s 47’s mission to take down two villains aiming to overthrow the Moroccan government — a banker, who’s holed up in the Swish embassy in Marrakech, and a general who’s using the former’s influence and money in order to take over. That’s all is set to happen while navigating around a powder keg ready to explode, the streets of Marrakech teeming with angry protesters alongside the locals just trying to make a living.

What sets this mission apart is how the that crowd is used. Thanks to what’s happening with the banker, who’s escaped custody only to seek refuge in the embassy, a large group of protesters is at all times standing between you and the building. That opens a variety of possibilities to take advantage of, but also complicates matters, depending on how things go. The second target is an entirely different matter. He’s under a lot of protection in a building that just happens to be a half destroyed school.

Marrakech‘s ambiance has been an integral part of many movies, and out of the many Hitman levels seen over the years, it’s one of the most striking, with many twists and turns, some of which simply lead to dead ends, while others have you exploring parts of the city not exactly tied to any of the core mission objectives. This episode in particular proves how fun it can be to simply walk around and take in the world that’s been built for the game. As with previous installments, the omission of the local language in favor of American accented English still comes off as weird, especially in a locale such as this. Still, if you manage to overlook an inconsistency like this, there’s a lot to appreciate in the intricacies of the world design, and its inhabitants’ behaviors, for as out of place as they sound in that particular environment.

When it comes to being creative, Marrakech is as open to carving your own path as the past missions, that is, there are pre-programmed opportunities that you can partake, as well as exit points, but whatever comes in between is free for you to explore and take advantage of if you can. Like in Sapienza, I managed to finish the mission without going through any planned motions from the developers, but I was able to grasp a few of them on my way. A few of them feel a little too convenient considering the scope of the mission, but then again, for as open as these missions like to seem, they’re still closed worlds, as in, you can’t really do anything you want. The game limits you, even though it’s relatively generous in its possibilities. The opportunities themselves, for the many I was able to discover, seem like fun ways to complete objectives, while others are mainly there to be humorous, like dropping a toilet on top of a particular target’s head. Hitman humor, through and through.

I’m quite curious where the underlying story is likely to go. I failed to mention in the previous reviews just because they didn’t seem like much, but there are quick cutscenes interspersed between missions. It seems there’s a shadowy organization whose members happen to be the targets that 47 has been offing, who are now actively looking for the one leaking their names out to killers. Whether or not this hook will go anywhere interesting is anyone’s guess. So far, it’s just a bunch of mysteries that are up in the air.

While the main objectives aren’t quite as well developed as in previous installments, Marrakech still keeps the bar quite high for Hitman this season. It’s still an entertaining mission for sure. The living world it takes place in only helps in making you feel like you’re really globe trotting while carrying out 47’s contracts. The crowds are the true highlight in this episode, with uses and active behavior that are very impressive, something that’s rarely seen this amount of care before.

score_four-stars

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