Hitman Episode 6: Hokkaido Review – Strike at the heart

Looking back, it’s odd to think there was trepidation surrounding IO Interactive’s decision to make Hitman episodic. The game’s first season, which has been releasing episodes frequently throughout the year, has been a constant delight. Each mission has provided a multitude of ways to perform assassinations, ranging from the direct (i.e. a simple sniper shot from afar) to the silly (i.e. dropping a toilet on someone’s head). Hitman’s final episode continues to deliver on that promise, but one key twist: by starting you off with nothing.

Where every other mission lets you take a full loadout of weapons, distraction items, and tools like lockpicks or explosives, Hokkaido, at least on your first outing, doesn’t give you anything. Instead of heading in with a little bit of wiggle room, here you have to make due with whatever you can find or whatever the level provides in terms of natural diversions, which isn’t much. As a state-of-the-art hospital, the usual radios, generators, and so on aren’t available. Nor is there much in the way of melee weapons you can throw to silently knock out NPCs from a distance. As if all that wasn’t enough, disguises act as keys here, as you’re only able to access certain parts of the facility while wearing certain uniforms due to them carrying the correct chip inside them.

Hokkaido is very much the antithesis of what Hitman’s built itself up as. Instead of letting you play with your menagerie of weapons and gadgets you’ve accrued over the last five episodes out of the gate, you have to earn the ability to do so. Instead of granting you a veritable playground of assassination from the get-go, you’re limited in what you can do and where you can go. That’s largely what makes this map so interesting.

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Every other mission in Hitman sends you in with the minimum amount of tools to get the job done. Hokkaido strips you of any gear and tells you to figure it out as you go. It’s an interesting challenge, as it forces you to rethink your entire approach to Hitman. I usually rely on coins to break NPCs’ patrol routines so I can safely knock them out without being seen. Environmental distractions are helpful too, but they’re rare on this map. All the usual methods you take for granted are absent here. Pulling off opportunities takes considerably more effort as such.

You have to get more creative. An opportunity to disguise yourself as a patient whose face is covered in bandages grants you quick and easy access to the more secure wing of the hospital, but you also need to act fast since it expires quickly. Otherwise you could try and sneak into the basement level and try finding a spare staff outfit. Myself, I saw a security guard walk into one of their hubs and followed him inside, staying just out of sight until he moved elsewhere so I could strike and steal his uniform. With most of the complex open to me, it was a cinch to follow a couple opportunities.

Hokkaido sees you taking down two targets: A powerful and corrupt lawyer who works for Providence, the shadowy organization that’s acted as the villain throughout the game so far, and Soders, one of ICA’s own. The setup is that Soders is undergoing heart surgery and plans to sell a list of all active ICA agents to Providence once he’s back on his feet. So of course you need to stop that from happening.

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First I took out the lawyer by disguising myself as the hospital’s yoga teacher, who proved difficult to knock out since he rarely moved through unpopulated areas. Nearly got caught, but it mostly went smoothly. Next I took care of Soders by sabotaging the AI handling his surgery by stealing the hospital director’s clothes and messing with the mainframe. Not the best approach, in retrospect, as some of the guards saw through my disguise and chased me all the way to the exit. Still; got the job done.

Completing the mission obviously lifts the restrictions imposed on your initial run, as new starting locations and ICA supply boxes are the very first rewards for leveling your mission mastery, but those restrictions are also responsible for making Hokkaido such a great stage. It definitely loses something without them.

Still, as the finale for season one, it’s fantastic. Though the story has never really been the focus, the questions this final episode leaves hanging are intriguing enough to make me wonder where it’s going, if only to see how the narrative shapes the mission design as it did here. IO’s confirmed a second season is in the works, but hasn’t said when we can expect to see it. Very curious to see what new tricks they’ll conceive. In the meantime, between Hokkaido and the rest of season one, there will be no shortage of contracts to take on.

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