Hitman is a unique IP in the gaming world. It’s one that has been around since the turn of the millennium, and has consistently divided gamers with its difficulty, strategy, and pacing. Those who love the series swear by it, and players who truly “get good” at it are rare threats. But many gamers struggle to break into the series that thrives on challenge and rewards patience. Hitman is anything but similar to Call of Duty.
Hitman: Sniper, therefore, aims to bring the series to the casual gamer. You won’t be using Agent 47’s famous fiber wire, however. Instead, Hitman: Sniper utilizes the limitations of the smartphone to offer a fun and engaging experience to the millions of mobile gamers. It’s a sound business approach, but far too many mobile games come out to mediocre reviews and end up buried and lost in the app store.
Thankfully, Hitman: Sniper is a joy to play through. As its name suggests, gameplay takes place through the scope of a sniper rifle. Your job is to take out a variety of people in a variety of ways at a Montenegro mansion. On a fundamental level, there’s little else. You receive your targets and goals for the level, you aim, and you shoot.
Gameplay is satisfying, and controls are intuitive. Tapping on the touchscreen enables the scope. Spreading two fingers zooms in, and a second tap shoots. The number of loaded bullets sits in the lower left corner, and you can hold your breath by clicking on the lung icon in the bottom right. Your target will be identified with an icon over their head, and any notable actions from other NPCs will have similar icons. This is all you need to succeed in Hitman: Sniper.
Of course, there is an element of strategy here (what sort of Hitman game would this be without it?). Completing missions unlocks rewards, including money and blueprints for better guns. There are also “power-ups” available, such as x-ray vision and increased damage. Frankly, while all of these elements enhance the experience, none of them are truly necessary. Hitman: Sniper excels on the joy of its gameplay.
In typical Hitman fashion, actions have consequences and a variety of options are available to you. If you leave a guard’s dead body out in the open, people will panic and your target will escape. Instead, shoot the guard near a pool so he falls in. Or shoot an electrical panel while he’s nearby so he explodes off of a cliff. Or shoot the glass barrier he’s leaning on so that he falls off into oblivion. All are good options, and all will garner you plenty of points.
The game also works extraordinarily well. Hitman: Sniper is not the cheapest app in the store, but it definitely doesn’t feel cheap either. Characters move with fluid, human motion and the dark mansion looks sharp and detailed. There’s a lot happening in the game, but my iPhone 6 never struggled at all. It’s refreshing to have a large game run consistently well on a mobile device.
Perhaps the only major complaint about the game is that there isn’t much in terms of variety. The depth is present, but there’s only one location and all of the characters (for the most part) follow the same movement patterns every single time. The game takes a while to lose the luster instilled by it’s gameplay, but it eventually does. Square Enix has attempted to address this, however…
If this were solely a review of Hitman: Sniper’s base game, I would give it a solid 8.5 and call it a day. However, Square Enix has recently introduces Death Valley, a major expansion to Hitman: Sniper. It’s commendable that the development team is supporting the game with expansions and updates. It’s also excellent that the team saw the need for more variety, and attempted to solve the issue with a major expansion.
But this probably wasn’t the expansion Hitman: Sniper needed.
Death Valley is a post-apocalyptic zombie-themed survival expansion. Agent 47 needs to protect a man (named Ben) from hordes of zombies as he fixes his truck. As with most survival games of this nature, a variety of zombies will come at Ben in waves, and it is up to you and your upgradeable gun to protect him. The expansion introduces three difficulty settings, three different special types of zombies, and a large amount of achievement to unlock.
There’s a decent amount of content here for a mobile game expansion, and none of it is “bad”, per se. Death Valley runs as smoothly as the base game, and the variety of zombies keeps the game feeling fresh and challenging. Just having somewhere new to go in Hitman: Sniper is a welcome addition.
But the fundamental problem with Death Valley is that it isn’t really Hitman. The base game of Hitman: Sniper strives to bring the IP to gamers’ phones in a way that Hitman GO simply can’t. The slow, strategic approach to Montenegro feels right in a satisfying and intentional way. Death Valley feels more “arcade-y” in design. There are dozens of great survival wave games out there for mobile devices. This is something somewhat unoriginal in concept with the Hitman name and sniper mechanic on top.
Death Valley can be a nice little break from Montenegro when the monotony of the level starts to wear on players, but Death Valley is not a true expansion on the Hitman: Sniper game. An expected expansion here might have featured a new location and some new weapons while maintaining the same gameplay that made the base game so much fun. Death Valley is more like a mini-game within the game or, rather, a completely separate game that got tacked on here.
Overall, my final score for Hitman: Sniper and the Death Valley expansion is an 8.5. This is almost entirely because the base game here is so much fun. I highly recommend it as a must-play for gamers looking to sink some more time into their phones, or for those who want a bit of the Hitman action. It also makes for a great way to fill the void between main entry Hitman episodes this year. Death Valley is a nice cherry on top — a fun side game that just-so happens to show up here as well. It’s definitely not the main reason to purchase the game, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.
Hopefully, we get a standard expansion for the base game soon as well!
An iOS review copy of Hitman: Sniper and the Death Valley expansion were provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review