After the sublimely crafted diorama stealth game Hitman GO hit the app store last month, Square Enix Montreal are offering a different experience with their newest game, Hitman Sniper. It takes inspiration from the series’ sniping missions, and the Sniper Challenge title, to create something that feels fresh and new.
Sniper is all about getting the high score, and there’s less of a focus on taking out your target in the most efficient way possible. Instead, you’ll have to do it in the most fashionable manner you can devise, causing the most destruction without alerting your target, killing guards and blowing stuff up with plenty of unique opportunities across the locales. It’s a new experience, developed specifically for tablet devices.
Creative director Ollie Sykes explained to us at E3 that the game is “all about risk vs. reward” and you’ll rack up points by killing enemies, disposing of their bodies, blowing things up, using corpses or alarms as lures, getting multiple kills with one shot, and so on. You’ll do all of this from your sniper perch, and the reason you’ll do it is simple: to beat your rival, who is always the guy above you on the leaderboard.
So, rather than quickly killing the target and moving on, you’ll want to cause as much mayhem as you can before even thinking about him. You don’t want to scare him away, and that’s an easy feat as I found after shooting a guard in his leg only for him to set an alarm off, which led the mark to hide behind a sofa. There’s tons to do in each level, all displayed afterwards in a list and then turned into a score for the leaderboards, taking into account your time in the level too.
Environments are rather detailed for a mobile game, and there are even extra buildings beyond the one where your target is situated. These are filled with fine details and even guards of their own, and can be used to get some bonus kills for that high score. The AI is smart too, with bystanders seeking out guards for help, then guards investigating while the mark will hide behind a sofa or wall. Thankfully, instinct mode lets you see through the environments, highlighting enemies in red.
There are lots of ways to use the environment to your advantage too – gas tanks will naturally explode when shot, while glass panels on balconies can even be shot out to make a mark fall to their death. Sniping itself is an easy task, with simple touch controls and pinch-to-zoom, which makes for very precise aiming.
The leaderboard focus is certainly an interesting one, and should offer a lot of replayability. They’re discussing resetting the score tables every week or two, in order to maintain that competitive focus, so that players who manage to have a singular good round don’t always stay at the top, and truly skilled snipers prosper.
It’s going to be free-to-play, but Square Enix Montreal are well aware that the “free” market has a bad reputation, and therefore seem to have the perfect, non-intrusive formula for this. It’s free-to-play by design – to get the game into the hands of as many players as possible, and get a massive competition going – so the upgrades can be collected by ranking up and just playing the game, but you’ll be able to pay to unlock them early. There might be a few exclusive pay-for mid-ranged weapons, but there’s absolutely no pay-to-win aspect, we’re assured.
There’s no catch here: Hitman Sniper will release for free later this year on iOS, with Android soon to follow. It’ll have a continued development cycle, launching with two scenarios with more to come, and the developers are keen to work with the players to bring more of what they like and less of things they don’t like. It’s a really promising take on an existing IP, and while it’s not as stylish as Hitman GO, the leaderboards might make it an extremely fun experience.