Sniper Assassin marks the first time I’ve ever reviewed a pre-order bonus, but here we go: If you adored the first season of Hitman’s episodic antics (and really, why wouldn’t you?) and are willing to bet cold, hard cash that the sequel will be just as fun, then you’ll nab this vertical-slice of sniping hijinks.
A trio of morally dubious guests turn up to a wedding in a beautiful villa in Austria and Agent 47 just so happens to be nearby with a high powered sniper rifle. As our targets and their barrage of bodyguards appear, it’s up to us to take them all out in a variety of ways. You might be thinking, this being a demo, there would be very little story here other than ‘these guys probably deserve it’ – and honestly that would be just fine – but surprisingly enough there’s a decent chunk here.
An opening cinematic and plenty of bios paint a picture of an unscrupulous gang who rarely get together – aside from special occasions such as this one. If you want to get really invested in why you’re airing out these guys skulls, it’s there.
The real meat of the experience is finding the most stealthy, silly or inventive ways to off these guys, with only a sniper rifle at your disposal. It’s wildly different from the up-close-and-personal methods of dispatching bad guys in the main series of Hitman games, but it’s almost as satisfying.
On your first fifteen minute run through the experience you’re likely to simply take them out at the most opportune moments, consequences be damned. This will send the wedding party into an understandable mania and make your completion of the mission that much harder. As the remainders of your targets scurry to their means of escape taking them out with any sort of finesse quickly becomes impossible.
But Sniper Assassin is meant to be replayed over and over. Watching every targets route and learning their patterns, discovering how you can manipulate the world and its inhabitants with just a powerful gun from really far away, and working out how the interlocking mechanics of this miniature sandbox fit together makes up the long-term enjoyment of the experience. There’s a whole bundle of tricky challenges to complete and secrets to find, too, and this all helps in stretching out the game far longer than you’d initially expect.
Sniper Assassin’s villa is a strictly hands-off diorama: you can view it from afar and poke at it, but you can’t get in there, walk around and explore different angles. It’s meant to be viewed solely from the hilltop Agent 47 is perched upon. This complete control means that Sniper Assassin is able to look pretty good from its only angle, though it’s not going to blow your socks off. It looks almost identical to the graphics on display in the first season of Hitman – and that’s by no means a knock.
Sound design is fine, too. The sniper itself packs a satisfying auditory zip, the operative in your ear is only annoying the fiftieth time through the game and the music is fine.
As a sniper sim it’s a truly enjoyable bite out of a package that could easily be its own game. The inherent disappointment there is that there probably won’t be one. Hitman 2 will likely forgo much of the long-distance kills for its own brand of violent silliness the series is known for – and that’s just fine. Sniper Assassin is a tantalizing taste of that world – a world I’m very eager to get back to.