Hitman Go: Thinking through all the right moves

May 1, 2014


I’ve never played a Hitman game before, but board games and I get along famously. There are rules that make sense, and I can survey the environment from above to make a calculated move. With a turn-based formula that borrows more from board games than its console big brothers, Hitman Go works exceptionally well on mobile devices.

First, the aesthetic is wonderful. Agent 47 and all of his targets and enemies look just like they could have come from a real board game, character stands and all. Agent 47 is always straightening his tie, runners are always in a dead sprint, knife-wielding enemies are reminiscent of Futurama’s Roberto – always practicing their stabbing regardless of whether an enemy is present – and the levels themselves are individual game boards with route lines, trap door markers and object tokens. And when Agent 47 kills a guard, his token winds up next to the board. This has no impact on gameplay, but it’s a wonderful touch. When Agent 47 slips up (and he will), the killing unit just knocks him down like a toppled king at the end of a chess match. Square Enix Montreal’s devotion to the board game motif is complete and fully realized.


Each level has three objectives. “Reach the exit “or “kill the target” are always present. The other two are often mutually exclusive, like “kill no one” and “kill all enemies,” or “obtain the briefcase” and “complete the level in 13 moves or fewer.” These optional objectives are fun to complete, and needed to unlock additional level sets depicted as new versions of the Hitman Go board game in the menu. Despite being a purchased game, Hitman Go does offer in-app purchases. They’re easy to ignore, though. For 99 cents you can unlock a level set early, and for $1.99 you can unlock five hints. You’ll get five for buying the game, but in an age where YouTube exists, you won’t need to buy hint packs if you’re stuck, so you won’t need to buy level unlocks either.

There are a surprising number of mechanics on display here, but Square Enix Montreal typically only showcases a couple of them per level. This makes the game a bit easier than some Mensa members might prefer, but it meant that I could experiment, get killed, immediately reload and come in with another plan of attack. New mechanics are introduced regularly, but never tutorialized. Others might view this as a negative, but I think it’s fun to see a new enemy, have no idea how it acts and have to suss out the solution by trial and error. It feels reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes,” in which a possible series of events is narrated by Sherlock, taken back and then redone until he’s happy with the result. In the game I’m playing, Agent 47 never fails to complete his mission; he just sat in the courtyard for a while studying everything and everyone before moving in for the one time it counted.


The story here, sparse as it is, is all implied in the level art. There are no cutscenes, no exposition and no explanation for Agent 47’s actions or motivations. Honestly, it feels very sterile and detached, and that works for me, as I took the instant retries to buy Agent 47 analyzing the current mission and objective. He doesn’t care where he is, who the target is or why they’re the target. He’s just looking to get in, do the job and get out without being caught. It feels equally like Agent 47 is going about things professionally, and that he’s a sociopath. Whether that’s true doesn’t matter to me: the story Square Enix Montreal is allowing me to create for myself works, and it feels like it belongs in the board game experience they’ve created. Though if more of my board games came with “Ave Maria” playing while I do awesome things, I wouldn’t complain.

In a time when developers are trying to make mobile games feel like console and PC games (like Republique and Deus Ex: The Fall), it’s refreshing to see a developer really take a step back, see what would work profoundly well on a touch screen and put out a product that won’t make fans ashamed of its inclusion in the series’ canon.

Pros: Wonderful commitment to the board game motif, good amount of mechanics, fast retry
Cons: Buying hints and level unlocks is lame

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.