I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but some of the best ideas in gaming are the ones we never knew we wanted in the first place. Take Hitman GO, which received endless amounts of skepticism and ridicule when it was announced as a smartphone title in 2014. Turning Agent 47’s franchise, acclaimed for its stealth elements and tension, into a board game? The very concept made many a gamer cringe in anticipation of a massive failure. Despite this predictable cynicism, the game became both a critical and commercial success, garnering a number of awards and hundreds of thousands of downloads. Now the game is available on PS4 as Hitman GO: Definitive Edition, and while it still seems like a product better suited for mobile devices, there’s no denying that it’s a satisfyingly cerebral and surprisingly relaxing puzzler.
Puzzles From the Word “GO”
Unlike the main Hitman games, there’s no narrative to distract you from the sneaking and assassinating — you’ll have buildings to infiltrate and marks to take out, but no context as to why. And honestly, that’s fine in this case. Part of Hitman GO’s appeal is in its strikingly minimalist presentation, which makes Agent 47, enemy guards and target characters into miniatures on a series of game boards. That aesthetic takes a while to get used to — I personally balked at the animation-free pieces and simple board designs when I first saw them — but once you do adapt, it becomes a remarkably relaxing and distraction-free environment. Remember, this is just borrowing Hitman’s concepts and characters; it’s really a tranquil little experience where you sit down and solve some nice puzzles.
Intuitive, Cerebral Puzzles
And yes, the puzzles are quite good. The basic gameplay boils down to mazes on a game board, where you must avoid stepping into the path of an incoming guard and reach the exit or the mark. As a bonus, you can complete some secondary goals for a bit of replay value; these tasks include getting to the exit in a certain number of moves, killing all or none of the guards, or grabbing an optional briefcase on your way out. I’m always happy to see game developments work with that most crucial of elements: the evolving set of mechanics. To put it a more specific way, this game starts you off slowly, teaching you the most basic of moves, then gradually introduces new concepts and mechanics as you move forward through the levels. Better yet, there are no real tutorials required — whether it’s throwing objects to distract enemies or hiding behind plants, you can learn everything in Hitman GO intuitively by just playing the game. That’s a real accomplishment, and it’s nice to see simplicity done so right.
Perfect for Portables, Questionable on Consoles
If there’s anything that might hold players back from enjoying the full experience, it’s the elements carried over from being a mobile port. As pleasing as the minimalistic graphics are, for example, they look rather strange and dull on an HDTV — this game was clearly created with a smaller screen in mind, so you might want to opt for the Vita version if you’ve got one of those on hand. The sense that the game was built to be portable also carries over to the way it plays; it’s sort of difficult to sit down and enjoy the game for long stretches of time, and it’s clear the developers had a pick-up-and-play vibe in mind when they came up with the simple gameplay. Still, this shouldn’t dissuade people who have an interest in the game’s many puzzles — there are a lot, and they’re all quite fun regardless of the environment you play them in.
Hitman GO: Definitive Edition takes the critically acclaimed mobile game and all its DLC, then slaps it on PS4. If you’ve already got the game in to-go form, there’s really no reason to opt into its release on consoles; this version is just as fun and cerebral as the mobile experience, but it’s held back a bit by its lack of portability. That’s not to say anything is necessarily lost, but it’s definitely a pick-up-and-play experience that’s better enjoyed on the move — “GO” is in the title for a reason. On the other hand, if you haven’t gotten around to this quirky and minimalist little spinoff, PS4’s a fine place to take a crack at its ingenious little puzzles. There’s a Vita version as well, though, and if you’re an owner of Sony’s portable and regularly bring it with you, that might be the best way to enjoy the temporary zen of Square Enix’s little puzzler.
Hitman Go review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.