We are now on the third episode of IO-Interactive’s Hitman reboot, and it’s clear that the development team has not only been learning as they go, but they are also building towards something big. Paris felt crowded and alive, though it took place in a more enclosed mansion (comparatively). Sapienza was bright, vibrant, and expansive, though it lacked the busy nature of the first episode. Marrakesh is the combination of these two, providing an extraordinarily detailed and expansive level that is overflowing with people, places, and things to take in and interact with. Marrakesh is an exciting indicator of what Hitman has the potential to become before this reboot is done.
Agent 47 has traveled to Morocco for a double contract, adding an extra element of difficulty to this new episode. Your two hits, banker Claus Strandberg and General Reza Zaydan, have put into place a plot to overthrow the Moroccan government. Strandberg stole billions from the Morrocan people, but his escape was orchestrated by Zaydan in the hopes of starting nationwide riots. These riots would make way for Zaydan to, essentially, begin a military coup. It’s the first episode so far in the reboot where the story of the level has been particularly interesting. The first episode was a mess and the second episode was better, but Marrakesh feels very “Hitman“.
In fact, everything about this episode feels very “Hitman“, much in the way episode 2 excelled. You begin the level watching the riots on TV in a dark marketplace on the streets outside of the Swedish consulate, where Strandberg is hiding. The marketplace is tight, the building are close together, and the streets are absolutely packed with people. The game has always been gorgeous, but excels here as Marrakesh feels vibrant and alive to a new extent. It’s a joy to just stop for a moment and take everything in. Everyone has a purpose, something they’re doing in Marrakesh. And for the successful Hitman player, there are opportunities everywhere.
You may take the two contracts in any order, but you’ll have to complete both and escape successfully in order to get the pass on the level. As always, there are dozens upon dozens of ways to take out your target. You could go the classic route and choke your target. You could go flashy and place a well-times bomb. Perhaps you’re feeling comical and wish to drop something on your target, such as a toilet or a giant moose (my personal favorites). Maybe you feel the need to live out your pirate fantasies and go for the saber. All of these and many more are options at your disposal.
Marrakesh, more than any other level yet, requires careful and thorough planning for the most successful hit possible. Both Strandberg and Zaydan have selected to hole up in places that are not easily escapable, and the nature of the double contract means that you won’t be able to run away and escape while being hunted. If you’re seen taking out your first hit, your odds of making it to your second target are drastically reduced. Thus, it’s important to explore, take in opportunities, and learn well your routes of escape.
And boy, are there a lot of those. Paris was a massive mansion, but it felt tiny compared to the sprawling coastal town of Sapienza. Marrakesh packs everything in, allowing you to explore multiple levels, secret tunnels under the city, and massive buildings along with a maze-like marketplace to get lost in. On my tenth play-through, I was still finding new nooks and crannies to explore and new opportunities to take advantage of, which always made me want to dive in for another round.
Hitman has always had a bit of an identity crisis, struggling to find the successful balance between drama and a bit of light-hearted comedy to keep things accessible. There are some comical moments in Marrakesh, but much of the episode feels even darker than before, and this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it might be the balance Hitman needs to thrive.
For example, Zaydan has set up a military base inside of an old school. As you make your way through the decrepit building, you see schools desks piled up in stairwells to prevent access to Zaydan’s quarters. You see pictures drawn by school children on a wall that is about to fall down. You listen to an innocent soldier talk on the phone to his daughter, telling her that he is sorry that he “has to work,” all while you decide whether or not to pull him through an open window.
Things feel just a bit more real and a bit more connected here in Marrakesh. In Paris and Sapienza, you were targeting a small, isolated group while the rest of the people on the map remained oblivious to what was truly happening. Here, people are already rioting in the streets and innocent people are going to war for a power-hungry leader. Things have already escalated, and that is felt as you move through the crowds, taking these stories in. It’s the first time since the reboot began that it truly felt like what you were doing had an impact, and that sparing someone’s life was an important thing to aim for, if possible.
I’ve previously mentioned that the main, overarching story of this Hitman reboot, at least presented in episodic format, was an almost complete miss. Things made no sense, weren’t connected to what you’re doing, etc. The cutscene at the end of this third episode changed that. We now know a bit more about this organization known as Providence and we retroactively learned about the collection of keys in the previous cutscenes. Suddenly, this small aspect of the game is much more satisfying, and I personally am looking forward to seeing where it goes.
As with prior episode releases, this one brought along with it a number of escalation contracts to add some depth and replayability. I’ll admit, I haven’t found myself utilizing the “create your own mission” mode of Hitman but, overall, the game has found ways to keep things interesting between episodes. Along with that, we’ve also had a number of elusive targets grace our screens. Elusive targets are hits that are only available for a limited amount of time and that add an additional level of challenge by taking away key gameplay components such as utilizing instinct mode to find your target. Elusive targets, I believe, are the true way Hitman should be played (though I’m no good at them).
No, this episode isn’t quite perfect. The voice acting is still a mess (General Zaydan is noticeably portrayed by a man with a british accent) and load times are absolutely atrocious. Those things will keep this game from getting a perfect score from me. But it’s difficult to deny that Hitman is growing into one hell of a game with gorgeous level design, an insane amount of player options, and now a much needed depth to the world. Marrakesh is a promising indicator of what is to come in the remaining four episodes.
A PS4 review code of Hitman was provided by Square Enix for the purpose of this review