What is it? A Hitman themed puzzler with a boardgame aesthetic.
Developer: Square Enix Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release: Out now
Expect to pay: £6.49/$8
Reviewed on: Windows 10, 8GB RAM, i5-3570k, GeForce GTX 970
Hitman GO: Definitive Edition is the PC port of a mobile puzzler. Wait, don't close the page. It's certainly no Blood Money, but this Hitman spin-off isn't as throwaway as that opening sentence would suggest. For one thing, this is no match-three time waster. GO is a proper puzzle game, filled with handcrafted levels and varied design.
You play as Agent 47, in a fashion. He's the playing piece on a series of extravagant game boards, (and so about as stiff as Timothy Olyphant in the Hitman movie). You move 47 across the grid lines etched into these boards, navigating around guards and towards the exit square. GO's presentation is sumptuous. Each board is a detailed diorama, full of incidental detail around its main puzzle elements. There are gardeners pruning bushes, workmen carrying toolkits, and even a wedding guest mourning his lost love.
The difficulty is in the layout of the grid pattern, and the guards that patrol it. Movement is turn-based, and each guard behaves differently based on the colour of their jacket. Blue guards stay in the same spot, and only attack if 47 moves directly in front of them. Yellow guards patrol back and forth across the grid, and are frequently the most challenging part of any level they appear in.
In many of the levels, 47 can win through movement alone. To take an enemy out, you must approach from the side or behind – knocking that piece off the board. That's not always possible, and so positioning is key. You're often asked to identify and unravel the one weak spot in a level's defence. In addition, some levels contain specific tools. Find a piece of trash on the board, and you can throw it to distract nearby guards. Trapdoors allow 47 to teleport between different squares. Later, weapons and disguises appear, and broaden the possibility space in some interesting ways.
It's cleverly constructed and satisfying to play, and each chapter introduces enough new puzzle elements and guard types to keep things fresh throughout. For this reason, GO is a good puzzle game. It's not quite a great one, though. For one thing, it's a bit too easy. Once you've got a feel for the basics, even the most elaborate of guard patterns does little to ramp up the challenge.
Some additional difficulty is provided by each level's bonus objectives. These are drawn from a standard template: retrieve the briefcase from a specific square, kill all the guards, don't kill any guards, or finish in a set number of moves. There are two per level, and often they're mutually exclusive. This is fine when they heighten the challenge – retrieving the briefcase tends to require an extra step in your process that justifies the effort. Other times, they feel like padding. In one level, it was necessary for me to kill all but one guard to reach the end. Not killing the final, optional guard got me one bonus objective. To get the other, I simply had to do the same thing again, but move the additional two squares to kill him. That's not a puzzle. It's busywork.
The Definitive Edition's PC disguise also struggles to cover GO's mobile origins. To move 47, you click, hold and drag the mouse in the direction you want him to go. As a swipe gesture that makes sense, but, on PC, why not just click where you want him to move like in every other turn-based game? Still, it's only a mild irritation. Hitman GO is a competent puzzler with a subtly beautiful aesthetic. It's mostly fixed solutions may seem like a poor fit for the Hitman series, but it wears the theme well and, while it could benefit from being more taxing, still offers an enjoyably and satisfying set of challenges.