Developer: Io Interactive
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Platform: PC [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Price: $9.99 [Sapienza], 14.99 [Base Pack], $59.99 [Full Experience]
Disclaimer: The following game was reviewed on PC via Steam. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
I’m Italian (barely, but still), so when I heard Hitman’s next episode would take place in Italy, I was pretty excited. The hype train continued to roll upon seeing the screenshots of beautiful ocean landscapes, and timeless architecture, all promising a full and engrossing assassination experience. However, upon booting up the second episode in this year of Hitman, I was sorely disappointed. Many of the issues I had with the first episode had not been fixed, and the hope for the freeing feeling of standing on an Italian shore was never fully utilized. While visiting Sapienza sure was a blast, it was no where near what I had hoped it would be, and the glaring technical issues reared their head again, adding insult to injury.
Right off the bat, I didn’t really understand the exposition laid out. Apparently, you are sent to Sapienza to assassinate a man who is creating a biological weapon that could revolutionize assassination. Furthermore, the company that hired you to complete the hit did so based out of ethical concerns. Maybe I’m missing the mark of what exactly Io Interactive is trying to say, but it seems quite contradicting to be hiring a hitman to assassinate a man based out of moral concerns.
I think what bothers me the most about this backstory is the fact that it really didn’t need to be this complex. It could really just be based around a biological weapon that could harm a lot of people, but the including the fact that this weapon could be used to assassinate people really threw me off. While Hitman is completely fictional, I just don’t see any feasible way that this storyline could fit into the real world.
Now let’s talk about beautiful Sapienza. The stunning ocean views and bustling town-squares are really are marvel to look at, and the art team should be commended for creating such a stunning landscape. It is unfortunate however, that you will never get to experience them fully. The entire mission takes place around a central location, and while that location is well-designed and large enough, it really could have been put anywhere in the world. In the previous episode, I understood why it would take place in Paris with the assassination being based around a fashion show, but this episode doesn’t mirror the same connection. The only thing tying the hit to the location is the fact that your main target is Italian. Io created such a stunning place to visit, but instead experiencing that landscape fully, I felt like I was just walking around a mansion dropped into a random location.
One of the only redeeming factors of this episode is the fact that it’s a Hitman game. The actual level design is well-thought out, with plenty of options to tackle your goal. NPCs are still dumb as ever, but sleuthing around this half-witted caricatures brings back the same charm that Hitman is known for. While some of initial issue really bothered me, once I began playing the level, I had a lot of fun. In terms of gameplay, the episode feels fleshed out, and the overlapping subplots reel you into the location you’re transversing. I actually became involved in a love triangle to complete one of the hits, and crushed a man’s world by showing him tapes from his childhood to finish off another. While the main story-line certainly doesn’t make sense, I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy all the intricacies that take place within the episode.
However, I was often taken out of the experience by the still present technical issues. Despite my assumption that a patch would roll out a week or so after launch, the graphical glitches still remained, completely destroying my immersion. This go-around, the issues weren’t as present as they were in the first episode, but they were still there, especially inside.
One of my concerns when the first episode was released was addressed. Thankfully, Square Enix has allowed you to purchase Sapienza separately instead forcing you to upgrade to the full experience. I really appreciate that this option is available for purchasers, and it really speaks to the integrity of the company behind the title.
Despite all of my concerns with Sapienza, it was certainly a blast to play. The charm, complexity, and stealth elements of Hitman are all present, and fans of the series would be hard-pressed to not enjoy it. Once inside the level, I was able to complete my hit in whatever way I saw fit, knowing that I could tackle it in any way I wanted upon replaying it. The value presented for what you get with this episode is quite large, and I’ll certainly revisit Sapienza to try a different route.
However, I’m afraid that the pure nature of Hitman may be the only reason I’m attracted to this game, and all of the overhanging issues really hold this episode back from expounding on the series. The irrational story, shoehorned location, and glaring technical issues are a giant thorn in the side of what could be an amazing game, and it’s shameful to see, yet again, all the potential go to waste.
— THE BOTTOM LINE —
If I were reviewing Sapienza as a stand-alone game, I would probably rate it much higher, but having the first episode to reference really hurts my standing with the game. It seems that my concerns were not addressed, and while I hoped the game would at least stayed in the same spot, it seems Io has taken a step backwards. I did enjoy my stay in Sapienza, but I know I could have enjoyed it much more and it’s a shame to see that go to waste. Sapienza is a fun time, but I would pass on it at full price.