Part of what makes the Hitman series great is its approach to level design. Often, you have a single main objective that is required to complete in order to progress, but how you go about the objective is entirely up to you. You’ll scout out the area and take note of every point of interest, mark every guard, and one by one swiftly take them out in as discreet a manner as possible.
You decide to start by shooting a car to trigger the alarm, proceeding to kill the guard who came to investigate. But this catches the attention of a civilian on the upper floor, who then peers over the ledge and notices the dead body. Instead of killing the witness outright, leaving his body to lie on the ground clear as day, you wait until he runs off to tell a guard, in which case you shoot him beforehand so that he falls into the Jacuzzi he ran next to, making his body harder to spot. You zoom in on the other side of the map and notice a guard next to a fuse box. You attempt to take advantage of this opportunity by shooting the fuse box and prompting an explosion; but you miss the shot and hit the wall, startling the guard, causing him to fall off the ledge to his death; all without anyone being the wiser.
These are all things that I’ve done while playing Hitman: Sniper, and it is where the game shines; it perfectly replicates the open-ended and non-linear design of the main series. Rather than control Agent 47 in third-person, you’re positioned in a far off, undisclosed location armed with only a single sniper rifle. The controls are simple, with you only controlling 47’s use of the rifle in a first-person perspective. The touch-screen controls work well; aiming is as simple as dragging your finger across the screen, and a single tap is all that’s required for a clean shot. The only negative mark that can be made against the controls is the reload mini-game; it requires timed swipes in a given direction, but there were moments when I failed the reload when it really seemed like I shouldn’t have.
The simple control scheme works well in allowing you to intuitively make use of the myriad of ways there are to take out your targets. All these methods of assassination are tightly packed into one large level, but this where the main criticism I have comes in; there is only one level. As the game goes on, you’re doing the same acts in order to maximize your score. You’re knocking the same guy off the same ledge, you’re luring the same guy to the same explosive, and even the main target only differs in name and face. You are given new objectives each mission, such as breaking five laptops scattered throughout, getting a headshot on someone who is moving, and getting kills after the main target has been assassinated, but these only carry the game so far. Couple that with a five dollar price tag, and it’s inevitable that you’ll wind up wishing for more to see and do.
Hitman: Sniper still manages to have replay-value, and it does so by encouraging you to complete the objectives in the most interesting ways possible. Get a fancy kill on a target and you get more points; get more points and you’re given more money and climb the leaderboards. Use the money to buy upgrades, and climb the leaderboards to get new guns.
Hitman: Sniper is just as much a puzzle game as it is an action game. Figuring out how to best kill a target for a maximum score is just as satisfying as the simple action of shooting a guard off of a building. Having a single level is disappointing, but that level is so dense and well-designed that it works, allowing you to learn the ins and outs of the environment, creating an intimate connection with it. A must have for anyone who is looking for a mobile game with depth and elegance.
A well-crafted level and open-ended design give you a satisfying hitman sniping experience.