If you want to get to that elusive level 20 mastery for each level, you're going to have to make your targets suffer in a series of wild and wonderful ways. That's fine, and I applaud the way it pushes you to embrace unusual play-styles and moves you out of your comfort zone, but I also think it unfairly penalises perfectionists and early adopters, forcing them to grind their way through 100 messy hits just to get the fun toys to play with.
For me the biggest draw of the game is these main missions. There are nine including the prologue and the summer bonus pack and they're all dense, detailed worlds that give you ways to kill a target with a battering ram, exploding smartwatch or ejector seat. You could easily spend an hour following people around and listening to their little voice clips and watching their routine - after taking out the leader of a spy-ring in Paris, months later playing the episode in Marrakesh I overheard one of her former spies having a panicked phone call about how she'd been undercover when the leader died and was now unsure how to get back to America safely. Moments later, the same market reveals a cameraman planning to welch on a planned job to interview a Claus Stranberg, the very man I was in town to murder. A small bop on the head later, and I was able to take his place to get myself in close proximity.
The main game is filled with these cool moments or bizarre opportunities and a sharp player will find plenty to do while they walk around the place going about their assassin business, but often I found I just enjoyed the worlds: Agent 47 seems to inhabit a world nearly identical to our own, although streaked with dark humour and a heavy sense of irony... possibly; I still don't really understand how irony works as a concept.
Come away from these main missions though, and there's a wealth of content with scores of contracts for the budding hitman, varying from the community-made Player Contracts and the developer-made Escalation Contracts, in addition to the you-only-get-one-shot-do-not-miss-your-chance-to-blow Elusive Targets that appear for just a few days before vanishing into the ether forever whether you've succeeded or not.
While the player created Contracts often vary in quality, as is the case with any community-made resource, the Escalation Contracts and Elusive Targets are made by IO itself and to a very high standard. No other game this year has given me a chance to blow up Gary Busey with a remote-detonated explosive Duck and, similarly, no other game has asked me to murder a Sheik with a battle-axe without climbing anything or pacifying anyone.
When Hitman announced, IO was confident and diplomatic, confidently explaining to its nervous fan-base that they should stick with it as people would understand what it was reaching for by the end of the season. As the curtain comes down on the first season of Hitman, it's hard to disagree with them. You can even tell it's been successful because it was only halfway through the season that it started being labelled Season 1 and IO has been increasingly coy about the possibility of a second season being in the works. Hitman is something special not just for those playing the games but also for developers, showing that games as a service can not only work, but can be done with care for and respect to pre-existing fans.
To repeat the point I made nearly 2,000 words ago, Hitman has been the strongest game of the year for me so far, and is probably the most compelling murder simulator I'll play for a long, long time and I give it my unequivocal recommendation. This is the Hitman game we've always wanted and deserved, and my only regret is that I can't scrub it from my mind now that it's been released as a full product and dive into it cold to learn the whole thing from top to bottom all over again.