Hitman VR Is an Ambitious Undertaking with Mixed Results

Hitman VR

Hitman 3‘s VR functionality manages to be pretty much exactly what I wanted from Agent 47’s first foray into VR, while also leaving a bit to be desired. On one hand, it’s surprisingly well-crafted. On the other, it has some odd design choices that ultimately render it not much more than a feature checked off on a list of nice-to-haves. I dabbled with it just to experience it, but I doubt I’ll ever invest any meaningful time in to this portion of the game. Of course, I really don’t have the stomach for prolonged VR play, so that’s a factor here.

The most notable high point, of course, is that if you import Hitman and Hitman 2 into Hitman 3, you can play all three campaigns in VR. This is hands-down the most incredible feat Hitman VR pulls off. Thankfully, it also manages to pretty much keep the same rhythms (and quirks) that the non-VR campaign offers. These aren’t standalone, VR-specific levels or truncated versions of the original games’ levels; this is the whole kit and caboodle.

Hitman VR

And, although the PSVR is no graphics or processing powerhouse, the game still looks pretty good — nowhere near as impressive as the base game, mind you. And the hits it takes in the looks and performance department are somewhat made up for simply allowing you to step into Agent 47’s shoes. Look down at your body — that’s the iconic Hitman suit you’re wearing there, buddy. Boy howdy, does it feel good.

That being said, there are trade-offs. You no longer have a reflection, and details beyond a general 3- or 4-meter radius begin to fade quickly. Goodbye, stunning vistas and backdrops.

The controls are locked to the DualShock 4, which basically only allows for Right-hand gesturing and interactions as opposed to having two dedicated hands. Your left hand does act in tandem with the right when it’s called to arms, but mostly you’ll be using your right hand. Still, it’s really cool to finally approach a door and use your actual hand to open it instead of pressing triangle and marveling as the door just opens as if by magic.

Wanna walk up to an unsuspecting guard and sucker punch them in the melon? That is an option. Just literally walk up, ball up your fist, cock back and wallop away. The rag doll physics alone are enough to offer mild amusement, but the interactivity goes a long way in making you feel like a badass. Or just a jerk.

Wanna use a sniper rifle or your camera? Just equip it and put the controller close to your head, and you are suddenly looking down the sights or through your viewfinder. It’s not perfect, but if you have time to spare while lining up a shot, it definitely works. The same goes for strangling and garroting someone. To quote Todd Howard, “All of it just works, it just works.” Of course, this comes with many of the same caveats that accompany a Todd Howard statement like this.

One downside, and perhaps the most glaring, is that your saves don’t carry between VR and non-VR mode. I get that there might be technological issues that would prohibit this, but it also means you are locked to one option or the other. If you just want to dabble in VR, don’t get too far along if you plan to just go back to the normal non-VR playstyle.

There is also a distracting overlay while in VR that I didn’t see an option to adjust or turn off. Basically, there is a transparent yet still visible bluish grid that appears on the screen while in VR mode. I assume this is an orientation aid, or perhaps a motion-sickness deterrent, but I found it distracting as it really drives home that this is a game — it kind of breaks the immersion.

There are also some variations in the control scheme that don’t seem to make any sense. Instead of holding R1 to bring up Instinct Mode, you have to press up on the D-pad. This means you can’t press up to holster your items — instead, you have to sort of look at the floating translucent white circle in between Agent 47’s hands, which I guess simulates a holster? The effect is telegraphed far better in, say, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners.

But despite all the quirks I mentioned, if I had a better constitution to enjoy prolonged VR play sessions, I would consider playing the entire World of Assassination trilogy in VR, simply because it works well enough as a Hitman experience while also bringing something fresh to the series. Move controller support and dedicated two-handed controls seem like missed opportunities, but even so, Hitman VR is not to be missed for any PSVR advocates. In fact, even Hitman fans in general should try it out, if for no other reason than to inhabit the virtual bald head and barcode for a while.

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