The Hitman franchise continues its genre-hopping campaign with the forthcoming release of Hitman Sniper, an iPad and iPhone scope-based shooter. We got to play a pre-release version of the free-to-download game on iPad ahead of the autumn release date. And it's a lot of fun.
As Agent 47 you have one job to do: kill the target. Using a ranged weapon from a fixed point, you can pinch to zoom through the scope site and investigate the level before you. There are only two levels available for the launch and we only played the available one of those, but the quick play nature of it reveals the true purpose of the game: getting a high score and beating your friends' scores.
It's possible to ace a level in all of five seconds by just striking the target. But the fun of the game comes through exploring further possibilities: explode a gas lamp; set off car alarms to distract guards; distract two pool players by messing with their game via bullets. The more special tricks you find the more points that you can score. Alert guards and they'll radio the target who will make a bid to flee and then it's your job to stop them in a given timeframe.
The controls are straightforward too. Tap the screen to raise the weapon, thereafter it's a click-and-drag experience to point the crosshair at various targets. At present the controls are singular and can't be inverted which felt a bit alien to us at first - but an update ahead of launch is promised for this.
Each enemy character you see pass before your scope is "marked" so their location appears as an icon to the edge of your scope sight. Click these to quickly move sight to their position. For civilians it's not possible to mark them, although you can kill them (whether by accident or to appease your sadistic side).
Despite there being just two levels, there are 150 missions total within these. A bit like Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes offers multiple goals to the one play arena, Hitman Sniper touches upon the same idea, albeit at a much smaller scale. But this is a mobile game after all.
When it comes to firing a shot there's a "breath" button to the bottom right to hold things steady and slow motion ensues to help you sharpen that aim. It doesn't last forever, though, so you'll need to time things right and ensure you shoot ahead of moving targets to make the hit.
Each mission has a given sum of money available to spend ($25,000 in our example) and different bullet purchases and weapon upgrades can cut into this virtual cash purse.
As Sniper is a free-to-download game the main revenue stream confirmed at our meeting will be micro transactions for quick-access weapon upgrades. The more you play Sniper the more points you'll accrue which can also be used to upgrade. How much desire there will be to spend real cash on the game we can't tell from our 20-minute play session, but we'll see how Square Enix handles that side of things upon launch.