If you’re not keyed into the mobile gaming scene, it would have been very easy for you to miss 2014’s Hitman GO, a game that took the world of Hitman and shrunk it down into, essentially, a tabletop board game. Despite the seemingly absurd nature of it, the game was a hit, and managed to take all of what makes the Hitman series so enjoyable (planning out kills, stealth, and of course, the assassinations) and deliver it into a tiny, on-the-go package. Since then, the game has migrated from iOS and Android to Windows and even the PS4.
And now today, Square Enix will check off another couple platforms, as Hitman GO makes its debut in the virtual reality worlds of the Gear VR and Oculus Rift. I’ve played this most recent incarnation on the Rift and I’m here to tell you it’s an absolute blast.
Hitman GO VR operates in very much the same way as its console and mobile counterparts: a turn-based puzzle game with goal of “killing” all the enemies on the board by knocking their figurine over without getting caught yourself. As you proceed, the game begins to notch up the difficulty and soon enough, you’ll find yourself struggling with just how to get through an area without any enemies taking you down. Different mechanics are thrown in to keep things fresh, such as some enemies moving in turn with you or the ability to distract guards with various items. The use of VR adds some basic functionality changes; you can rotate the board to look for better angles, and looking up at the sky will bring your main menu back up to allow you to to either restart the level or use hints.
Prior to my time with Hitman GO VR, it would have been fair to say that I’ve played a ton of of the original game, and even listed it as one of my personal favorites for all of 2014, despite it being just a mobile title. However, when I got a chance to play it in VR, I quickly discovered that this is absolutely the definitive version of the game. One of Hitman GO’s greatest qualities is in its style, and how the game is made to resemble a small model set that you’re simply playing with, and the use of VR only expounds on that.
Seated in a white room, you’ll notice that in front of you sits a tiny wooden box that, upon closer inspection (literally, you lean in to get a better look at the pieces as you would a normal board game), sits a 3D diorama of the game. It’s a nice touch, as being able to lean in and interact with the game in this way made me feel like I was actually playing a tabletop game. At times, I was so immersed that I found myself wanting to reach out and physically move the pieces with my bare hands. Obviously that isn’t possible in the current incarnation of the Rift, but at least with VR, the game has a more personal feel to it than it ever has.
During my hands-on time with Hitman GO VR, I spoke to Thomas Valmorin, one of the Producers at Square Enix Montreal about the game and just how hard it was converting a mobile, tabletop experience to VR. According to Thomas, the team ran into quite a few problems just trying to get the game to work correctly on VR devices. “We wanted to keep the concept abstract, which is what Hitman GO has been so far.”
At first, the studio tried to include things that would enhance the VR experience (such as adding in physical environments), but quickly realized that those things weren’t staying true to the essence of the game. Instead, they stuck to the abstract, empty environment that you see in screenshots and trailers. The team was also well aware of just how immersive the original game was, and wanted to make sure that same spirit carried over into VR, with Thomas adding “you really want to immerse yourself in the tabletop aspect, and there’s nothing better to experience that feeling than virtual reality.”
While Hitman GO VR may not be the ultimate showcase of VR technology, it is a pretty nifty take on a style of games that wouldn’t normally get the VR treatment. I’d love to see more tabletop-like games come to VR, and there’s definitely room to grow. Other experiences like Dragon Front, AirMech Command, Defense Grid 2, and even Tactera, are showing how potent and ripe the platforms are for this type of content.
With Square developing the also very popular Lara Croft GO, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see that make a debut on VR sometime in the future. I’m not sure if the game is worth buying again (although with $7.99 and $9.99 price tags, it’s hard to say it isn’t), but for those who haven’t had a chance to play this yet, the added experiences thanks to the Rift and Gear VR make this even more of a must play. You can download Hitman GO VR on the Gear VR and Oculus Rift as of today.
Article contributed by Anthony Nash. Anthony is a freelance writer covering the gaming industry with work appearing in Playboy, Pixelkin, and The Koalition. You can follow him on Twitter: @_anthonynash.