I’m alone in my sneaky murderquest this month, as Peter Parrish is too busy swinging around a Total Warhammer and gibbering about Elector Counts to actually play Hitman 6: Hitman: Episode 3: Marrakesh. This is really annoying, because I’d love to have a second opinion on this one in particular.
To sum it up quickly: I like Marrakesh, but I don’t like it nearly as much as I did either Paris or Sapienza. The problem is, I’m not quite sure how much of that is just me, and how much of that is the level not quite living up to the last two. Let’s see if I can figure it out through the cathartic process of writing a review.
As the name implies, Marrakesh has 47 donning a summer suit and heading off to the Moroccan city to carefully snip another two people out of life’s great tapestry. The first target is Claus Strandberg, a dodgy banker responsible for swindling millions out of the Marrakesh citizenry through legal loopholes, which led to him holing up in the Swedish embassy while an angry mob bays for blood outside. The second target is General Reza Zaydan, an ambitious military man who plans to use this civil unrest to springboard a coup. They’re both Bad Sorts, so you don’t need to feel too bad about jamming screwdrivers into their throats.
Objectively, it’s hard to find fault with the visuals. The crowds here are the biggest I’ve seen in Hitman yet, with the bustling marketplace and the baying mob both impressive in their sheer size. There’s a lovely visual shift from the dusty Marrakesh streets with lamp sellers and tourists aplenty to the clean, precision curves of the embassy, too.
Subjectively, I’m not really a fan of the environment; I’ll take a glitzy high-end locale or an almost-too-perfect slice of the world over a place that’s one step away from martial law. It feels a bit weird having 47 wandering around alongside gun-toting soldiers, and it’s probably telling that the bit that actually feels “Hitman” is the comparatively sedate embassy. But! This might just be me. I’m 100% sure some of you have been eagerly awaiting Marrakesh since you first heard it was going to be a playable location. I mean, some people liked Absolution, so…
Aesthetics aside, though, I also don’t like how discrete the level itself feels. It’s pretty roughly divided up into three sections: the streets and bazaar form a kind of hub, the embassy is the province of one target, and a school-turned-HQ is the domain of a second. Both the embassy and the school are “fenced off” with only certain disguises allowed in, albeit in different ways.
Neither of them feel particularly interesting as locations, though. Compared to Sapienza, where it felt like there was a ludicrous possibility around almost every corner in the manor (explosive golf balls, woodchippers, scientists to seduce, rooms of deceased mothers to invade) the school almost feels like a level out of another game, and not in a particularly good way. It’s a big brown ruin with a lot of crates and guns and soldiers, and that’s infinitely more boring to me than… well, anything else. I play a lot of games. Brown ruins with crates and soldiers are not new to me, even if I’m not shooting my way through.
Even the embassy falls to this, a little, as although it has the looks, it doesn’t really have the feel. It’s a big office, essentially, and it feels like it. There are some nifty little moments in there, some fun little rooms, a few cool experiments to play with… but it still feels a bit bland and a bit empty.
The town itself is mostly just a place for gathering disguises and equipment, full of alleys and storefronts that turn out to be hiding nothing more sinister or amusing than a wrench. Also, I’m slightly disappointed that there are only about three rooftops to visit, none of which offer good sniping locations and none of which offer additional ways to get around. They’re just extra rooms on top of buildings, and that’s a bit sad after both Paris and Sapienza had some aerial adventuring.
Where Sapienza felt like an actual village that made sense, with the church and the morgue and the beach and the little underpasses and the gelato shop and the way everything interlinked through the sewers and the rooftops… Marrakesh just feels like a bit of a brown blob. There are multiple ways to get from the streets to the school, or even from the school to the embassy, but none of them feel as niftily organic as in the other levels. They feel like gates that require a certain disguise or a bit of stealth, rather than big living areas that you’re abusing to your own ends. It doesn’t have that same sense of place, and I think that’s my biggest issue with it.
Some of this might be because the curtain hiding the stage machinery is a little bit thin, this time around. While Paris had triggers and timers signalling things like the end of the fashion show, Marrakesh looks like it should have a load of stuff going on, but it really doesn’t. There’s no way to incite the protestors to riot. There’s no way to scupper the soldiers into giving you a distraction. They look like protestors, but they’re really just an amorphous mass of NPCs milling around one area, and things fall a bit flat once you realise this.
All of this shows a bit in the challenges, too, I think. In Paris and Sapienza the challenges were like a lunatic’s bucket list, full of people to impersonate and improbable deathtraps to create. In Marrakesh, we have a few of these (and you are not a Hitman player if, on discovering that it’s possible to murder the general with a toilet, you do not immediately devote the next 30 minutes of your life to making this happen) but we also have things like “Dress up as the headmaster and then find the kids’ pictures in the school.” It’s challenging! It’s just not very interesting.
Finally – and I’ll stop complaining in a sec, I promise – is that there’s way too much emphasis placed on one particular disguise. Only the Elite Soldiers are in on Reza’s coup, so only they’re allowed into the school-cum-compound. They’re helping out with security at the embassy, though, so they can also wander freely around there. And while quite a few people can see through the soldier disguise, if you get your hands on an officer’s uniform, there are about four people in the entire level who can cause you any trouble. I got said uniform on my first attempt at the level, and then breezed through the rest of it.
BUT! But it’s still Hitman. It’s still got all sorts of insane possibilities, like killing both targets at once, or jamming the general into a printing press. It’s still got a lovely big area to explore and possibilities to unlock. It’s still absurdly difficult to do a suit-only Silent Assassin run. It’s still a game that I really want to go and play a bit more, now that I’m writing about it.
Marrakesh isn’t bad, it’s just a bit disappointing. These are very, very different things; if this had been the first episode, I’d probably be saying “It’s got a few rough edges but guys it’s Hitman, Hitman is back.” It’s like ice cream: chocolate ice cream is great. It’s just that if you’re expecting honeycomb ice cream, then you’ll eat the chocolate and you’ll enjoy it, but you’ll still dream of The Ice Cream That Could’ve Been.
Marrakesh is chocolate ice cream: it’s still tasty, but it’s a little underwhelming after the rare delicacies of the last two months. We’ve been a bit spoiled, and Marrakesh is a little bland in comparison. I’d have been surprised if Hitman managed to go the full season without any slip-ups (every single Hitman game has at least one level I don’t ever want to play again, and this is way better than most of those) and having a level that isn’t as good as its previous two triumphs isn’t really anything to get too upset about.