Hitman PS4 PlayStation 4 1

It's safe to say that a lot of people were feeling quite nervous about the annoyingly named Hitman. Its episodic release schedule worried many people, and tensions were high after the disappointing Hitman: Absolution – would Square Enix mess up again? After playing the beta for many hours, however, it seems that there's nothing to worry about. In fact, there's a lot to be excited about.

From what we've played, Hitman PS4 takes everything that was great about Blood Money – the trial-and-error gameplay, the outfit swapping, the variety of ways to assassinate your target, the non-linear sandbox levels – and improves it. Just to give you an idea of the creative freedom that you're given in the game, in the first mission alone we killed a target by dropping a lifeboat on him, spiking his drink and drowning him in a toilet, blowing him up, dressing up as his associate and strangling him with fiberwire in a meeting room, and many more methods that would put us on a government watch list.

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A variety of new ways to kill also means a variety of new tools and costumes. While you still have your trusty fiberwire and silenced pistol whenever you start a mission, there are always goodies to be found in every level that can help advance your assassination: crowbars can be used to drop skylights on unsuspecting enemies, rat poison can be used to taint drinks in order to send enemies to a nearby bathroom where they can be quietly taken out, radios and generators can be tampered with, and even the most obscure items can be used in some way. In one mission, we rewired the ejector seat on a plane so that it would immediately activate when the target got in.

Hitman PS4 takes everything that was great about Blood Money and improves upon it

What reminds us so much about Blood Money is the whole trial-and-error style of the game: you're encouraged to explore each area and set out your plan, rather than go in guns-blazing like in Absolution. The game autosaves key points in your playthrough so that you can go back to them, while there's also an option to save progress manually in multiple slots so that you can try one method out, then go back and try a different one if the previous plan didn't go well.

You're also encouraged to steal different costumes in order to access different areas and avert suspicion from certain people. For example, if you're dressed as a mechanic, some greasers may not recognize you and start following you, and you may not be allowed to reach certain areas. These suspicious people are marked with dots above their heads, and there are plenty of indications on the HUD that tell you if you've been spotted. It does feel a bit hand-holdy at times, but you're able to disable everything on the HUD in the options menu, so you can play however you want.

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As you play through a mission, clearly-marked Opportunities can be revealed by eavesdropping on certain conversations. After listening for a certain amount of time, you're given the option to track the Opportunity, which from then on the game will tell you how to fulfil it; one told us that a soldier needed to pick up some presentation slides, so we were instructed to steal an outfit and snatch the slides. Once again, it does feel a little too easy at times, but it's all totally optional, so you can play how you want to.

Instinct mode – similar to Assassin's Creed's Eagle Vision or the Arkham series' Detective Mode – allows you to spy on enemies through walls and find objects and weapons, but doesn't really sit well with us because of how easy it makes the game. It seems like cheating, so for most of the game we turned it off, but it could come in handy in later levels, or in Silent Assassin runs.

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Probably the best new feature in Hitman PS4 is the new Objectives system made up of a number of different tasks, which are divided into different categories. Discovery objectives are all about finding different weapons, objects, and costumes in each map, while Assassinations can be fulfilled by killing your target in different ways. Feats, meanwhile, are the hardest challenges to complete, often giving you strict criteria on how to play through a level. What's great about these objectives is that they encourage you to play creatively, and are satisfying to pull off – everything that a good Hitman game should be.

Overall, we're pretty pleased with how Hitman PS4 is turning out. It resembles the essence of what a good Hitman game should be, and allows you to kill and clobber in as many ways as possible. The levels are well designed and have plenty of things to discover in them, and while the game can hold your hand a little too much, it's easy to turn off anything that you don't like and play as purely as you want to. If the full game is as good as what we've sampled, then it's well deserving of your blood money.

Did you try out the Hitman beta on PS4? Do you reckon that the new entry scrubs up nicely? Try not to get detected in the comments section below.