For all of Hitman’s success over the years, there haven’t really been many impersonators. Sure we’ve had stealth shenanigans from the likes of Metal Gear, Dishonored and even Far Cry, but no other games seem to have attempted the whole ‘hiding in plain sight’ ethos with players stealing costumes to roam around under the noses of the guards before taking out their target. For fans of old school Hitman games though, Alekhine’s Gun craves your attention.
With missions set between World War II and the Cold War, the setting stands out from the crowd. I struggled to get into the story though, not because of the writing, but more because the cutscenes generally consist of illustrated stills with almost incomprehensible dialogue that really should have had a volume boost. Graphically, Alekhine’s Gun is way behind the times; it would have looked ropey as a PS3 launch title.
Rough edges poke holes in the entire experience. The controls are appalling, with sprinting and melee assigned to face buttons, context sensitive prompts drop out regularly, and the shoulder button combinations to bring up a map or objectives seem oddly implemented. The autosave system (or lack thereof) is truly baffling. There’s an option to manually save, but it only seems to save your progress/position if you’ve ticked off an objective and even then, a checkpoint isn’t guaranteed.
But despite the game making itself very hard to love, old school stealth fans may find themselves warming up to this cold war caper. The mission design is actually pretty solid, if not more difficult than it needs to be. While guns are an option, you really shouldn’t play a game like this as a shooter. If the clunky controls don’t finish you off, the lack of ammo and alarming number of enemy reinforcements will. More to the point, you’ll enjoy Alekhine’s Gun when you try to be as sneaky as possible.
Stealing a uniform from a guard or a locker room should always be your first task, so you can walk around normally, with only the sharper elite guards needing to be avoided to stay undetected. Provided you don’t attempt to strangle anyone or pick a lock with anyone looking you’re generally free to explore the levels without hugging the walls. Reached a restricted area? Just grab a better outfit.
Your target rarely has the decency to stay still, alone in his room for five minutes with his back to the door, so you’re going to need to examine their movement patterns and learn to strike when nobody else is looking. You can stab or garrotte them for a close-range and quiet finish, but there are often even sneakier options available, such as poisoning their drink or adding baking soda to a meal to send them scurrying to a bathroom, ditching their bodyguard in the process.
The number of guards make life difficult though and their roving patrol patterns give you little room for error. Conversely, if you’re not too bothered about earning the equivalent of a ‘Silent Assassin’ rating, you can butcher most of them by silently killing one in a corridor while dressed as a guard and then doing the same to any reinforcements after trying to look just as shocked as them at the ever growing pile of bodies before adding them to it. It’s not clean, but it does make for a rather nonchalant final approach to your target.
If I’m honest, the creative options aren’t really enough to heartily recommend Alekhine’s Gun. The awkward controls, fist-gnawingly annoying save system and budget production values just make it a little bit too hard to love. That said, unlike the new Hitman game, this is a full-sized effort, with plenty of levels to get stuck into. Maybe wait for a cheaper price though
- Some inventive methods
- Patience rewarded
- More game to play than Hitman’s episodic content so far
- Looks like a very early PS3 game
- Save system can’t be trusted
- Controls and their mapping are poor
Developers: Maximum Games
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) |Xbox One | PC