I have a bone to pick with Square Enix, and it’s that they seem intent on ruining their games.
What brought this piece on is Hitman, but it’s not the only offending title. Just Cause 3 suffered terribly from having forced online menus and systems that did nothing to really add to the experience but horribly slowed everything down. It’s also a similar story to Hitman with nearly being always online as well. If you play the offline mode it will still try and connect to the servers every time you pause, look at the map or basically do anything. While it’s trying to connect, you can’t do anything either. You just have to sit there and watch the game you want to be playing trying to connect to a server you don’t want it to connect to. The only reason you are able to play the game offline at all seems to be solely because Square Enix didn’t want to have to deal with the bad press of saying it was always online.
Explaining this problem will take a bit of info on the game. The new Hitman is set on one level in Paris where you have to take down two targets. There are other side missions and what not, but I’ll ignore them for now. So, the interest here is going to be in the replayability of the level. As you play through the area and discover new ways to take out your targets, which will complete challenges, you gain a level of mastery over that map. The higher your mastery level, the more things you have unlocked in the planning stage that you can use to change how you play the mission.
You can have a sniper rifle left in a shed for you, or you can have your starting point be a tech crew employee or a whole host of other things. Here we reach the first problem; due to the way Square Enix decided the game should work, if you play the game offline you can’t complete challenges or increase mastery and therefore you can’t unlock new ways to start the level. If you play the game online and unlock new ways to play it and then go offline, you lose the things you’ve unlocked as they can’t be used offline. Even some guns and a fancy suit I got as a pre-order DLC aren’t available if I go offline.
If you’re playing online and your internet connection goes, the game will boot you back to the menu and the saves of that run will not load anymore. This is because it wasn’t able to sync them to IO Interactive’s server, a problem that, according to them, is ‘unfixable’.
So, the entire replayability factor that the game really depends on just doesn’t exist offline. That sounds quite a bit like what I would say is a game you can only play online. The game you can play offline is so far from the game you get when online that, while I feel it’s worth it’s £11.99 price tag, if you can only play offline it’s closer to being worth £1.99.
Another big draw of replaying Hitman is the score and rank you get at the end. You get points for various things and lose points for being sloppy and getting spotted or killing non-targets. At the end of the mission the points are totaled and you get a rank between zero and five. Not if you’re offline, though! While offline, the scoring system won’t give you anything. Now I’m aware this score and rank system is mainly for online leaderboards but come the hell on Square Enix. You can’t even calculate and show the score to the player before just discarding it instead of uploading it? It just leaves the entire section blank.
Now I said near the start that there were some extra things you could do, aside from the base mission where you have to take down the same two targets. These take the form of contracts, which themselves have variations. A favourite of mine are escalation contracts where you play the level once and kill a guard with a pipe while dressed as a mechanic. Then you play the level again and you have to do that kill again in the same way, but you also need to break into a safe. Then a third time and on top of those two objectives you now also have to kill an officer by drowning him while dressed as a soldier. This goes on until you have five objectives. However – I’m sure you see where this is going – you cannot play these if you’re in offline mode. You are limited to just the one base mission with two targets, with almost no variation in set up as previously discussed.
Let’s move on from what doesn’t work when offline to what barely works when online. The challenges I mentioned earlier are specific ways of killing your targets; making a cocktail only the target drinks and then poisoning it, for example. You can pause the game and look at the challenge descriptions which have a small image with them that can be helpful for figuring out what you should do or where you should start. However, when you pause all the images take anywhere from five to 10 seconds to load, which is just annoying as it takes you out of the action and tension for too long as you sit and watch a grey square until it fills with an image.
A similar problem is the load time of the level, which is just frustrating. In a recent recording I made of the Paris level I had to watch a plain loading screen for just a second under a minute and a half. People complained about the 10-20 second load times in Bloodborne. This was a load time of 89 seconds. Maybe not as common as Bloodborne’s loading screens, but so much longer.
Hitman and Just Cause 3, two recent Square Enix games that I would have really loved otherwise, will always be in my memory with an asterisk. Frankly, it makes me worried about future Square Enix titles. I’m really looking forward to playing Final Fantasy XV and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided but I live in fear and doubt that they will wreck them too, all for something that wouldn’t add anything substantial to the experience and only hampers certain players needlessly.
Come on Square Enix, catch yourselves on.