Android Central Verdict
Hitman Sniper: The Shadows makes an effort to bring the essence of Hitman to mobile, but falls short of delivering the same level of immersion, mayhem, and satisfaction that amassed such a cult following for the mainline games.
Touchscreen controls are solid
Graphics and sound design are excellent
Fun for the first few campaign levels
Lure-and-kill gameplay feels repetitive after a while
Replaying the same set pieces over and over gets boring
Progression becomes nearly impossible after a certain point without paying to play
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As someone who loves shooters but hates confrontation, action-stealth games are my godsend. Getting in, bumping off the mark in secret, and then getting back out will never lose its charm for me. However, the scenario can be made even better if you mix in some ridiculous tactics and gruesome humor. That’s why games like Hitman and Dishonored rank among my longtime personal favorites. It’s also why I was so excited to get my hands on Hitman Sniper: The Shadows for Android.
There's no Agent 47 to be found here, but the allure of that special Hitman sauce in the palm of my hand was too much to ignore. Of course, whenever you try to bring a longstanding console/PC series to mobile, there are going to be some major hurdles to clear.
The trick with Hitman, and what the series so memorable, is the sheer scale of the playground you've got to work in. While playing Hitman 2, my brother watched on in bemused amazement as I got kills, completed objectives, and discovered new areas that he had never come across — even though he finished the game years before I ever tried it. The possibilities with Hitman feel nearly limitless at times, and this expansive, open-ended approach to completing clearly defined objectives is where many Hitman fans get their kicks.
Unfortunately, by the very nature of its design, Hitman Sniper: The Shadows, was doomed from the start to disappoint hardcore fans. To its credit, it succeeds in presenting a neat, concise, bite-size Hitman-flavored experience on the go.
Hitman Sniper: The Shadows — What's good
|Category||Header Cell - Column 1|
|Title||Hitman Sniper: The Shadows|
|Developer||Square Enix Montreal|
|Minimum requirements||Android 9 and up|
|Play time||3-4 hours|
There are a few things about Hitman Sniper: The Shadows that I found very enjoyable. Namely the fact that getting headshots provides infinite satisfaction. Luckily, The Shadows' stationary level design makes its touchscreen controls, and broader control scheme, feel smooth and effective for landing those sweet, sweet shots.
You've got a few tools at your disposal that most Hitman players will feel right at home with. Of course you've got your Instinct ability, a staple of the series, which highlights the important targets and objects in your surroundings. You also have a reload button on hand, a special ability trigger, and your scope.
Simple tap and drag mechanics dictate all of your maneuvers, so it's a very easy game to pick up without much practice. Your Agent, a member of the titular assassin group known as The Shadows, will have a different special ability depending on who you chose.
Your Agent sits stationary at a predetermined vantage point, looking down into your murderous playground with only your scope and instinct to help guide your shots. It's more than enough though, as these levels are small and featured multiple times throughout campaign contracts and PvP mode. Eventually, you'll probably remember all of the guards' paths and the various environmental elements at your disposal for bumping them off in silence.
Remaining in "the shadows" truly is the key to succeeding in most missions. If enemies catch on to the fact that a sniper is gunning down their teammates, they'll sound the alarm and start shooting at you. Your Agent sits tight in the eagle's nest even while taking hits, so if you fail to eliminate your assailants in time, they'll kill you and you'll fail the mission.
Victory is usually defined by a few different objectives being met. For one, you usually have a minimum score threshold that must be met before you complete the mission for it to count as a success. Two, you have a primary target to eliminate, along with a suite of guards ripe for the killing. Along with these obvious targets, you can get serious bonus points on your score for meeting level objectives like "get a kill where the body falls into a window and becomes concealed" or "ignite a heat lamp to kill a guard."
Much of your time will be spent patiently waiting for guards to fall into your ideal position to be sniped, or you'll be setting up your shots by luring targets to their doom using distractions or bait.
Hitman Sniper: The Shadows — What's not good
Unfortunately, The Shadows also boasts a bevy of issues. First I want to mention that, playing on my OnePlus 9 running Android 12, I haven't experienced any of the lag, server issues, or app crashes that other players have reported (put another tick in the Pros column).
I have, however, encountered plenty of issues that might more accurately be called design flaws. Mainly, the gameplay, while solid, just gets boring after a while. I wouldn't be surprised if many players don't even finish the campaign before deciding they've had their fill.
The same rotation of objectives, the same kills on the same gullible targets, played out over what feels like the same level over and over again loses its charm fast. Even with the different Agents, there's just not enough variety to hold my attention for more than a few levels at a time. If I weren't reviewing the game, I would have given up on it much faster than I did.
In theory, the saving grace that would keep players active beyond completing the campaign is the PvP mode. In PvP mode, you compete against your opponent for the highest score in a given level. You've both got the same targets and objectives and you gain points by getting kills in creative or precise ways, just like in campaign mode.
Unfortunately, I refuse to believe that a single "player" I matched against during my time with The Shadows was another human being. I am neither competitive by nature, nor am I particularly good at most (all) video games, so how is it that I'm out-scoring my "PvP" opponents by thousands of points every single match?
The rate at which these opponents get kills and rack up score is unfathomably minuscule. I think the most I wound up winning against was a bot that managed to get about 2,000 points. A noble effort for the incredibly stupid PvP bots. Maybe this was just my personal experience, but I've never felt more like I wasn't playing against a single real person in an online game.
Other issues include the standard freemium fare that you expect from a game like this. A pay-to-play grindy leveling system designed to incentivize skip-the-wait in-app purchases, randomized gear drops from loot boxes, online connection required to play at all (even Campaign mode), and a confusing array of in-game currencies to differentiate free vs paid IAPs.
Simply put, I wouldn't count this as one of the best Android games any time soon.
Hitman Sniper: The Shadows — Should you play it?
Despite the negatives, I legitimately enjoyed my first 1-2 hours with Hitman Sniper: The Shadows. Overall, it's a well-made game that Hitman, or general stealth-shooter fans, could enjoy for a few hours or just a few minutes at a time.
However, I don't see enough depth to the core gameplay to hold a player's interest past a very slim threshold. It's a fun, pocket-sized Hitman snack for a short time, but ultimately it doesn't live up to the Hitman name.
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.