I love Hitman. You know, the game series? The one with the bald bloke with the not at all conspicuous barcode on the back of his head? The Hitman franchise is great. Well the first game is not very good and I didn’t care for Absolution much but generally I love the Hitman series. There’s nothing cooler than infiltrating heavily guarded compounds while disguised as a ninja… or something, trying to figure out the best way to assassinate a target who always deserves to “go out” in the worst possible fashion. It’s the best.
One of the cool things about Hitman is that there’s nothing really like it. You see elements of Hitman in other games (for example, EA’s The Saboteur) but generally no one has tried to copy Hitman so directly. Well apart from Death to Spies, which this game I’m trying to review has ties to but whatever, let’s pretend that doesn’t exist.
Anyway, enter Alekhine’s Gun, a new stealth action game that desperately tries to be Hitman in almost every way. You’re not a clone, you’re not bald and you don’t have a barcode but those things aside, Alekhine’s Gun is definitely a Hitman clone… that looks and feels like something that would have come out on the PC in 2003. And yes, that’s not a good thing!
Alekhine’s Gun’s story has you playing a spy who goes globetrotting all over the world, killing different people and obtaining lucrative intelligence. The varied levels are definitely one of the highlights of the entire game, but the actual story that’s attempting to be told here is absolutely horrendous. The cutscenes are still, storyboard type things that look terrible and the actual voice acting is actually far too quiet for anyone to hear, even with the voice volume slider maxed out. Once you scramble for your remote and turn up the volume, you’re then hit with offensively bad accents and acting that sounds like it was recorded in a small bathroom.
To be blunt, these are some of the worst cutscenes I think I have ever seen, at least in the last 15 years. They are excruciating to watch and they’re extremely boring too and I usually don’t do this but by the time I reached the half-way mark, I started skipping these cutscenes because they are that bad. They go on forever too; it’s torture sitting through them.
Thankfully, the actual gameplay is a bit better. As I established earlier, Alekhine’s Gun desperately tries to be Hitman but specifically, the game feels like it was developed when Hitman 2: Silent Assassin and Hitman: Contracts were still fresh. Don’t get me wrong, I like those games a lot, especially at the time but this is 2016 and games have generally improved so much since then. Everything about Alekhine’s Gun feels like a strange throwback which might hold some appeal for die-hard Hitman fans but let’s not get it twisted, this is a horrible game for the most part.
Alekhine’s Gun made a terrible first impression on me. Not only are those cutscenes just the worst, but the game as of this writing does not allow me to invert the y-axis (it’s coming in a patch, apparently) and the game’s tutorial is laughably bad. It's not the most complicated game in the world but it has a decent amount of mechanics that are not entirely self-explanatory, especially if you have never played the Hitman games before. The older Hitman games did not have the best tutorials either because they just set you in a guided training mission and while they taught you the basic controls and mechanics in a vacuum, they did not teach you how to best utilise all of your tools and skills during an actual mission.
Alekhine’s Gun does not even have a training mission at all. They just throw you into a story missions and they ask if they you want a tutorial at the start. But this tutorial is just a big information dump that is told in text boxes that appear on screen. You just button through these and none of the information is going to stick with you. Throughout the first mission, I was constantly pausing the game to look up the game’s controls. Generally, I was able to pick up the game okay, but I think a large part of that is down to the fact that I have played all of the Hitman games. I think anyone who has never played those games before is going to be completely lost.
Once you get through all of that though, this is definitely a Hitman clone. Like those games, you are always looking to kill a certain number of targets and you are also usually asked to find some intelligence along the way. The first level is actually quite large and open, which actually gave me some hope for this game but the rest of the environments really aren’t that big. It’s cool that the levels have a lot of visual variety, whether you’re infiltrating a hotel or a biker bar, there’s some enjoyment seeing all of the locations on offer but from a design standpoint, they really are not as large and sprawling as they could have been.
The actual stealth mechanics are reasonable for the most part. Your default costume will get you spotted almost immediately so of course, you need to take someone out and take their clothes in order evade other NPCs. On normal difficulty, the game is actually really generous with how disguises work. For the most part, you can run past guards and they don’t seem that bothered about it. In cases where someone might be sussing you out, the suspicion metre rises quite slowly and it’s easy to quickly lower it again if you break line of sight with the person who is looking at you. Generally, all of this stuff worked quite well.
However, the AI in Alekhine’s Gun is hilariously stupid. There are loads of instances in the game where a character will ask you to stop and they will say something like, “Sorry, this area is restricted.” In Hitman, usually you would have to walk the other way and you would have to find the right disguise or alternate path to deal with that situation. However, in Alekhine’s Gun, you can just run past the guards and they don’t do anything to stop you. Yep, officially the worst guards in a videogame! The only time when the guards really alert up is when you are blatantly taking part in an act of violence or are caught carrying a corpse around.
The AI often reacts in a completely unbelievable manner. A character might be boking into a toilet after you’ve poisoned them but if you whistle near them, they will immediately investigate the noise and act like they were never sick. There are lots of moments like this in Alekhine’s Gun and yeah, they are funny but it really hurts the overall credibility of the game.
Once the shit does hit the fan, you do have a small arsenal of weapons to use, which you can either find during your missions or you can buy additional weapons in between levels. The actual shooting looks, feels and sounds like vomit and of course, the AI of the guards coming after you is just pitiful. Of course, Alekhine’s Gun is supposed to be a stealth game but still, the action on offer here is way below par.
One of the things that I love most about Hitman is puzzling out the best way to take out your targets. As that series as evolved, the designers have done a really good job at offering so many ways to get the job done and a lot of the opportunities available are rather memorable. Alekhine’s Gun’s kills however really aren’t that interesting. For the most part, I stuck to the basic garrotte wire kill or a throwing knife to the head because it’s not obvious that there’s a better way to get things done.
I did find some slightly more interesting kill opportunities but “interesting” is a loose term here. On the first level, there’s a Nazi doctor who zaps a poor bloke over and over while dancing like a dunderhead. Taking him out using conventional means is quite difficult because there’s a Nazi officer in the same room. You can deal with this situation by turning off a generator downstairs which will lead the officer and anyone else nearby downstairs. The doctor also leaves the room for a bit but he actually goes in for the craic first. The doctor is an idiot and decides to start touching the bloke he’s torturing and before you know it, the Nazis downstairs fix the generator and the doctor gets zapped to death. That’s about as complicated as it gets and that’s really not a particularly interesting or fun kill right there. Alekhine’s Gun really pales in comparison to Hitman when it comes to potential killing opportunities.
It goes without saying that this is an abysmal looking game. It really does look like something over a decade ago and what makes matters worse is the disastrous framerate. The framerate is quite uneven throughout but in the worst areas, with it even dipping to single digits, which is absolutely ridiculous. Alekhine’s Gun might easily be the worst looking game on the current generation of consoles, it’s just dreadful.
The sound effects are similarly poor. Gun shots are extremely loud and grating to listen to. Stock gun sound effects that are free to download from the Internet sound better than the gun sounds in this game so I don’t know how they messed that up. As mentioned, the voice acting is utter piss and the general sound effects are just nothing special. I will give a little credit to the music which is just okay.
Alekhine’s Gun is very bad game, no doubt about it. Though I have to admit, I did have some fun with it. I think a part of that is the fact that I am such a big Hitman fan and a lot of the problems with this game are fun to laugh at, especially if a friend is watching you play. The core mechanics are just about well executed enough to the point where I didn’t hate playing Alekhine’s Gun, it’s just extremely sub-par across the board.
I did finish the 11 levels on offer, which took me about 7 or 8 hours and I am not proud to admit this but I did get the Platinum Trophy too, which is my first Platinum Trophy ever. Alekhine’s Gun is a steaming pile of feces that I would not recommend to most but die hard Hitman fans might get a few laughs out of it. Just don’t pay much for it though!
ONE OUT OF FIVE
(A terrible game whose positives aspects are practically nonexistent.)