Capsule review: if you like sniper-style shooting games, Hitman Sniper for iPad is the best there is. The story is straight from the Hitman franchise playbook, and the gameplay, weapons selection, and shot control will make you believe you’re the Leon the Professional of your dreams.
While I was only mildly interested in the Hitman games on console, it took only one screenshot from the “new games” section of the app store to have me reaching for my wallet. For those unfamiliar with the Hitman games or the movie spinoff, in Hitman Sniper you play Agent 47, a detached, unfeeling assassin raised from a young child to be a cold-blooded contract killer. The barcode on the back of your avatar’s head completes the inhuman presentation of the character. You’re given missions to complete using only a sniper rifle, each mission including a main target that somehow seems like he deserves what he’s getting: you know, a drug kingpin, spy for the bad guys, international arms dealer, and the like. (Even if it’s only a game, the developers have let you assuage your guilt at being so cold blooded.) But ½-way into your second mission you will have forgotten about all that and be super-focused on completing all your mission objectives, collecting your fee, and avoiding the horrible, screaming, red-lettered “mission FAILED” verdict.
At the beginning of each mission you’re presented with a set of objectives that always include shooting the bad guy. The objectives might include things like “kill three guards without sounding the safe-house alarm” or “trigger a car alarm to entice a guard into the killing zone.” Sometimes these pre-main-target objectives seem contrived. It would be better to construct the game play so the main target didn’t appear until, for example, you had killed the three guards in the living room. Still, once you’ve started the mission you become immersed in completing each objective without raising an alarm. Once you’ve been given the mission objectives and tap “continue,” you appear on a perch somewhere outside the killing field, which is usually a house. You aim your rifle in the general direction you want and then tap once to sight through the scope. Once you’re viewing through the scope you can pinch to zoom in and out, as you might with a real scope. You will want to stay zoomed out to get the lay of the land or to search for specific targets, then zoom way in to get a good shot. In the early levels most of your targets will obligingly stop moving eventually so you can shoot them with little difficulty. In later levels targets continue walking indefinitely, so you have to lead them accordingly to make a hit. In this respect the gameplay seems fairly accurate: the amount you need to lead a moving target varies depending on distance and their speed. There is a button you press to hold your breath so your rifle doesn’t sway with your breathing. Of course you can only hold your breath for so long before you gulp air and the sights once again begin to sway back and forth lazily.
At the end of each successful mission you get your payoff in cash. You use the cash to upgrade your rifle, which will be necessary as the missions get harder and harder. There are 150 missions and 13 rifles; each rifle has several modifications that can be made including upgraded stocks, barrels, sights, and grips.
I’m using version 1.0 of the game on an original iPad Air. In several hours of game play, the game crashed once, and encountered some jerkiness in the video about once an hour. I’m hoping this can be fixed with an update. The app store game description warns against using the game on iPad versions 1 and 2, but claims it works well on all iPads after that. Hence my hopes for update fixes. Here’s a link to Hitman Sniper in the app store. It’s $4.99 and well worth it.